I will never forget the first time I heard it.
I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child, a baby girl due December 22nd, and I was miserable. Pregnancy did not agree with me. The only “glow” I possessed was created by the sweat that seemed to puddle on my upper lip every 15 minutes, despite blistering cold temperatures. I would collapse onto my bed, completely exhausted, every night by 8:45 pm only to be wide awake and watching infomercials on my couch from the hours of 2 – 5 am. I was bloated and swollen, my back ached constantly, and my face was broken out like a prepubescent teenager.
“Will we be seeing you all for Christmas this year?” a well-meaning family member sweetly asked one day.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “It all depends on when this little lady decides to come out. Which will probably be never.” (I’ve always been an optimist.)
“Oh, you are going to have her early!” she exclaimed. “I can tell. You are carrying so low. That baby will be here before Christmas!”
My ears instantly perked at this declaration. Ending this misery a few days early? Holding my baby girl sooner than I had imagined? First family photos in front of our Christmas tree, holding a brand new baby looking happier than we’d ever been? Obviously, I had known it was a possibility that my daughter could come a few days early, but hearing it from a veteran mom — someone who had been through the trenches of pregnancy, childbirth and raising babies — made it seem so much more possible.
The last few weeks of my pregnancy moved at an impossibly slow pace. Once I reached 38 weeks and was told by my doctor that the baby was fully developed and could come at any time, I would wake up every day, full of hope that maybe, just maybe, today was the day the contractions would begin. Every evening, I was forced to admit defeat and accept the fact that I would have to do it all over again the next day.
My due date came and went. Christmas was full of joyful hearts, good food, swollen ankles, empty arms, and heartburn. My daughter finally arrived on December 27th, five days after her due date, setting the tone early on that she was going to do things when she was good and ready.
Ten months later, I was pregnant for the second time. This time I felt prepared … well, as prepared as anyone with two kids under the age of 2 could be. I knew what was coming and there was no more mystery to pregnancy and childbirth, as I had already done both. And yet, as I neared the end of my pregnancy in the sweltering July heat as miserable as I had been the first time around, I still felt my heart leap and a surge of hope course through my veins every time someone exclaimed, “Second babies always come early! Hope your bags are packed and you’ve got the nursery ready!”
My bags were packed. The paint on the walls of the nursery was dry. And despite all of my preparation, my second baby girl took her sweet time just like her big sister and arrived six full days late.
The truth is, no one really knows when a baby is going to come. Expressing our opinion as to when we think a baby is going to arrive only creates unnecessary worry and disappointment for the mom-to-be. Some women have light contractions for weeks before birth, while others don’t experience any until the baby is coming.
Some women carry low because that’s how their bodies are made, and some women measure high the day before they go into labor. Some women begin dilating weeks before they give birth, and others are told they aren’t dilated at all, only welcome their baby the next day. Some due dates are wrong and some due dates are right, but the one thing that’s for certain is that no one knows for sure.
And while I can’t say I wasn’t nervous when we found out we were expecting our third child, there was one thing I was definitely prepared for. When a well-meaning stranger stopped me in the grocery store as I waddled around with my daughters and exclaimed, “Wow! You haven’t got much longer to go! You know that third children tend to —” I politely interrupted, “Tend to come exactly when they are ready!”
And he did. Two days late.