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Duped by the Due Date Mind Game

Posted by Lara Salahi  January 16, 2013 08:01 AM

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Due dates are a hoax.

There. I said it.

It’s one of those pregnancy myths I wish were true. And I fell for it.

As a journalist, I innocently believed due date meant deadline. Meant you darn well better have something presentable by said date – even if it arrives kicking and screaming.

Even the dictionary says if you are due, you are proper. You are adequate. You are rightful. You are sufficient.

So why isn’t the little boomba here?

One friend said it best: as the offspring of a journalist, little boomba has already missed the biggest deadline of her life yet. (Have I ruined her shot at a journalism job for life?)

It’s not her fault. In fact, it's unclear what prompts the body to begin the labor process. Since the event differs in each woman, it’s nearly impossible to predict when a woman will naturally go into labor. No spicy food or sack time can guarantee a jump start. The process is one of the mysteries and miracles of pregnancy, yet the fact that a physician revolves an entire prenatal routine around the due date has thrown a psychological wrench in the mystery and miracle of it all.

If I knew by my first OB appointment what I know now, I would have put my hands over my ears when she gave us an estimate on little boomba’s arrival. It's an estimate, I get it. But that window has so clearly open and shut, and now I’m suffering from the effects of the due date mind game. The game of timing maternity/paternity leave as best we could, of using that due date estimate to make our own estimate of things to accomplish before baby arrives.

Physicians often project a due date from the first day of a woman's last period. That's because it's rare for women to know their exact date of conception. Give or take about two weeks on each end of the date and you'll have yourself a pretty accurate window of baby's arrival. Right? Not always.

I worked right up until said due date and beyond. My mother made all travel arrangements around said date, leaving plenty of room for an early or late arrival. The room is ready and the guests are on standby. But the guest of honor is already late for her birthday. Or so we think.

Don’t get me wrong – all tests have shown that she is pacing well. She is healthy and still thriving. I am grateful for that and I know that is most important in this process.

Still, I can’t help but feel that the arrival time we’ve been planning for nearly a year now has turned into a source of stress and anxiety – perhaps the greatest that I’ve experienced throughout my pregnancy. A week later, the days have come and gone. I look down at my squirming belly and wonder what I’ve done that boomba needs to stubbornly rebel against her due date.

I also can’t help but feel a sense of guilt. The slew of “has she arrived yet” messages means there are so many caring people waiting to meet her. We are always surrounded by people who love us and are trying to help us. Although I’m helpless in this situation, in my mind I feel like I have led them on. When the question "how do you feel?" is asked, I feel guilty saying that I feel great. I shouldn't feel great. I should feel miserable. I should feel like my body hates me enough that it has me screaming "meds!" I should feel some sort of short-lived resentment towards my husband. After all, by now, I'm expected to feel that way.

My mother is scheduled to end her visit soon after nearly a month of hanging around to welcome baby. She’ll likely leave with no baby in sight.

I’m just the messenger of the due date and right now, I have no answers.

My doctor has discussed induction. Although everything is still running smoothly, the pregnancy has gone past its estimated window, she said. While there’s a frustrated part of me that wants to say 'do what you will,’ another part of me is disappointed. This was not in my birth plan.

If I wasn’t told a due date, I don’t think I would’ve felt this sense of urgency to give birth already. Yes, it would be great to get my body back and have this baby. But I have enjoyed my pregnancy so far. The only reason I want it over is because I’ve been told it’s supposed to be over by now.

Perhaps this experience, like others throughout my pregnancy, will also be a lesson in motherhood. Sometimes I’ll have to answer for boomba’s actions (or inactions). Sometimes I won’t have answers. The best made plans are written in pencil. And some days, even weeks, boomba’s going do what she wants to do when she wants to do it. And -- as long as it’s not dangerous, yadda yadda -- I just have to be patient, block out the expectations, and let her come into her own when she’s good and ready.

Perhaps a trusted person will one day tell me what to expect as if our pregnancies and our children are one size fits all. I’ll believe her, even though she’ll be way off.

Today, the joke’s on me.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Lara Salahi is an award-winning multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. She has worked in local, network, and cable television, international print, and documentary film. She More »

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