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Due dates & giving birth in secret

I remember the first time I was told my ‘due date’ when I was pregnant with my first daughter. We finally had it - this magical date when we could expect to meet our baby! I was so excited I told everyone who asked (and believe me, everyone asked)...

All through my pregnancy I was fixated on this date – the 8th of May – I thought about and said it so often that I convinced myself this was when my baby would come. I decided to work up until I was 38 weeks pregnant and give myself two weeks to relax, learn how to use my new camera, finish getting the baby things still on my list and work out how to attach the car seat to the pram frame. Oh, and batch-cook til there was bolognaise coming out of my ears!

But our little one had other plans and in the early hours of day two of my maternity leave, a beautiful April morning, I went into labour and Martha was born about 9 hours later. The great thing about her being born “early” (actually at term which is classed as 37-42 weeks), I later realised, was that I hadn’t had to deal with people asking me if she’d arrived yet. I’d had no texts checking in on me and no well-meaning (but annoying) WhatsApps to see if maybe I’d had a baby but forgotten to mention it to anyone (and I know this happens number two!) We also kept the fact that I was in labour a secret so we didn't have any calls or messages checking on progress either!

What’s in a date?

It's easy to get excited about this magical date but did you know that only around 4% of babies are born on their estimated due date (EDD)? These dates are still worked out using a scientific formula invented back in the 18th century by an obstetrician called Naegele who decided that birth takes place 40 weeks (280 days) after the first day of a woman’s last period. But actually research continues to show that the length of pregnancy ranges from 37 to 42 weeks and actually only 35% of women give birth during the week of their estimated due date.

In German there’s a beautiful word, Zwischen which translates to ‘in-between’, adopted by the American midwife Jana Studelska to describe how those last days of pregnancy, “...sometimes stretching to agonizing weeks - are a distinct place, time, event, stage. It is a time of in between. Neither here nor there. Your old self and your new self, balanced on the edge of a pregnancy. One foot in your old world, one foot in a new world.” (Jana Studelska - read the full article here).

So in the interests of avoiding the barrage of texts and questions about whether you’ve secretly had a baby and not told anyone, I would recommend taking your estimated due date, adding on maybe 10 to 14 days and using that date if anyone asks. And then sit back (or maybe on your birth ball) and enjoy your Zwischen in peace!

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