Peggy and I were talking the other day about how we need a new way to describe when a baby is due.
Due “date” is something of a misnomer, since a healthy baby can safely be born two weeks (or more) before that date or two weeks (or more) afterwards. Some women gestate longer than others and often labor is unnecessarily induced by artificial means that lead to a cascade of iatrogenic problems.
What should we call it? Due season? Due time? Due month? One blogger suggests calling it a “due window.”
It’s easy to be mistaken about the date of conception. According to Ina May Gaskin and other birth experts, modern ultrasounds have proved notoriously unreliable in measuring a fetus’s size or estimating a due date.
My friend Kay had a healthy, uneventful pregnancy until her doctor ordered a C-section because the baby was two weeks “late.” Her son weighed less than seven pounds and had a host of preemie health problems after he was cut out of her uterus. He was born too soon.
The same thing happened to my friend Nora, a doctor, who had a scheduled C-section with her second born. She was sure of the date of conception but that didn’t mean her baby was ready according to the doctor’s schedule (he was going on vacation and wanted to do the surgery before he left). Nora’s sons lungs were underdeveloped and he had to be medically evacuated to a larger hospital, spending over two weeks in the NICU.
For some women a baby isn’t full term until it has cooked for 42 weeks (or more). I recently read a first-person account that a woman can gestate anywhere from 36 – 47 weeks and give birth naturally and safely to a healthy baby.
Christine sends an email from Japan, where she lives with her family. “I am eight days late,” she writes, “and I’m absolutely miserable.”
I know how she feels. My “due date” came and went without a hiccup from Pineapple. The waiting game is hard and I’m trying not to let it drive me crazy but the truth is I’m beginning to despair.
“Just keep making plans,” my friend Jenny, who had two of her four at 42 weeks, suggests. “The baby will come when it comes.”
I keep trying to convince myself the baby will come when it’s ready. Then another voice in my head gives a sinister chuckle and says, “NO IT WON’T. YOU ARE GOING TO BE PREGNANT FOREVER.”