Isn’t it? That’s what we hear from everyone, and that’s what we expect when we’re pregnant. I wonder how we would experience the last few weeks of pregnancy if we didn’t expect to be miserable. What if we took some different things to heart, instead?
What if we were given accurate due dates, and they were given to us as a range of +/- 2 weeks? The average first pregnancy lasts 41 weeks and one day; for moms on their 2nd+ babies, it’s 40 weeks and 4 days. The due date you’re given by your obstetrician or midwife will be based on 40 weeks, a number estimated by a doctor who died in the early 1850s. Just to get to the average, you need to add 8 days to that number you’re given. Again, 8 days added to your due date brings you to the average. To go to 42 weeks or beyond is still normal. Not only that, this date will be based on a 28-day menstrual cycle with ovulation on day 14, something most women don’t experience.
To make matters worse, when you hit 37 weeks, which is a full month before the average women will go into labor, you’re told by your doctor, midwife, and every person you pass on the street, “You’re full term! You could go any day now.” Not only that, many doctors and midwives treat a woman at her due date as high risk for the simple fact of being at her due date. You’ll hear talk of non-stress tests, biophysical profiles, and inductions. Your baby will be too big; your fluid will be too low. Your cervix will be too high, too thick, too closed. You’ll become convinced by all of this that you will, in fact, never go into labor. You’ll start hearing things like, “You’re huge! Are you having twins?” and “Wow! You must be miserable!” and “You’re STILL pregnant?”
You will desperately begin to do every old wives’ tale you can find to put yourself into labor. You’ll take evening primrose oil, take long walks, eat spicy food and pineapple, and spend some personal time with your own nipples. You’ll have more sex than you’ve had since you were a newlywed. Why? Because! You’re DUE! If you don’t go into labor NOW, TODAY! there must be a problem. And besides, you’re uncomfortable. Your back hurts. Your hips hurt. You’re huge and hot and hormonal and miserable. Just like every other pregnant woman at 40 weeks gestation.
Now…what if you look at all of this in a different context? What if you set aside the need for the tests and the worry? You can listen to your own instincts, and believe what your body and baby are telling you, that pregnancy is normal and healthy, that your baby knows when to be born, that your body will do its job when the time is right. You can think of this time – which is only a matter of days, not so much in the grand scheme of things – as the last chance you will ever have for your baby to be a literal part of you. You can choose to enjoy the movements you feel as your baby squirms around. You can think of the contractions you have as practice for labor, as a sign that your body is preparing for its journey through your baby’s birth. You can forget about stripped membranes and castor oil, and just let your body and baby decide. You can relax. You can take this time to pamper yourself, to spend time with your older children if you have any, without the demands of a newborn, for the last time.
One big advantage of this laid-back approach is that you may actually go into labor sooner this way. All of the time you spend being stressed out about not going into labor is preventing your body from producing the hormones it needs to produce to go into labor.
If you think you can’t do it, take it from me: you can. I know, because I did. Both of my girls were born not only past their due dates, but past the averages. Maddie came at 41 weeks and 4 days, and Grace at 40 weeks and 6 days. Despite the messages we’re sent from our culture, our doctors, our friends and our families, it’s not only acceptable but enjoyable to adopt a positive attitude about late pregnancy. If you can choose to enjoy this time instead of hating it, it can change the way you look back on those final precious days forever.