You've reached the 'magic' 38 week mark of your pregnancy and stuff's about to get real as you realise that your baby could make an entrance any day now. It brings a mixture of emotions for many women, there is impatience, some anxiety about the multifaceted changes that are about to happen, maybe some fear about the impending birth journey, the uncertainty about how it will all unfold and so on. Firstly know that feeling into whatever is coming up for you at this time is a good thing, it prepares you for what is lying ahead. It needs to be felt, given space and the more 'present' you are with the emotional aspects of this time the more prepared you will be. And this leads me to my first tip for this very special and important final stage of your pregnancy:
1. Allow yourself to be emotional
Too often we are concerned with 'keeping it together' and worry that if we allow ourselves to go with our emotions it is a sign of weakness. Or perhaps we avoid taking a closer look at what makes us feel vulnerable as it can be uncomfortable. That's understandable but at this time in your life it will not serve you very well. Giving birth and newborn motherhood is all about being vulnerable and at the same time getting to know new elements of ourselves. Discovering strength we didn't know existed. And what leads us to our own strength? It is being open towards our weaknesses and allowing ourselves to be present with what is going on for ourselves. You are strong enough to face your fears and look at what's going on for you. To sit with it, recognise where it is coming from and acknowledge that this is an emotional time in your life. That's OK! It is emotional work and the only work you need to do right now.
2. Carefully navigate this time with your careprovider
By 38 weeks you are entering the 'hot phase' of your pregnancy. For some care providers a woman may be ready to give birth just because they've reached that milestone and your baby is considered to be 'term' and with others you have more support to give your baby as much time as possible. Whatever your situation is, know that any decisions you are making right now will likely have a significant influence on your birth. If something is suggested to you, always make sure you understand what the benefits are, the risks, the alternatives, what does your intuition tell you and what if you would do nothing (use the BRAIN acronym). And let me say this clearly: If an induction of labour is suggested before you are 40 weeks (or even before 41 weeks for a 'normal' pregnancy) then you should be very clear (and comfortable!) on the reasons whether there is a real need for your baby to be born. It is not a decision to be taken lightly and only one that you can make. If in doubt, seek a second opinion.
3. Going into labour is a process
Very rarely women just go into labour 'completely out of the blue' without any prior signs that labour may be imminent. If it appears to be like that then it is likely the often small changes within the body weren't recognised or the membranes ruptured spontaneously without any prior signs of labour. So know that all those little 'niggles' you're experiencing, the increased Braxton Hicks, the cervical discomfort, the pressure, the shooting pains down your legs, the increased vaginal mucus, the 'practice runs' of continuous Braxton Hicks during the evening only to fizzle out and whatever else you may be experiencing...they are all part of your body preparing for labour and doing something. I look at going into labour like a puzzle and each of those changes provides a piece in the puzzle only to eventually be complete which is when the real deal begins. And here is another tip: For this process to take place there is nothing else you need to do. No amount of raspberry leaf tea or stretch and sweeps is going to send you into labour unless your body and baby are ready. Trusting the process and doing the emotional work as described earlier is all you need to do.
There is so much more that could be said about this very special time of pregnancy. The inbetween, the limbo, the great unknown and all it does to us and those around us. It really often comes down to an emotional challenge and how we navigate this time will influence our births. It is all so incredibly worth it and provides us with an opportunity to become familiar with the unknown that parenthood also brings. Be patient! All good things come to those who wait. :-)
PS: And if your emotional work makes you realise that you need more support by your side than you've previously recognised, know that it is never too late to engage the support of a doula, for both your birth and postpartum.