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September 20, 2016

The waiting game: Frustration and anticipation when baby does not arrive on the due date

My baby’s due date has been marked on the calendar since I learned that I was expecting at the beginning of the year. My husband and I have been looking forward to this day, patiently counting down the weeks until our son’s arrival. We have taken the classes, read the books, picked out his name, purchased lots of baby gear and prepared the nursery. We are ready to meet our son. But apparently he is not yet ready to meet us. His due date was two days ago.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, only about one in every 20 pregnant women will give birth on their due date. A baby’s estimated due date is calculated from the first day of the expecting mother’s last menstrual cycle. An ultrasound done in the first trimester can also provide a due date based on the baby’s size. But these dates are all educated guesses, which is why so many women either deliver earlier or later than the day they have been anticipating.

My obstetrician explained that due dates are estimations when I was given two different ones at the beginning of my pregnancy. Originally I was told to expect him on Sept. 20, but my first-trimester ultrasound yielded Sept. 18 as the birthday of my baby boy. I thought that by this past Sunday, I would be holding my son in my arms instead of still in my belly.

I was disappointed when my obstetrician said at my 39-week checkup that my body was not displaying any signs of impending labor. I was five days away from my due date and felt as if there was something wrong with me if things were not starting to happen. All along, I have put faith in the idea that my body knows what it is doing, even if this is my first time delivering a baby. Hearing that I was not dilated or effaced, and being prepped on the possibility of an induction, really bummed me out. Thankfully, my doctor confirmed that my baby is doing well and so am I. Just because labor has not started yet does not mean that there is any cause for concern.

I knew soon after that doctor’s appointment that I needed to dismiss my disappointment and focus on the positive: My baby and I are healthy. It is not uncommon to deliver after the baby’s estimated due date. He will come when he is ready. And in the meantime, I am going to focus on all of the great reasons that I have gone the full 40 weeks carrying my son. I am also going to get a haircut. I am going to relish these last days of feeling my baby boy moving inside me. I am going to sleep in as late as I want. I am going to cook and bake and stockpile food in the freezer. Most of all, I am not going to get discouraged.

I really want to have a natural labor and delivery which means no inductionno epidural, and no surgery. However, I may have to accept a change of plans if my labor does not begin over the next several days. At my last appointment, I was given the lowdown on induction in case things do not start progressing naturally. My team of doctors prefers to induce on the first day of week 41, meaning one week after the estimated due date. I would be admitted to the hospital and given an oral medication to dilate my cervix, if needed. The next morning, I would begin induction with Pitocin. My obstetrician explained that a baby gains about a half pound every week during its last month in utero, and they advise induction at the start of the 41st week so the baby does not get too big to deliver vaginally. I have always maintained that I will follow the advice of my medical team, however, I am still really hoping for a natural birth because I want to avoid all of the risks associated with medical intervention for induction, labor and delivery. My doctor said that if I wanted to go longer into my 41st week and hope for things to start naturally, they would need to do some tests in order to ensure that my baby and I are healthy and stable enough for that option. She also reassured me that a lot can happen in a short period. So right now, I am just taking things one day at a time.

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I know many women who needed medical help to commence labor and delivery and each of them enjoyed beautiful, happy birthing experiences. I know some women who were induced and still their baby did not want to budge, so they needed to ultimately have a C-section. I am hopeful that I will go into labor without any intervention. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses who will be with my husband and me, advising us on the best course of action. I am confident that however our baby boy enters this world, it will be exactly as it is supposed to be. As long as he is healthy, that is all that matters.

When I awoke on my due date, my husband said, “Is he here yet?” as if the stork was delivering our son. He is not here yet, but he will be here soon. And I am so very excited to finally meet him.

Did you deliver after your 40th week of pregnancy or are you currently past your due date? Do have an experience or strong feelings about whether an expectant mother should be induced? Share with me in the comments section below, or tweet me @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.

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