I had finally made it through the 9th month. I was ready to reduce my girth, deflate my ankles and stop dressing in clothes with stretchy panels. Most of all, I was ready to meet Amelie. There was only one catch; my baby was nowhere to be seen.
Cue the development I hadn't planned for, going overdue. Given the challenges of pregnancy and anticipation of birth, I hadn't even considered Amelie wouldn't arrive on her due date, let alone that it may be difficult. But this period was the most stressful of the whole experience.
It started with the due date. Confirmed at the 12-week scan, it stood like a beacon at the end of my pregnancy signaling the end of heaviness, sickness and tiredness and the beginning of life with my new baby. It was nearly impossible to remain calm as each day drew closer to the date circled in red in the calendar. The night before was sleepless, the night after an anti-climax.
Alex Smith, 31, from Market Harborough and Mum to Jake, 13 months, felt as I did. 'I was under the misguided belief that Jake would turn up on his due date as I felt it was a long wait and was experiencing discomfort at the end of the pregnancy. The day represented something to aim for and every day he went overdue felt really frustrating, combined with a little anxiety in case he went too far over. I didn't want medical intervention.'
Constant phone calls and enquiries from well-meaning friends and family also played a part. It was difficult answering questions and in some cases, allaying fears, when I had no idea of Amelie's arrival myself. In addition, not only did each call remind me of what hadn't happened but they served to draw my focus back to the situation, when it was better off far away.
Some Mums get it much worse. They have to deal with relatives who are more bothered by how the situation is affecting them.
'I had my Mum calling me from the week before my due date, making it hard for me not to feel like a performing monkey; reported Sally Franks, 37, from Putney and Mum to Monty, 4, and Mirabelle, 6 months. 'When I went overdue I could literally hear the disappointment in her voice.'
Kim Browne, 35, from Streatham and Mum to James, 7 months had a similar experience. 'My Mum was over from Spain and was actually berating my bump for being late as she had to return home. It was like I was supposed to give birth according to her schedule.'
Being around other Mums and babies also had a big impact on my state of mind. I was the last to give birth in my NCT group and found the afternoon teas really difficult. Not only did I feel I had nothing to talk about, it really made me focus on the fact that my baby hadn't come. By the time the second last baby was born, due after mine, I was inconsolable. I couldn't help thinking she had stolen my turn!
In addition to pressure experienced personally, the medical system also added to the strain. Within a week I felt I had moved from a model pregnancy, making it successfully to full term, to a mum compelled to produce. The most difficult part was being expected to make decisions on sweeps and inductions when there was no way of knowing what was going on inside. The urgency with which I had to decide dates and courses of action really made me feel under pressure to go into labour when, in actual fact, it is quite normal to give birth anywhere within the two weeks after.
Kim Browne felt frustrated with her experience. 'I wanted a birth with minimal interference so when my midwife started talking induction dates I asked for an internal exam to ascertain how far away the baby was. I was told that I could only have an exam if I had a sweep also.'
'The situation increased my anxiety as I wanted to avoid induction but had no way of assessing whether I was close to going into labour. In the end I had the sweep only to find out I was 2cm dilated. I felt the situation and resulting stress could have been avoided.'
Judy Browne, 43 from London and Mum to Nina, 17 months, found even the thought of induction stressful. 'Going overdue really increased my anxiety, as being a midwife myself I knew acutely what this may have meant for my baby and me. I was worried how well I would cope with the induction, but mainly, I was anxious for Nina as I felt a traumatic labour can have an impact on a baby both physically and mentally.'
When I went overdue many factors caused strain in a time that calls for just the opposite. In addition to possibly extending the length of time I went over it really put a dampener on the final days before the birth.
I know now that when I have number two, things will be very different. I'll prepare myself for the possibility of going over and then just relax and enjoy the gift of a few extra days with my baby.