Because everyone I know online is pregnant I have been hearing a lot about their labors. Some were hospital births, some were at home, and many were even VBACs. Luckily, most of my friends are pretty informed about pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This meant that most of them waited for the baby to come when the baby was ready. Many of these babies decided they wanted to wait until after their “due date.”
This is what I noticed. These “overdue” babies gave their mamas a short labor. All labors, whether they are an hour or 20, hurt. If I were given a choice, I would rather have a relatively quick and intense labor like the one I had with my second son, than the 20 hour slow starting, induced labor of my first.
Everett was born at home at 41 weeks and 3 days. My labor was 4 hours and 45 minutes including 20 minutes of pushing.
Friend A was 41 weeks and 3 days with her third baby (her second HBAC), and her labor was 6 hours.
We were all “overdue,” very large, uncomfortable, and ready to have a baby. We waited a long time
One of my theories is that my babies need to bake longer than the “40 week” mark. Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different. Why is there so much importance placed on this magic 40 week mark? The reason I say this is because of the differences I saw in my first son after birth compared to my second.
My first son was induced when I was 39 weeks 3 days. To most pregnant people they would assume this is plenty of time to bake a baby. My OB decided to induce me because I had Gestational Diabetes and was told going 1 day over 40 wasn’t an option (pshaw… wish I had known) and because at my growth scans they noticed my baby’s abdomen was measuring small (but consistently small, why worry?). The day we went in for a follow up scan they told me to pack my bags and come in the next day because, and I quote, “the baby has baked long enough.”
I had a pitocin induced labor which took over 20 hours from start to finish. I couldn’t take the humpback contractions and opted for the epidural. To this day I am amazed I ended up with a vaginal birth now that I know the statistics for inductions and long labors.
Fletcher was 7 lbs 2 0z and 19.5 inches long. He was coated with thick vernix. Why do I mention this? Typically, full term babies have already sloughed off most or all of their vernix.
Fletcher was very drowsy and we had an insanely difficult time with nursing. He didn’t latch properly and would fall asleep at the breast in minutes. Instead of cuddling my new baby I was forced to torture him to stay awake in order to eat. I undressed him, flicked his feet, blew on his face, all to get food in his belly by order of the nurses.
He was also fairly small and rag dollish. He became jaundiced but not severe enough to need lights. He looked like a stick figure baby when I look back at photos.
In comparison, my “overdue” baby, Everett, was born at 41 weeks 3 days (2 full weeks more than Fletcher). He weighed 8 lbs 8 oz and was 20.5 inches long.
He also had vernix, but a much lighter coating.
He was alert and ready to nurse.
He had the head control of a 1 month old and could lift his head off my chest at a few minutes old.
His latch was perfect (but he was tongue tied which we had clipped, more on that here)
He also slept great from day 1 (at night that is)
I am not saying every problem I had with my first son was related to him being born too early, nor am I saying every thing right with my second has to do with him being born overdue. My boys both also had very different birth experiences. Fletcher was induced, put through a long labor and a very long pushing phase (3 hours) and was born while I was on an Epidural. Everett came when he was ready, he had a calm labor lasting less than 5 hours with a 20 minute push phase. Part of their difference in labor is probably because second labors are typically faster as well, so I can’t blame everything on being induced.
My wish for all women is that they not have to even deal with the pressure to be induced. With the staggering rate of C-Sections, babies born too soon thanks to being induced before the baby was ready (you can read a recent article in Time magazine to that effect, which is ironic since I wrote this a week ago, good timing!), and the high rate of Maternal deaths in the US, women need to educate themselves and possibly prepare to butt heads with their care provider.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about being 41 weeks and 3 days pregnant but I trusted my body and my baby. I had a very routine (and easy) pregnancy other than my gestational diabetes, which was well under control. My baby made a grand entrance into the world and kept us all anxiously waiting. I’m so thankful for our supportive midwives and the internet for informing me that I am in charge of my body, not my OB GYN.