I am not the kind of woman who believes in “due” dates and during my pregnancy, whenever anyone asked me when I was due I would reply – much to their frustration – with a vague “oh sometime in January”. My “due” date was January 25th, but I was under no illusions that I would actually give birth on that day and preferred not to have everyone else thinking in terms of dates as the pregnancy progressed. Although I don’t subscribe to the idea of due dates, I was secretly having my own internal countdown because I fully expected to give birth early, I myself had been born at 37 weeks and had kind of figured that my own child would follow that same pattern, so I was pretty surprised when my 38th week came and went. As my official due date approached I kept joking that as one of the few women who refused to acknowledge their due date I would most likely be one of the small percentage (5%) to actually give birth on that day. As that Tuesday dawned I was pretty convinced that that was exactly what was going to happen, but the day came to a close with no baby, just like all the days before it.
My husband and I were living in New Zealand at the time, far away from friends and family, and when my mother learned that I was pregnant she had organised to fly over to meet her first grandchild. She had booked her flights to arrive 10 days after I was due, so that Doting Dad and I would have time to bond as a family and get into our own little routine. That was the plan anyway, and at first she was worried that I would have the baby early and she would miss out on seeing her as a squishy newborn, and then as the days rolled on by she started joking about how I might not even have the baby until after she arrived, at first I balked at the idea, I was heavily pregnant and very uncomfortable and I didn’t know how I could possibly stay pregnant that long, but sure enough when Doting Dad and I picked Mum up from the airport I was still very much pregnant.
Of course by then it was February so everyone I know was asking “where is the baby?”. I thought I had been ingenious to be so vague about my due date but I really should have considered the possibility of going so far past 40 weeks. It was hard having to deal with all the questions, in the age of facebook and twitter it’s not just a polite phone call here and there that you have to field, instead each morning I would wake up to a cascade of questions and well wishes and concerned comments. Wall posts, inbox messages, tweets, Email, SMS, phone calls etc etc etc, It was exhausting, after a while I found it very draining and toward the end, even infuriating – I blame the hormones a little for that though.
At first it was just the “any news yet?” comments but later, as the days went by, there were all sorts of messages, “are you sure you’re even pregnant?”, “Will you get up and wash the windows for goodness sake, you’re sitting down too much”, “What does the doctor say?”, “are you even ‘allowed’ to go this overdue”? The comments implying I was hallucinating a pregnancy were particularly hurtful since we had spend over two years trying to fall pregnant, during which time I had convinced myself over and over that I was pregnant only to be faced with negative test after negative test, equally hurtful were the comments that implied that it was somehow my fault that the baby hadn’t arrived yet, as if my laziness was causing her to stay put, the questions about the doctors were difficult to field since I wasn’t seeing a doctor at the time, which made people a bit nervous on our behalf, worst of all though were the questions about what I was ‘allowed’ to do. I would find myself typing infuriating responses about how I was a grown woman and I was ‘allowed’ to do whatever I wanted to do, only to delete them all without hitting send (thankfully!).
Truthfully though the reason why I found all the questions so daunting was because I was starting to doubt myself. We had tried for so long to get pregnant, and in the end we found ourselves in the position of having to use fertility drugs in order to fall pregnant, so late at night when I was lying in bed, unwieldy and uncomfortable I couldn’t help but worry that maybe since I couldn’t get pregnant naturally, I wouldn’t be able to go into labour naturally either. We were trying so hard to have a natural pregnancy and birth but maybe I was putting myself and my baby at risk by being so stubborn about not wanting any interventions.
I know that a lot of people were worrying about us, and about the baby, but (in the light of day at least) I knew that she was okay, I could feel that she was perfectly fine every time she kicked her toes under my ribcage or got a case of the hiccups, and every hour or so you could see my whole belly jiggle around as she did a little dance in there. People would ask “aren’t you worried?”, I would assure them that I knew she was okay and they would just look at me skeptically. I think we are all so dependent on external validation that we forget to take note of how we feel. But we had refused ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy and hadn’t even heard the heartbeat until 30 weeks because I didn’t want to use the doppler, choosing instead to listen with a pinnard. I think the fact that we had always been relying on my intuition about the baby from the start really helped us to connect with her as the days ticked by.
After 40 weeks, our midwife was starting to pressure me in her quiet little way, and kept suggesting that I try natural induction techniques to get things started. At first I was all for the idea of homeopathics or acupuncture to help bring on the labour but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was unnecessary. Induction is induction after all and if the baby isn’t ready to come then she isn’t ready. In my opinion, just because the induction techniques are not medical doesn’t make induction of labour any more a ‘natural’ thing to do. So I didn’t take the cimicifuga and caulophyllum homeopathic pills she left for us and I didn’t call the acupressurist who’s number she left for me and I didn’t head up to the hospital for monitoring just to ‘make sure’ that the placenta was okay. Our baby was going to come in her own time and it was really important to me that I hold the space for her until she was ready to come.
And so we waited. As family members created facebook groups to try and encourage ‘chicklet’ to make her appearance and acquaintances asked if we had tried having sex yet. My Mum had been staying with us for a whole week, and there was still no sign of labour, she was starting to worry that the date of her return flight would arrive before the baby did, Doting Dad’s bosses were starting to get antsy since they had someone on standby to cover for him during his paternal leave, and my hips were creaking under the weight of full term baby, but still we waited.
It was a long wait – and felt much longer than it actually was – but I went into labour naturally on the morning of the 13th of February, 19 days after my medical due date. I was 42 weeks and 5 days pregnant. When our daughter was born, she still had patches of vernix on her skin, she weighed just 3.5kgs, by no means the giant baby people were warning me about, and her placenta was perfect, not a single calcification spot to be seen. Had I been planning a hospital birth instead of a homebirth I would have been routinely induced far too early and she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow to her required maturity before being forced out into the world. As it was, she was bright eyed and alert, born with her eyes open, taking in the world and already strong enough to hold up her head when held. I hate to think what damage we would have done if we had left ourselves in the ‘care’ of hospital policy.
Those last few weeks were a hard slog but I’m so pleased that I was able to give Juniper the time she needed to enter this world in her own time.