S spent a lot of time reading about pregnancy and labor, mentally steeling herself for a painful, but natural delivery. She did her research, hired a doula, and toured the hospital with a labor & delivery nurse who also worked as a lactation consultant. S knew it would be difficult to avoid a medicalized birth in a hospital setting, but she was firm in her preferences and knew what she wanted. It came as quite a shock, therefore, when her carefully thought-out plans were rendered moot even before she went into labor.
Although the due date is set at 40 weeks from conception, a baby delivered after 37 weeks is considered full-term, and the closer one gets to the due date the more frequent grow the prenatal check-ups. We knew that the due date is little more than an educated guess, but this fact makes it no less tempting to think of it as the actual day one’s baby will arrive. S was considered a low-risk pregnancy so she treated her weekly visits to the doctor’s office as more or less perfunctory.
At 37 weeks, her appointment lasted little more than 5-10 minutes. A nurse checked her vital signs. “Still pregnant?” — asked her O.B. Indeed. “Ok, see you next week.” She expected the following visit to follow in the same vein, but mentioned that she could not feel the baby move as actively, prompting a raised eyebrow of concern and the recommendation to do an ultrasound. It was last Wednesday afternoon; heavy snow had started to fall unexpectedly, and the next available ultrasound appointment was not for another two hours. S very nearly decided to reschedule the ultrasound and go home, but thankfully checked her impulse.
Everything looked good on the ultrasound — the baby had a healthy heartbeat, his bones were the right shape and size, and he was properly positioned. The last thing the technician checked was the amniotic fluid. And the next thing S knew she was in tears. The fluid level, which had looked perfectly normal the previous week, was too low to be considered healthy and S listened through a haze of incomprehension as her doctor ordered her in no uncertain terms to head straight to the hospital.
Good thing we had pre-packed a bit. Our apartment is close to the hospital and S was clearly not in labor so we did not rush. Rather, we packed distractedly, unable to believe that this was really it and forgetting half the things we had wanted to bring in the process. Of course, one never knows when the moment will come, but we were not ready. S’s body showed no signs of going into labor, but more importantly she had not psychologically come to terms with her impending motherhood. And, as the next few days would show, our baby boy was likewise not keen on abandoning the womb ahead of schedule.