I would never put a number on how long a woman should feel comfortable going “overdue.” For one thing, errors are too easily made in recording of dates, and length of natural gestation varies widely, not only from woman to woman, but also from baby to baby. Instead, I would just focus on my overall health and the well being of the baby. We all have a wisdom inside us that we need to listen to, to let us know if something is not quite right to the point of needing intervention, be it early or late in the pregnancy. Plus, there are physical signs of wellbeing that are common sense that I can always look for. Is the baby moving like usual? Am I feeling well?
I would like to encourage all pregnant women and their loved ones not to think about pregnancy, labor, and birth in superficial, mechanical terms (e.g., what color this is, what size that is, how much of that came out, what number of those there are...). Instead, pay attention to your overall well-being and that of your baby. Focusing on external “danger signs” can actually distract mother from receiving important inner cues.
Mothers carry everything they need within them, whether it is the wisdom and power to seek out necessary help or to give birth completely alone. During pregnancy, just like during labor, mothers don’t need to be searching for problems, but instead remaining receptive to messages their bodies give them. As a general rule just take good care of yourself and your baby, be “in tune” with your inner wisdom, and don’t let arbitrary rules and measures influence you.
I, personally, went 20 days past the due date I’d estimated with my last daughter. I quit believing in the accuracy of due dates long ago, but since I did know when we conceived I figured it out for fun (ha!) I don’t plan on doing that ever again. I was comfortable staying pregnant as long as my baby needed me to, but the pressure and negativity that family members and strangers heaped on me was unnecessarily stressful.
When the baby comes, the baby comes. I’ve decided (and would highly recommend) not to ever even bother predicting when my future babies are going to come. There will be no charting, no recording dates of menstruation, intercourse, or conception, and no addition, subtraction, multiplication or division at all. I’m very excited at the thought of going through an entire pregnancy without a single guess as to when the baby will be born next time. Fewer than five percent of babies are born on their due dates anyway! How much simpler it will be to listen to my body’s cues without that inaccurate and irrelevant date to compare with.
In all things, listen to your heart and things may not go as you plan, but you surely won’t go wrong!
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #09.
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