Some mamas want to share their baby’s estimated arrival date the instant they find out for themselves — graciously inviting their tribe and beyond into this part of their pregnancy journey. Hey, that’s cool!
Other mamas answer the “when are you due” question as if an answer is socially expected. They don’t apply much thought to the alternative. Ah, no big deal!
Then there are mamas who feel a bit sketchy on the matter. They’re the mamas like me who may have a birthing day in mind, but it’d take a military inquisition for them to reveal it to ‘just anyone.’
Now, here are a few compelling reasons for keeping your due date secret…
1). Due dates don’t exist.
Babies aren’t Blockbuster videos — they aren’t “due,” they’re already here, living and being. It’s their relocation to a new environment that we anticipate.
Did you know only four percent of babies are born on their (given) due date? While eighty percent of women deliver between 37-42 weeks, twenty percent of women give birth after 41 weeks (taking into account that many women are medically induced early). Here is more information about average timing.
There are various ways to calculate a due date, including adding 280 days to the start of last menstrual cycle; the date of conception/date of ovulation (not necessarily the same given that a released egg and recent sperm survive in a woman’s body for different lengths of time); and fetal measurements by first trimester sonogram.
This is why I (and many people) don’t even call it a due date. For the remainder of the post, I’ll refer to this penciled-in, tentative spot on the calendar as a “guess date.”
2). Knowing others are counting down can cause pressure to perform.
You might want extra leeway at the end of third trimester to avoid unnecessary interventions like induction or scheduled cesarean based on ‘post-dates’ alone. It can be nerve-wracking to approach the guess date like an expiration label or like the deadline for last resort measures.
You might want an excuse to keep an overflow of visitors at bay during your postpartum bonding time.
You might feel anxious if your guess date comes and goes without event, and the phone’s buzzing with messages pressing for an updated “plan of action.”
They usually mean well, but people tend to say all the wrong things when they know you’re past your guess date. (Here are some examples of what NOT to say).
You likely don’t want to be asked “So, is today the day?” like a broken record. You don’t know if today’s the day, even if it is your guess date. If you’re reminded that today could be “the day,” you might get excited… or you might feel like singing a sad country song alone in the bathtub with red wine. And now you’re a failure because guess what, you’re ‘still’ pregnant.
If you do suspect today is “the day,” your pattern of contractions isn’t anyone’s business unless you serve up those details yourself. Others asking for progress reports based on a guess date can put pressure on you to be compliant, to be considerate of others’ curiosity (especially if they’ve been supportive throughout your pregnancy), and to be polite enough to answer with a proper, honest “yes” or “no.”
This is not an ideal or encouraging mindset to have when heading into labor, when you must tune in to your own needs and let go of worrying about others’ expectations.
3). Others asking for it can feel invasive.
A few notes to those with lots of questions for pregnant mamas:
Stop asking heavily pregnant women questions. No more questions. Please. Other than “How are you feeling?” or “How can I help you?”, be safe and be quiet.
You never know what a woman may feel is too personal or too private to share publicly.
Some don’t want to share bare belly photos, but will openly accept a little belly pat from a stranger in the supermarket.
Some don’t mind Tweeting live updates about their labor, but don’t want any visitors once the baby is earthside.
Some openly discuss their changing pregnancy symptoms (what might be considered TMI to many includes any mention of cervix, nipples, placenta, bodily fluids, you get the idea), being common knowledge as ‘just what happens’ — but they keep their baby’s name close to the vest.
Some share their entire birth plan on social media but want to keep their baby’s sex a surprise… even to themselves!
Some invite everyone including their favorite Target cashier to the baby shower/mother’s blessing ceremony, but want to keep their guess date a secret.
And really, who is anyone to question? She has given thought to these decisions, or impulsions, whether driven by much cerebral analysis or blooming instinct alone. This is her pregnancy; her baby’s home. This is her new relationship; her baby’s first intimate bond. This is her birth, her baby’s birth.
Don’t ask how much weight she’s gained, or how her blood pressure’s doing, or what size maternity clothing she’s into now. (If it’s not appropriate to ask when she’s not pregnant, it’s not open season for these questions when her body appears out of her control [in your view] ).
Don’t ask if she’s scared about the birth. (She doesn’t want to hear your horror stories, and if she hasn’t indulged you with her fears you can safely assume she wishes you won’t pry into the vulnerable safe space she’s pain-stakingly created).
Don’t ask if she’s ‘ready’ (for what? Birth? A baby? Tragedy? Joy? Transformation? Life?). She’ll say yes — but no, she’s not ‘ready,’ because she’ll never be totally ready for the intended subject of this ambiguous question. A shining spotlight upon this reality just makes her feel like she’s not prepared enough, okay?
Don’t inquire about her pregnancy symptoms unless you promise: A) not to get offended, B) to offer a safe space for the unburdening of her emotions, and C) to actually want to know about the pressure on her cervix, the soreness of her nipples, strange new moles that bespeckle her back, increasing vaginal mucous, and anything of the like. Because those are pregnancy symptoms. Her answer won’t be awkward — what is awkward is the fact that you’re asking for it. Really, what do you expect her to say — “Oh, my pregnancy symptoms include, ah, pregnancy stuff, you know? Yeah… pregnancy stuff.”
She might want to talk about all of these things. Or she might find it highly mortifying to do so. If you’re not her significant other, doula, midwife, or doctor, tread carefully. You can still show her you’re interested in her pregnancy, baby, and herself without pressuring her to open up along forced fault lines in her currently tender psyche.
4). Others acting like it’s their ‘right to know’ is kind of annoying.
I’m going to transcribe a real conversation I had a few weeks ago with an acquaintance. We ran into each other in person unexpectedly, and she asked when I’m due.
“Next month!” I said.
“Oh that’s great! Which day?”
“Only baby knows.”
“Well, what does your doctor say?”
(Didn’t I just say only *baby* knows?) “I’m seeing a midwife.”
“Oh, so what does your midwife say?”
“She agrees with April.”
“But the beginning or end? When in April?”
“What did your ultrasound say?”
(Okay, now she’s just straight-up asking for my medical records…) “Why…?”
“Well. How far along are you?”
“But how many weeks?”
“So how many weeks left then?”
(Are you serious?!) “Not many… or maybe a lot. Ha.”
5). You might enjoy it.
There’s something very special about surrendering to nature’s plan without gripping tightly to presupposition stamped on your file in the form of a calendar date. Letting baby choose his own birth date without labels like “late, “early,” or “on time” may require the kind of patience and trust that our culture seems to have lost, by and large… but it is quite a sacred acceptance.
Most aspects of the birthing time are unknown until a woman is in the throes of her experience. Most will remain a mystery to her even long afterward. Treating a guess date like a non-vital piece of information can help a woman relax into the idea of trusting her body; setting boundaries with those who impress ownership over her journey; and processing her pregnancy/birth story in her own sweet time.
- 14 Differences: First vs. Next Pregnancy Concerns
- The Best Time to Announce Your Pregnancy (and Why)
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