My intention was to post this over the Thanksgiving weekend, as scheduled, but the flurry of family, food–and yes, a birth–kept me from it. Real life always makes its own schedule, and real birth does as well. In the birth professionals community we talk a lot about what happens to pregnant people and birth around the American “holiday season,” and it doesn’t always reflect support for normal birth.
It’s a beautiful time of year. Families are getting together for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, all the ways we celebrate all the different things we connect with. The weather gets colder, our joints get a little stiffer, and our food choices typically get a little…well…heavier. So if we’re also nearing the end of a pregnancy, it can become pretty darn exciting to guess whether we’ll be celebrating “Baby’s First Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Solstice/Yule/Christmas/Kwanzaa” with a corresponding embroidered onesie and decorative headpiece…am I right?
So when our care providers say things to us like, “Well, you’re 38 weeks…want to get that baby out before Christmas to make sure you don’t miss it?” or “I’m going to be out of town over the holiday weekend and you’ll just get the doctor on call, wouldn’t you rather know what day you’ll have your baby?” I can see from an anxious first time parents’ point of view how it would be pretty tempting to change the plans from letting labor begin on its own, to pushing things along. What doesn’t get talked about however, is that induction for convenience is simply not a good idea. It increases the risk distress to baby from pitocin or artificially breaking your water, and increases your chance of Cesarean birth because your baby simply may not be ready to come out. The last weeks of pregnancy may find you “full term” by textbook parameters, but your baby–who did not read that textbook–needs every day in there you can give her as she continues developing and readying for the outside world.
Here’s a great page and infographic on Induction facts from Lamaze.
Your pregnancy is not post-dates until it extends past 42 weeks. It’s true! And if your “due date,” what we in the midwifery community prefer you to think of as your “guess date,” falls around the holidays you want to celebrate, imagine a gentle labor and fresh postpartum period surrounded by your family (and all those delicious leftovers to eat). Also imagine increasing your chances of a normal vaginal birth by waiting for labor to begin on its own. Imagine choosing a care provider team that supports your labor beginning whenever it does, and doesn’t mind missing their own special day to help you have yours. One of my favorite homebirths was under the glow of a Christmas tree.
There was a beautiful story from the wise midwife Mary Cooper in this morning’s Midwifery Today newsletter, and I thought I’d share it here.
A couple asked if they could come to my house in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve to have their baby. This would make it easier since their children could stay home while the mom birthed at my house. I had a private room and a private bathroom, so it worked out well. This momma was in active labor when I had another call from another Amish mom in labor. I told the dad, “I can’t come—I have a couple laboring here at my house.”
He then said, “Can we come there, too, to have our baby?”
I said, “Yes, but I can’t come get you.”
“I will find a driver.”
This couple came to my home and I put them in another private bedroom. While they labored, the first couple had their baby. I got the mom and baby cleaned up, weighed and measured. Then I fed mom and dad and tucked them in for a nap. During this time another couple called in labor. (It was now late at night.) I told them, “I can’t come.”
They said, “Can we come there?”
“Yes.” Now, where will I put them? Oh yes, in the living room! They arrived and were soon tucked into a nice space in the living room. Then the second couple had their baby—all went well and I got things cleaned up, the baby weighed and measured and the family fed and tucked into bed.
Soon after, the third couple had their baby. I had everyone cleaned, measured and weighed as the sun came up. I stayed up and made a big breakfast and asked if the three couples wanted their breakfast on a tray or at the table. They all wanted to come to the table to see who else had had their baby. In the end, two of the couples were cousins and they knew the third couple from childhood, so we all ate together. I drove one couple home and then came back to get the other two couples and take them to their homes. I was finally back home around 2:00 pm, Christmas Day, totally whooped. But what a great 22 hours!
— Mary Cooper in Midwifery Today
My daughter was born a few days after Thanksgiving, six sweet years ago. I remember having contractions during our family feast and on the long walk afterward, and my kind doctor telling me “I don’t play golf, and I don’t go away for the holidays. I’ll be here for you whenever your baby comes.” And she was. So it was an immense blessing for me to attend the birth of my own nephew this past Thanksgiving weekend. We shared a meal together, took walks in the cool breeze, and though I missed a family reunion with my husband’s family that day, there is no place I’d rather have been than hearing his first cries and seeing my brother and sister’s joyful faces as their sweet boy joined us Earthside.
Did you or someone you know have a holiday birth? Share your stories in the comments below!