Whenever someone announces their pregnancy, people ask, "When are you due?" It's not a bad thing - I ask it too. And all women have their dates ready. "I am due October 3rd." Immediately people burn that date into their brains. If the woman goes any earlier, well, she had her conception date wrong. Any later? OH NO, she needs to be induced!
In the natural birth community, it's more common to hear women give an estimated time-frame for the baby's arrival - not one specific day. I try to do this by saying, "I'm due early October." Giving a general time-frame works better because it takes the pressure off yourself. Come October 2nd, you know the baby could come anytime, be that next week or two weeks. But people are nervously biting their nails, pacing the hallways, because you're due tomorrow! The baby is coming tomorrow!
But guess what?
The due date is not an expiration date!
When parents and doctors think like this, and the baby hasn't arrived by its "due date", they can start to wonder what's wrong. If the baby isn't born soon, he will get too big. There's not enough amniotic fluid. The baby is going to keep growing and there won't be any room for him. The placenta is going to dry up and fall apart. The baby is going to go bad if he's not born!
Then a decision has to be made. We either let the pregnancy go well into week 50 - or we induce. Women believe that if they don't induce, they will be pregnant for the rest of their lives. Since that option simply isn't acceptable, we induce.
The problem with this decision is that labors induced unnaturally can be extremely stressful. You take a naturally occurring event (birth) and take control over it by making it happen now. Hooked up to an IV with a pitocin drip, forced contractions begin, and the body suddenly has to adjust to labor. Labors that start with induction are known to be more intense and can cause fetal distress. This often leads to the need for a c-section.
You hear a lot, "If we weren't in the hospital, the baby could have died. His heart rate dropped, he went into distress, and they had to perform an emergency c-section." But think about it...what if all that happened because we took over? What if the baby wasn't ready? What if the body wasn't ready? What if labor would have naturally begun the next day?
It's hard to wait for the arrival of the baby. We get impatient and want our baby to be okay.
But interfering can cause so many more problems than if we had just let nature take its course. When I hear people say, "We have to induce because there's no room left for the baby," I want to laugh out loud. If there's no room left for the baby, the only place he can go is down - and that means out! If there's no room left for the baby, he's not stuck there forever.
This is not to say there aren't situations where the baby truly is too big for a mother to birth; however, those instances are so rare that it's unfair to put every women in that category. Doctors have been wrong before by estimating the weight of the baby at 8lbs, and saying it's too large. When the baby is born (naturally and vaginally, by the way), he actually weighs at 10lbs. It can be done! But that's a topic for another time.
We all need to take a step back and hand our trust over to nature. Every aspect of our lives cannot be controlled - and especially not the birthday of children. We need to learn to be patient and how to be hands-off. So spread the word, "The due date is not an expiration date."
(All information has come from the wonderful resources of Ina May Gaskin's books, The Business of Being Born dvd, and the stories and experiences of real-life women.)