While pregnant with my firstborn six years ago, I was familiar with the notion that first-time moms often go past their due dates, as told by my OB, my mother, my neighbor, a stranger at the grocery store, and a few other random people from whom I hadn’t solicited an opinion. According to, well, almost everyone, it seemed the fitting expectation was to anticipate a later-than-estimated arrival—and everyone was right, but I didn’t think it would happen four times in a row.
My first baby, born a day or so before 42 weeks, was followed in the same fashion by her brother, and then her younger sister, born so close to 42 weeks I was hours away from being transferred out of my birthing center in the height of COVID-19. Eventually, I learned a phrase that applied perfectly to my pregnancies: 10-month mom, or pregnant women who go well past their due dates and into a tenth month of pregnancy—fun!
I remember being in denial throughout every pregnancy, hoping that baby number two or three (or four!) would be the outlier and show up early. This was never the case, and I started feeling like due dates were pretty arbitrary. In fact, I really resonate with the advice to anticipate your “due month” versus your due date. Nonetheless, I was keeping my fingers, toes, and pretty much everything but my legs crossed day in and day out as I neared my due date with my fourth baby, my second son.
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Preparing (and Feeling Sentimental)
I spent the last few weeks of my final pregnancy on autopilot: caring for my three kids, showing up to work video meetings whilst sitting on a birthing ball, feeling too tired to walk to the mailbox, visiting the restroom approximately 100 times per day, and doing miscellaneous tasks like laundry at 1 a.m. or ordering more groceries (re: snacks to keep my kids happy with grandma during our hospital stay) because that’s the extent of “nesting” I experienced this last go around.
I did my best to feel ready, but I had been through birth and recovery enough times to know that everything would be fine as long as we were all healthy. I think I spent more time investing in my emotions and making space to cope with the gravity of this being our final birth and our last newborn.
When you have other children, especially young ones, it can be so hard to be present with yourself, even during a monumental time like pregnancy. I wanted to grasp and feel it all, and not let the experience become a big blur in my (usually poor) memory.
My husband would often remind me that because it was our last baby, those “lasts” would continue for years to come and that there was time to experience and appreciate his life because he would always be the baby. Armed with that sentiment, I started looking forward to his arrival and let go of the guilt I had been carrying around not being able to keep up with how much life was happening at one time.
Setting a Date
What’s funny is that as hopeful as I was to have an early delivery, I didn’t do anything to help move it along. I think I was too tired, to be honest, and I wasn’t interested in doing any more fetal position exercises, walking the hills in my neighborhood, or having “good sex,” as my midwife would tell me. (They are all about those endorphins!)
At 41 weeks, I wasn’t surprised when my OB brought up induction. With every pregnancy, I had higher blood pressure readings toward the end, but this last time they were consistently higher than preferred. (Three kids, a job, a pandemic, a commute to the doctor’s office, and some mild white-coat syndrome will do that!)
Previously, I really fought induction—sometimes successfully, sometimes not. It was important to me to try to let my babies come when they were ready, which came with a few obstacles, mainly being able to better plan for the care of my other children. This last time, however, it felt overwhelming to put all the pieces together in place with three young kids while waiting for labor to spontaneously begin. Somewhat begrudgingly—and yet somewhat relieved—I agreed to be induced that next weekend if he didn’t show up on his own.
As the induction date neared, I was able to finalize details at work and get the house ready for my parents to come to stay with our children. Planning it for a weekend was especially helpful in avoiding my kids needing to be taken to school or ballet practice, and my mom was able to take less time off from work.
The Friday before the big day, we all went to a socially distanced brunch; we got Starbucks and drove around checking out Christmas lights; I watched my 1-year-old nap in her crib and cried, and I kept reminding myself this was an end and also a beginning for our family.
Making Step-by-Step Progress
When I arrived at the hospital I had to be checked for dilation, which I absolutely hate. After a good long heart-to-heart with the RN, I finally allowed her to check my cervix (cussing her out under my breath), and was 0 centimeters dilated with little-to-no effacement. No surprise there.
She walked me through a few different options for induction, and we ultimately chose a medication called Cytotec that would allow me to freely walk and move without being attached to an IV drip of Pitocin. She explained that the process could take up to 24 hours, to which my eyes bugged out of my head and my excitement completely vanished.
After my first dose, I walked and walked and walked those halls. To my surprise, it didn’t take longer than two hours or so for contractions to kick in, and I started pausing during each surge while bending over to breathe or squatting to take the pressure off my back.
The RN noticed the change in my demeanor and kindly asked to check me. At this point, I was definitely feeling the effects of labor and wanted to know what I was in for long term. In my mind, induction takes away the ability to properly gauge the progression of contractions, and it was confusing to determine how things were moving along even though I felt the intensity of each surge.
She determined I was at 5 centimeters. I didn’t know what to do with that information because I wasn’t sure how the induction would work with (or work against) my body. I was exhausted and nervous about enduring that level of discomfort throughout the night and still having enough energy to get through delivery. The thought of five more potential doses (each lasting four hours) made me feel anxious and apprehensive, so I told my RN to arrange for the epidural.
As it goes in labor and delivery, the anesthesiologist was very busy, and therefore it took a little while before it was my turn. While trying to place the epidural, I had the hardest time staying still; it was excruciating and near impossible. Looking back, I had no idea I was entering transition because I stopped paying attention to my body and was focused on getting what I thought would be momentary relief.
I lay on my side and started vocalizing through each contraction. The RN kept asking me hesitantly if I was feeling any relief and told me to keep breathing. I couldn’t communicate with her any longer in between contractions, and that’s when she called the midwife for assistance.
At around 10:30 p.m. the midwife arrived, and I was still feeling the fullness of each contraction and doubting that the epidural would take effect. I wasn’t feeling any strong sensations to push, so she recommended we give it a few more minutes to watch and wait. A minute or so later, I felt a mild dullness take over the bottom half of my body. It wasn’t painless, but it was as good as it was going to get.
The midwife checked me and said, “You are complete and his head is on the way out, so it’s time to have a baby.” I gently pushed once, and he was born. Like his brother and sisters, his birth was calm and quick, despite his large size of almost 9.5 pounds. (I was even more surprised by the news that I only had half of a small tear that required very few stitches.)
When he was laid on top of me for skin-to-skin contact, I really soaked it in. I reminded myself once more that he was our last baby. It meant so much to finally meet the one who would complete our little (big) family, and I’ve been living in a state of gratitude for him—for them—ever since.