Aubrey Hirsch’s previous Loco Parentis columns can be found here.
In my experience, the question you get asked most often when you’re pregnant is “When are you due?” It’s almost reflexive. Someone sees your distended belly, offers their congratulations and then, without hesitation, asks, “When are you due?”
When I was pregnant with my son, I didn’t really mind this question. I found it mildly annoying (like I do most pregnancy-related questions), but not particularly intrusive. It was an easy question to answer. October fifth. It came rolling off my tongue easily, almost robotically, and over and over again. If all my utterances over those nine months were put into a word cloud, “October fifth” would loom large as the phrase I said most often by far.
I held that date in my mind like a lucky number. I marked it on my calendar with a big red heart. I counted down to it with the help of my pregnancy app. Twenty-two more weeks! Sixteen more weeks! Four more weeks!
My doctor kept remarking on my baby’s size (he was always measuring ahead) and emphatically predicted that I’d go into labor early. When I traveled to Philadelphia for my cousin’s wedding at 37 weeks pregnant, we had the carseat installed in the back—just in case.
When we were about a week out, I said to my husband, “If I’m still pregnant on the 5th, let’s do something special to celebrate. Go out to dinner or something.”
And indeed, the 5th came and went and I was still pregnant. My husband took me out for a fancy dessert, but I couldn’t really enjoy it. I was tired, uncomfortable, sick of being pregnant. But, worse than that, I felt totally unmoored. For nine long months I’d fixated on this magical date and here it was! And yet…nothing was happening. The red heart on my calendar glared at me, mockingly. It was October 5th. Where was my baby? With no new date to grasp onto, it felt like I might be pregnant forever.
The calls and texts were also endless. “No baby yet?” “When are you going to have that baby?” “Did you have the baby?” “When’s the baby coming?” Not only was I sorely disappointed, but it felt like I was disappointing everyone else around me, too. That my still being pregnant was my first failure as a mother. I couldn’t even produce my own baby.
Of course I know that only about 5% of women actually give birth on their due date and, in reality, the vast majority of births are spread out over the month surrounding that date. But that didn’t stop me from fixating on October 5th so hard that sometimes I have trouble remembering my son’s actual birthday: October 12th.
So with this pregnancy, I’m trying something new: no due date.
I’m not thinking about it. I’m not marking it on my calendar. I’m not planning anything special. And I’m certainly not telling anyone.
So far this plan has gone over fairly well. When someone asks when I’m due (and they always do), I give them a ballpark range, something like “early summer,” or, since I’m an academic, “after the school year’s over.” About 90% of the time, that answer suffices. Most people don’t really even want to know. They just feel they have to ask.
When someone does press me with a “What’s the due date?” I can usually laugh it off by saying, “I’m not falling for that ‘due date’ thing again. What a racket that is!” That takes care of another 7% or so.
That leaves the pushy 3% who are almost always strangers and, for some reason, find it absolutely necessary to have this information. When they counter with, “You won’t tell me?” I find a frosty “Do you need to know?” is enough to shut down the Q&A.
My family’s been pretty understanding, too. I explained how psychologically taxing it was to field the constant barrage of calls and texts on the days leading up to and following that very anticlimactic October 5th. At one point my mother asked, “Will you tell us the due date when it gets closer so we can plan?” I told her, no one wants to plan for this birth more than I do, but the truth is, I don’t know when this baby will come.
And this time, I’m not going to pretend I do.
So there will be no due date for me this pregnancy. No “early” baby or “late” baby. At some point, in early summer, there will be a baby. That’s all I’m focusing on for now. And you know what? It already feels so much better.