Why I Won't Tell You My "Due Date"

4 years ago

When a woman announces a pregnancy (or happens to venture out in public visibly pregnant), there are a number of questions she'll field on a regular basis:

Photo by Nicole Aarstad

"How are you feeling?"

"Do you know what you're having?"

"Wow, you're huge!" (Okay, not a question. Alternately: "Wow, you're tiny!" We're never just the right size, we pregnant women.)

"What's your due date?"

The first two questions? Piece of cake, for me. First trimester? I'm feeling good overall, just tired. Second trimester? I'm feeling great! Third trimester? I'm feeling good overall, just tired and starting to get uncomfortable.

No problemo.

Second question? Boy parts. Easy.

Third...well...observation? I've learned to take it in stride and then complain to my husband about it later. My husband who then reminds me that I'm beautiful and glowing and amazing and miraculous and yes, just the right size.

The fourth?

When am I due?

I waffle. I'm wishy-washy. I am not going to give you the answer you seek, which is a specific day on the calendar, and you're probably going to think I'm crazy for evading such a seemingly simple question.

"Around the end of January."

For some people, this is a satisfactory. For most, it is not. They demand to know the specific moment at which the timer that is apparently ticking away inside of me will go off with bells and whistles and an electronic voice warning "OVERDUE! OVERDUE! OVERDUE!"

If I say "I don't believe in due dates." They look at me like I'm nuts. If they ask "But what exact date did the doctor give you?" and I say "I don't have a doctor, I have midwives, and they too think I'll have the baby around the end of January." They look at me like I'm nuts. If they ask "But when will they induce you?" and I answer "They won't without a medical indication for induction." They look at me like I'm nuts. (Not to mention that inductions greatly increase the chance of uterine rupture in VBAC; oh, and they can't be done in my living room.)

I've tried "The baby is most likely to arrive at some point between mid-January and mid-February," and they think I'm being deliberately obtuse.

But it's true! The baby really is most likely to arrive at some point between mid-January and mid-February, with the greatest likelihood being toward the end of that window. The fact of the matter is, most babies don't arrive on their "due date." (In reality, the mean length of gestation is 41 weeks 1 day for first time moms and 40 weeks 3 days for subsequent babies. [source]) I don't put any stock in my "estimated due date", a date that is arbitrarily calculated based on a 28 day cycle with ovulation and fertilization occurring on day 14. The "due date" indicates 40 weeks of gestation. There is a mistaken assumption that going one moment past that magical date means the baby is "overdue" and must immediately be evicted from the womb. The truth is that normal gestation often lasts up to 42 weeks. Putting too much stock in "due dates" causes a lot of anxiety and stress, both for pregnant women and for their families and friends. It causes a lot of interventions that increase the risk of fetal distress, unnecessary cesarean deliveries, and pulling buns out of the oven that just weren't quite done baking yet.

So I won't tell you my due date. Because I don't want you to start worrying and hounding me if it passes. Because I don't want you to start telling me I should induce when it gets close. Because I won't be "overdue" until two weeks past my "due date." And even then, I won't automatically consent to induction, unless there is a medical indication to do so. Most importantly, I won't tell you my "due date" because the actual, exact, specific date I am due is on whichever day my baby is ready to born, and my body is ready to birth him, and I won't know what that date it is until it arrives. I am as excited as you are to find out when my baby's birthday will be, but we'll just have to wait and see!

Fine and Fair

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