If you’re pregnant, ‘overdue’ and facing the prospect of induction, this is for you. A few months ago I was in the same situation and it helped so much to know that I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t have to meekly submit to the NHS. I carried my daughter to almost 43 weeks and she was born perfect, healthy and not a moment too late.
Throughout my pregnancy I was so careful. I ate well. I didn’t take a single painkiller. I carried on running until 7 ½ months, and went for long walks right up until the day before the birth. I was so determined that my body should be in tip-top shape to bring my little girl into the world. We had planned a natural home birth and nothing was going to stop me…try as it might!
When my ‘due date’ came and went, I wasn’t surprised. I was born 2 weeks late so I was expecting a longer-than-usual pregnancy, yet those last few weeks dragged on. I honestly believed I’d be pregnant forever. But the fatigue and the nervous waiting were nothing compared to the pressure to be induced. My goodness, you’d think that babies were never born before the invention of Syntocinon. Or that tragedy was certain to befall every baby who took a few more days to mature in utero. And yet every birth horror story I’d heard had begun with induction or a membrane sweep – benign terms for messing with a very delicate hormone system and ruining a perfectly healthy pregnancy. Didn’t anyone notice the correlation, I wondered? Nobody was going to evict my little girl from the loving home I’d made her. I told her repeatedly that she was safe and welcome to stay as long as she needed.
As soon as the ‘due date’ hit, I was ‘offered’ induction by my midwife, which I declined and made clear this was not something I wanted. But every time I interacted with the NHS, the pressure became stronger. They scheduled daily calls asking me to go into hospital. Daily calls! They wanted to talk incessantly about the risk of stillbirth as time went on (which is still infinitesimal, if you do your own research). They were scared about me carrying my baby past their schedule; I wasn’t. I could just feel that everything was OK. But it was incredibly stressful to fend off constant negative suggestions, and I’ll always be angry about how the last few days of my pregnancy were made so unnecessarily difficult when they should have been so peaceful. I was told that to encourage labour to start I should avoid stress (adrenaline) and stay happy (oxytocin). That was difficult while I imagined my midwives tapping their feet and checking their watches.
At 42w 4d I went into hospital for ‘monitoring’ and being strapped to a monitor for 45 minutes showed that, as I knew, everything was perfectly fine with the baby. The only thing wrong was that she had confused the midwives by not appearing when they expected her to. People in my local coffee shop and neighbours passing my house commented that ‘baby will come when ready’. They seemed wiser than the people with years of training and experience. Stories about ‘late’ babies by perfect strangers on the internet were a strange source of comfort. I felt like a medical freak. I was told that nobody goes past 42 weeks because by that point, they’ve been pressured into induction…so no wonder the midwives were nervous. They had no precedent to follow, no procedure with tick boxes laid out in my maternity notes folder.
Labour finally started all by itself at 42w 5d and I proceeded with a totally natural birth at home. There was no pain relief apart from a pool of hot water, just the power of sheer determination. I used just two of the many, many visualisation techniques I’d practised, and leaned heavily on my husband and my wonderful doula for TLC and encouragement. After five hours of active labour my daughter was born weighing 6lbs 5oz, with an Apgar score of 9 and showing no sign whatsoever of post-maturity; a vigorous pink knot of lustful yelling. (In fact, I learned that there was a true knot in my daughter’s umbilical cord - most likely the result of her turning breech at 37 weeks and then back again at 39 weeks in two huge movements. So turning head down very, very late is also possible without intervention…but a very scary thing to wait for!)
She headed straight for the breast and nursed happily for 45 minutes. The midwives commented on how healthy she looked. I should probably mention that the NHS midwives who attended the birth were just awesome. My experience of the NHS as a cold processing plant was totally at odds with the dedication and care those two women showed me.
If I had given in to other people’s fear and agreed to induce, my daughter could have been almost three weeks premature by her own terms, and would probably have endured birth trauma as a result of being forced out. To me, that was FAR more dangerous than waiting for nature to get things started.
The most important lesson I learned was: trust yourself. Others are scared because they can’t feel what you can feel. I knew my body was designed to carry this baby. I’d got through nine months (OK, ten months…) perfectly safely and didn’t believe my body would just ‘give up’ at the end. That kind of faith is frowned upon in conventional medicine because it can’t be controlled or rationalised. I chose to listen to people who respected my judgement and supported my positive attitude, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.