The Pregnancy Diaries: 40 Weeks (Due Date & Birth Rights!)
I have to tell you something. This week, is the only week in pregnancy that I'm finally 'over it'. And it's for a whole load of reasons, some silly and totally avoidable, and some kinda serious and really, really avoidable.
Anyone who has been pregnant before, and all the books tell you (in my case too late) not to tell anyone your due date. Because from week 39, the pressure to give birth on your due date is IMMENSE. I couldn't believe how nutty the NHS went on me, asking me if I'd 'had any signs?' on every visit. Any signs? Well, this is my first baby so.....erm, you tell me? Despite the fact only 5% of people give birth on their due date (which in the UK is week 40) and despite the fact the due date isn't even a scientific one, and is open to a HUGE window of error - women are held to it by our care providers.
The Due Date
By week 40, when you would statistically not expect me to be giving birth, I'd had a 'sweep' (where a midwife inserts a finger into your vagina to sweep round your cervix, helping to bring labour on 'naturally'), been told when my next sweep would be and been booked in for an induction (despite not wanting one).
And I'd had texts, Facebook messages, comments on my Instagram and tweets asking where the baby was, when I would be popping it out too.....all in all, not uber relaxing. Now I have to add here this is totally my fault, and I can't complain because I put it all out there - I live my life a little online so I can't suddenly whinge when it bites me in the ass.
But I wanted to point it out, as if you're currently pregnant - try to avoid telling people your due date, or give them a date a few weeks after the actual one. And remember the 'actual due date' is a guestimate. There ain't nothing super scientific about it.
So due date nuisance aside, I found the pressure heaped on by my (lovely) midwife super stressful. Luckily, my doula met me for coffee a couple of times and imparted some very calming wisdom when I admitted to her I was worried I hadn't seen any signs of labour at all. She quite sensibly pointed out there was no reason why I would (or indeed should) have given birth already. She reminded me I'd almost certainly go into labour between 40 and 42 weeks, and not to worry about it until I needed to.
"But I only have until 41 weeks to have my home birth! That's my deadline!" I wailed.
"No. You don't have a deadline, tell your midwife you'd like them to extend their deadline" she added.
So that's what I did. I told my midwife I'd like her to extend her deadline, and she happily agreed. My pregnancy has been healthy with no complications so there was no reason to fight me on this one.
And the induction? The NHS don't like you to go past 42 weeks because there's a higher chance of stillbirth due to the placenta losing efficacy (read here for proper expert reasons!). But I was booked in for one only 8 days past my due date which, to me, was unnecessary. Regardless of their reasons, you do not have to have an induction without first asking for daily monitoring to check your baby isn't in distress. I didn't know that, and I'm positive other people don't either judging by the language commonly used - 'you won't be allowed to go X much past your due date' or 'they don't let you do XYZ'.
Sorry, who won't let me do what? Somehow, when an adult woman falls pregnant, right through to giving birth - she becomes incapable of making adult decisions. From the 'rules' right through to how, when and where she gives birth - decisions are taken away, moderated and made damn difficult. And it p@sses me right off.
Because, goddamn you, we have rights! HUMAN RIGHTS. And birth rights. YES, the baby's health is 100% what you and everyone else has on their mind. But saying that your baby being born alive is the only thing that matters is doing you, as the mother, a disservice. Your birth experience is also incredibly important. Important for both of you! If you have a positive birth experience, you'll probably find your first few days with your baby are a hell of a lot more chill too right? Which in turn, is 100% benefitting your baby.
Because I was so clued up on my birth rights and I'd pushed back on things like induction and being forced not to have my home birth, I felt a lot more in control. And when the birth didn't go to plan, I didn't feel stressed and still felt totally happy with it all.
Oh, and spoiler alert - the birth didn't go to plan! All will be relieved next week when I wrap up my pregnancy diaries by sharing the birth story.....in all it's GORE-y detail (sorry, couldn't resist that pun!)