Fall of night washes over, the mind in a lull
The five senses resting, beginning to dull
Melatonin rises, a call to those in the dark.
The smallest muscle fibres awaken:
They smell the nightfall.
With all senses dozing and the whole world sleeping,
It’s time it decides.
The journey starts.
THE PERFECT TIMING
There’s always an eager energy hovering around the few days before the baby's due date...and the second that day comes and passes.
It’s full of anticipation. Sometimes it’s full of impatience. Hopefully not, but it can also be full of intrusive questions.
“When’s that baby due?”
“They’re STILL not here yet?”
If you find yourself engulfed with a heaviness in these last days of pregnancy, take a deep breath.
Your baby’s not late.
The idea of “late” in birth is actually kind of strange.
To be technical, punctuality is an expectation two parties make in advance. Babies haven’t told us when they’re coming. Our bodies haven’t given us a clear answer. Neither parties have RSVP’d to that EDD (estimated due date) that doctors or midwives or ultrasound technicians have handed over on a convenient slip of paper.
We don’t know exactly how the body and the baby makes their appointment. It’s a concoction of hormones in the body, signals from the placenta, and messages from the baby that kick start the labour, through normal physiological reasons, or pathophysiological responses.
To add to the swirling ball of unknowns in birth, this is just another mystery.
We can only embrace the mysterious when it keeps us humble and back to the basics of letting time pass.
THE DUE DATE - A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON
Approximately 5% of babies arrive on their due date, probably because this is just a random date. Semi-random.
Due dates are calculated using a rule that has been attributed to German doctor Franz Carl Naegele. But there are no short and fast rules to the meanderings of life. Even this “rule” we have distilled to a simple mathematical equation (280 days of gestation) came from a muddy place. Naegele himself did not invent this rule and referred to the observations made centuries before him. Ancient wisdom across cultures has taught us that normal pregnancies last around 10 lunar months, or 9 calendar months. See? Much more vague.
Slowly, more precise observations showed that pregnancies were mostly conceived about one week after menstruation (one week after the start or end of menstruation is unclear from old texts). Eventually, we hardened these approximations to a single date (based on some unclear information).
What we know from past to present, is that the time it takes for a baby to fully mature in the body is around 37-42 weeks. That’s 5 weeks, a whole month! It’s really their birth month! On top of this, we don’t know why some women tend to carry their pregnancies longer or shorter.
The date is not at all a descriptor for the “best length” for your pregnancy or an indicator for when the baby should have already been born.
THE BODY KNOWS
We have observed in practice that some women go way past their due date yet give birth to a plump little baby with all the signs of a not “overdue” pregnancy. Health care providers have also encountered women who have certain medical conditions (such as high blood pressure) and naturally go into labour earlier on their own, as if the body knew the baby needed to come out.
The mechanics and chemistry of each body is unique and magical. We haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. Some babies are born before the due date with signs of a mature placenta, some are born later with everything looking sharp.
Most of the time the body knows more than we do, and its calculation, consisting of the baby, your specific DNA, and your particular pregnancy, gives us the perfect timing.
THE BEST METHOD FOR STARTING LABOUR
as observed by a midwife
Calm the mind and rest the body: Patience.
Baby will come.
Regardless of all the information, remedies, and experience we could possibly gather, no one knows for sure when birth happens.
When a client’s due date comes and goes, I let go of a deep breath of release. I think it’s just lovely of the baby and the body to give this strong woman a precious pause - holding time still for this sacred moment, giving space to drink in the last drops of this pregnancy, this journey, and cherish the world as it is in that moment.
From the aura that surrounds the very core of birth, people fear the unknown. The “late baby” phenomenon is no exception. The due date has been a small but sure piece of information we’ve held onto the whole pregnancy, and now it is discarded. Where do we go from here? Pregnancy feels never-ending now because you don’t know when it will end. But we never knew.
There is actually more known nearing the end of the journey. Let them flow to the surface of the mind so a faltering patience can hold onto what it does know.
Labour starting anytime now will be no shock, less so than any other time during the pregnancy.
All the a million things you might have been afraid of going wrong, didn’t.
You will hold that baby soon, and when you do, the entire existence of the world you’re in will morph magically into another; leaving all the anticipation, sore back, heavy bellies behind. Awaiting the party is a gift in itself that your baby and body has decided to give.
Give patience for something that will happen on its own time. Labour is a physiological process that needs the body to feel safe and relaxed. The labour process is conducted by the part of the body called the “parasympathetic system”. The opposite of the flight-fight response when our bodies are on guard and ready to pounce. It will start when you feel safe and calm, picking the right moment for your baby to start their journey.
Soak up the last days of pregnancy.
Spark up the last days of the status quo. It’s the last time being a family of the current size. Savour the last few times you could eat a meal from start to finish.
Take in the world right now as it is, one that has guided and built you to a place where you’ve become ready to welcome this new addition that will alter it, forever.
A Friendly Note:
This is especially for anyone who feels that they have a had a traumatic experience, would like to debrief with a clarity of mind to gain more insight on their birth management, and to find closure and strength in their experience.