Then I went past my due date, and the questions began. Suddenly everyone was concerned about me being overdue. It wasn't so much the immediate family; they did fine, mostly because we'd been having these discussions for most of nine months. It was everyone else. Well-meaning friends and folks from church or work calling, emailing, and random folks in the grocery store all asking the same questions, and me growing weary of patiently explaining the answers over and over again.
When are you due? Well, that would be over a week ago. Yes, I'm ready for the baby to arrive, but no, I'm not feeling miserable, why should I be? I'm sleeping fine, thank you, except for getting up 2-3 times to pee. What are you having? A BABY (hopefully of the human variety, not a beluga whale or a porcupine) and no, we didn't want an ultrasound to see the sex. Why wouldn't you want to know? Because we like to be surprised! How big did the ultrasound say your baby is? I didn't have an ultrasound. Third trimester ultrasounds are notoriously unreliable; they can be off by 1 to 2 lbs in either direction. How many mothers do you know who were scared into induction or even a scheduled cesarean because their baby was supposed to be too big and then it turned out not to be? When are they going to induce you? They're NOT. Period. Babies come when they're ready when a mother is experiencing a healthy pregnancy. Who is your OB? Who on earth would let you go this long? I don't have an OB anymore. She fired me from her practice in my fourth month. But I do have two terrific midwives. Midwives have a much better track record with helping mothers to stay healthy and make it to term.
Are you really planning to have the baby at home? That is the current plan. Aren't you scared it will hurt? I expect it will, but I think I'll be able to work with labor better if I can eat, drink, and soak in a warm bath instead of being starved and harpooned to an uncomfortable bed by IVs, fetal monitors, and catheters. How will you be able to live with yourself if your baby dies from a complication because you weren't in the hospital? The same way I'd have to live with myself if my baby dies from iatrogenic causes in the hospital. Research shows that the infant mortality rates for healthy mothers planning homebirth with skilled attendants versus hospital births are comparable. Babies can still die (mothers too, for that matter) sometimes from the same causes regardless of setting and sometimes from different causes. For every intended home-born baby that might have been saved with immediate access to hospital resources, I expect there is also a hospital-born baby who died due to the side effects of routine medical intervention in the hospital model of care.
By forty-one weeks even the healthiest and happiest pregnant woman can become violent if asked the same questions over and over again. I grew weary of trying to educate the world. The pinnacle of my frustration was on the Sunday morning when I valiantly went to church, only to find that my friend (due 2 weeks after me) was at the hospital because her water had broken that morning. An older gentleman looked at me and said, "What are you doing here?" I know he meant well, but that was not encouraging. It was all I could do to contain my frustration as I snapped back, "I'm here to worship God, what are YOU doing here?!?" Thankfully my first baby arrived at 2:30am on that Wednesday before I had to deal with the moral dilemma of "forsaking the assembly" versus maintaining my hold on sanity. Weighing in at 8 lbs, he was the smallest of my babies and the latest at 41 weeks and 6 days.
When I found myself pregnant again, I took a different approach. I decided to have a "due month" instead of a due date. My due month was July. This drove most everyone crazy. I refused to give the church secretary my due date to be printed in the church bulletin. But she kept pestering me, so finally I told her that if she had to have a date, to feel free to use the last day of July, but that was not my due date. Mentally I was expecting that this baby would be just as late as my first; in fact, I was counting on it. When she decided to arrive only two days late instead of thirteen, I felt really, really gypped! I had not quite completed my to-do list yet. Oh well, babies come when they are ready and she was 8 lbs, 14 oz. In retrospect I was glad she didn't have an additional eleven days to pack on more fluff!
Shortly after the news of my next pregnancy was announced, the inevitable questions of "When are you due?" began again. Luckily we moved to Kaua'i at the beginning of that pregnancy so there weren't any chance encounters with old friends in the grocery store. As I was in the mood to embrace "island time," I decided to merely have a "due season." Autumn ... doesn't that sound like a nice due season? As harvest neared, my belly swelled. Our sweet church family regarded me with wide eyes each time I walked through the door, just a little bigger than before. I just smiled at them all, thumped my belly and declared, "Not ripe yet!" Just before my due date, I taught the first of many childbirth classes with my midwifery partners on the island. And five days past my due date, not "late" but just in his own good time, my third child arrived weighing 9 lbs, 8 oz. His birth was faster and somehow slightly easier than the labor with my second child even though he was my biggest baby.
This week, a midwife colleague from Kaua'i contacted me seeking reassurance, as she was surprised to find herself in the land of postdates. Here were my words to her:
"Before the days of clocks, calendars, and ways of peeking into the womb, there was just day and night, new moon and full moon, and the seasons marked by transitions in the natural world. It was easier to access intuition and to accept mystery. At the root of our calling, we are invited to trust that nature's design is beautiful, intricate and serves a vital purpose. Wisdom comes from observing nature and learning more fully how to interact to support MotherBaby on the journey. Your midwife-mind holds knowledge, but your mother-body is filled with ancient wisdom. Trust yourself."