I took myself out to lunch at the mall last Friday. As I sat down at a table, I noticed one of the women at the table next to me was pregnant. I smiled that knowing smile. I wasn’t eavesdropping intentionally, but you can’t help but hear parts of conversations around you. I heard her talking about her plans for baby showers, hospital visits, and doctor appointments. I guessed, from the conversation, her baby is due Thanksgiving week. Oh, the excitement of a new baby! But then she said, “I plan to have him long before Thanksgiving. I’ll be 36 weeks the first of November, and that’s good enough for me.” I felt all the air being sucked out of my lungs.
Now, I realize my issues surrounding pregnancy are my own. I’m scarred by giving birth to my first on the very first day of my third trimester. I’m forever changed by having a first-day-of-fall baby rather than the New Year’s baby he was supposed to be. And I know more than most lay people because of what we’ve been through, and because of the volunteer work I’ve done the last ten years. My heart was screaming to tell her what can happen to a baby born at 36 weeks. Words formed in my head, trying desperately to get out, of all the reasons babies should stay in until at least 39 weeks. I didn’t say anything to the woman. Goodness knows it wasn’t my place, and I didn’t want to appear a total loon. I will admit, I did get angry.
I didn’t plan on ending up in a hospital at 23 weeks, 4 days. I didn’t plan on spending 16 days on hospital bedrest. I didn’t plan on getting a staph infection, nor on giving birth over three months early. I didn’t plan on spending 93 days visiting my son in the NICU. I didn’t plan on spending years waiting to see all the fallout from his early birth. I’d made plans to have baby showers, hospital visits, all those last trimester doctor visits. I’d planned on outgrowing my maternity clothes, not wearing them for a week and then not needing them anymore. Of course I’d said I didn’t want a Christmas or New Year’s baby, but that was before I knew what could happen. Funny thing about plans….they rarely go as you planned them.
I’ve lived through those last four weeks of pregnancy, twice, with the Princess stretching it out an extra week for good measure. They’re rough weeks. You’re uncomfortable. You’re not sleeping. Heck, breathing can be a problem. Your ribs, kidneys, bladder, and liver are being constantly abused by the kicks and punches of that little person inside of you. But I’ve lived the other side, I’ve seen developmental stages I never should have seen, because my baby should have still been inside of me. I sat by his bedside as he struggled to stay alive day after day. I’ve watched him endure things babies shouldn’t ever face. So I take it a little personally when some random stranger says she would basically give up very important weeks, days, hours of her child’s in-utero development because she’s uncomfortable and “done.” (See, issues….mine, yes, I know).
We do live in a world that has gone over the top on expectations for political correctness. I’m not that sensitive that I expect everyone around me to tiptoe with regard to pregnancy and newborns. Trust me, I’m super excited when friends and family get to the end of a healthy pregnancy. I try to keep my crazy to myself because it’s my crazy. But trust that I will flinch when someone says she plans on having her baby at 36 weeks, because that’s more convenient for her schedule, because she’s done being pregnant, and because “that’s good enough.” Because motherhood isn’t about what’s convenient for you anymore, and because 36 weeks isn’t good enough. I didn’t say anything to that woman. I prayed she doesn’t get her wish, and that she never knows what I know.