As a first-time mom-to-be, I could hardly make an educated guess as to whether my due date would prove accurate. I was definitely in limbo—not sure whether I should keep working or travel too far from home—but for someone who enjoyed pregnancy as much as I did, it wasn’t such a bad place to be. My theory? If I stayed relaxed, everything would, with luck, happen more easily and naturally.
Do the experts agree? Well, there isn’t any hard evidence that you can bring on labor by keeping stress at bay—but it can’t hurt to stay loose toward the end of your pregnancy, according to Dr. Jennifer Lee Foley, MD, an OB-GYN at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. After all, labor will be easier to handle if you’re relaxed and open-minded about the entire process.
With that thought in mind, take these steps to savor the last weeks before you meet your baby.
Hide the Calendar!
You thought your due date actually meant something? It’s really just an estimate that tells you approximately when your baby will be born, according to Dr. Foley. Try to plan your life around that one special date you’ve marked on the calendar and you’ll drive yourself crazy. A more relaxed approach is to be ready for anything two to three weeks ahead of time. If Baby arrives early, great. If not, and your baby is late (as they often are!) you can use that time to nest and prepare. “Take short walks near the house. Smell the flowers. Do it all now, because when that baby comes you are going to be a busy woman!” says Peggy Axtell, a mother of three in upstate New York.
Sure, people are going to ask questions and make comments about your impending due date—especially if it passes without the arrival of your baby. In most cases, though, friends and family aren’t out to bug you; they’re just excited and want to stay in the loop. Your reaction is up to you, which means it’s perfectly fine to say your baby will arrive when he’s ready—and you’re OK with that. “Instead of saying over and over, ‘I can’t wait to have this baby,’ try to be positive,” recommends Axtell. “There are things that we can’t control and this is one of them,” she adds.
Talk to Your Doctor
Reach week 39 without giving birth and your doctor may start mentioning inducing labor. And depending on your situation, that may be exactly what you want. Kristin Arnold Ruyle, of Tampa, Florida, knew she’d have her parents’ help only if she delivered while they were visiting, so she pushed her doctor to induce—and got her wish at 39 weeks. “I am so glad I did because even though the doctor said my daughter was only six pounds, she was over eight,” Ruyle says now. “If I had waited I can’t imagine how big she would be.”
On the other hand, maybe you don’t want labor induced. Typically doctors won’t recommend that route unless it’s medically necessary, according to Dr. Foley. But whatever your preference, you should communicate your feelings and ask plenty of questions to be sure you understand your doctor’s advice. “It can be hard to speak your mind, but you’re your own best advocate,” Dr. Foley says, adding, “Some people have doulas who can advocate for them.”
Physically, that’s not always easy at any point in a pregnancy, especially when trying to get a good night’s sleep. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it, recommends Dr. Foley. Support hose can ease leg swelling. Sleeping with extra pillows can also help: Prop up your head and chest to control heartburn and stick a pillow between your knees to alleviate backaches. “Lower back pain was the worst for me,” recalls Axtell, who recommends warm showers at night. “[And] have your wonderful husband rub some nice cream on your feet after soaking them,” she adds.
Mental adjustments are important, too. Use affirmations to boost your attitude and remind yourself this is a temporary situation: I’m ready for my baby when he’s ready to be born. Soon, my pregnancy will be over and I’ll get to meet my baby. And if you still can’t get a solid night’s sleep? Think of this as early training for waking up with a newborn.
During the last few weeks of my pregnancy—which lasted 41 weeks—I attended a rock concert, splurged on dinner at a fancy restaurant, cooked and froze some extra meals, visited with friends, and got involved in a wonderfully distracting plan to repaint the living room with my husband (not recommended—seven weeks after my son was born, we’re still living with the sample patches on the walls). And if you don’t like any of those ideas, there’s plenty more you can do to make your waiting weeks enjoyable.
- Rachel Goldstein, a mother of two in Los Angeles, California, suggests you take a special outing—such as trips to museums or zoos—to try and get labor started by walking around. (There’s actually no proof walking can induce labor, says Dr. Foley, but you might as well try provided you’re feeling good and promise not to overdo it.)
- “Go shopping for really cute outfits that you pick out for your baby,” recommends Katie Bloom, a mother of two in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. “That is really fun, and moms don’t do it very often because they get so many outfits from the shower.”
- “My recommendation to moms who are past their due dates is to get a lot of rest. Pamper yourself a little—put your feet up, and read a good book,” says Axtell. “Write a journal to your baby. Sing to your baby. Read to your baby. Pray for your baby.”
The last weeks of pregnancy may feel like forever. But remember, all babies are born eventually. And before you know it, you’ll be holding that long-awaited baby in your arms.