Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Still Not King

No, the baby hasn't been born yet.

The whole concept of the due date is a sort of accident of history. Some 19th century German doctor pulled a figure out of the air and declared that pregnancy lasts ten lunar months, because ten is a nice, easy number to remember. That gets us 40 weeks, which is also a nice, easy number to remember. Not that he had any evidence or anything. And this is obstetrics we're talking about here--a branch of medicine whose practitioners have never let evidence get in the way of their cherished traditions. To this day, doctors get all fussy around the 40 week mark, though they ought to know better. I ought to know better than to be discouraged at running "post-dates", considering that I fired my OB and took up with a midwife precisely so that I wouldn't be under pressure to do silly things like induce labor over some 19th century guy's evidence-free supposition.

Really large studies show that pregnancies that result in live births, if labor is not brought on early with induction drugs or cesarean sections, last an average of 41 1/2 weeks, which is not nearly as round and easy a number to remember as 40. So the Nubbin isn't really running late yet, now that we're at the 41 week mark and he's still stubbornly in utero. He's not late, not imperiled, not unusual. Just mighty uncomfortable to carry around, is all.

I may not be as big as a house, but I am pretty sure that, even in the current real estate market, there are still million-dollar condos in Manhattan that are smaller than I am. See what I mean? Ikea makes whole living room ensembles that could fit in that belly. (By the way, since some of you have asked for them, more pictures will be going up over there soon. Dan suddenly realized how few pictures we had from the pregnancy, so he cajoled me into a morning-long photo shoot in which I displayed most of my maternity wardrobe. I told him I was his Malibu Gravid Barbie.)

My midwife predicts that the baby will be a perfectly manageable size, as far as birthing goes. It's just that, because I'm very short, there's nowhere for him to expand right now but straight forward, so he gives the visual impression of being a very big baby. It hadn't even occurred to me to worry about whether he'd be too big to deliver, since I've been lugging around these childbearing hips since I was 13. Two and a half decades of not being able to buy a flattering pair of jeans will be absolutely worth it if the hips get us both through the birth all right.

Some weeks ago, my doula told me that women who run past their due dates tend to get a weird delusion--they come to feel they've missed their chance to get the baby out, and now they are stuck being pregnant forever. When she told me, I thought, oh, how interesting, but that won't happen to me, because I won't run post-dates. Hah. Here I am at week 41, with exactly the same bizarre notion. If it weren't for the sciatica (much worse in recent days--pain management is basically a full time job now), I'd be tempted to call all my tutoring clients who are on hiatus and tell them we might as well get back to work, since my kicky little abdominal companion has decided not to come out after all.

Fortunately, I learned about delusions like this in grad school, where nearly everyone I know who made it to the end of the dissertation developed two delusions. For the last months leading up to the endgame, we believed we would never finish, no matter what, and it was hard to dismiss that as delusion, since many people in fact don't finish. But then, as our defense dates approached, we each in turn came to believe that we'd die in freak accidents before we could graduate. I thought I'd be hit by a bus. sporos thought the last chunks of Skylab would fall out of the sky and land on him. Getting struck by lightning was a pretty common expectation. We laughed about it, because we knew it was crazy, but so many things had thwarted us over the years, it seemed impossible that we could live to see victory.

The thing is, you don't have to believe you'll make it to the end in order to make it to the end. Optimism, although useful, is not necessary. I can sit here feeling, with the strangest visceral certainty, that I will be pregnant forever, but the baby is still going to get born, somehow, one of these days.
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