A very good friend of mine is overdue. I hope as I type she is inhaling a plate of blue cheese and pate with a velvety newborn on her knees. But if she isn’t I mainly hope she’s finding a way of negotiating the final hours of the crushing pressure of late, great expectations.
The final days, weeks, hours of pregnancy have their unique joys – moments where, even amidst the ‘symptomatic discomforts’, you feel thrilled and intoxicated by the weirdness of your girth, at the magic of creation, awe at the proud tautness of the bump, fizzes of excitement at the person you are about to meet. But they are also dominated by a devilish conundrum: you know exactly what is going to happen and when, but simultaneously have no way of knowing, AT ALL, what will happen, or when. It is a greater mind than mine that can handle this without feeling slightly on the edge.
One of my lads was over, the other a week early, but both times I was at my tether’s end and prepared to kick my birthing ball through the French windows with any energy I had left not being used up in fretting and fury.
I certainly felt I was failing when I was overdue, that in yet another way I hadn’t lived up to the Bounty pack guide to being pregnant – not even giving birth at 40 weeks, what a loser. With every hour over I lost faith in my body, would it know how to start off my labour? If it couldn’t do that, what else couldn’t it do? Being overdue also adds a strong sense of visibility. You stick out (in every way) by virtue of your size (I remember parting the waves in shops and a look of unparalleled fear on the face of any cashier I approached to ask a question). It is like EVERYONE KNOWS you are messing everything up. Dangerous slopes to slide on when you’re full of hormones and have a phone full of unanswered ‘how are you doing?’ texts.
Brilliantly there is lots of kindly advice, which also makes you feel like a total wanker for not going in to labour. Scrub the floors, have sex, eat a pineapple, sort out your tax return, do all the jobs you’ve meant to do, clean the windows, engage in any number of frenzied acts of housekeeping this will surely make you pop. If I ever do it again I’m retiring to bed, alone, with a crate of soleros and a kindle full of Mills & Boon and every series of Glee on DVD at 36 weeks.
I succumbed, of course, to advice about paving the way and being ‘ready’ in an attempt to kickstart labour. My sons, it turns out, were both sexist piglets with high expectations – neither made an appearance until I’d shaved my legs, waxed my eyebrows, moisturised the vast expanse of my stretched out body and generally beautified.
So I have no advice for her really, apart from the aggravating truism that in the grand scheme of life it is not long now. And as it is her second baby there is a) a good chance that however her labour starts or pans out she’ll be equipped with enough experience to know somewhere deep inside that it is a strange planet but she’s been there before and b) the sliver of hope she’ll be able to ignore the temptation of giving into the pressing expectations that make you feel like a failure and rest up watching some crap telly.