As a childbirth educator, doula and student midwife, one of my pet hates is due dates! Whenever I meet with clients, my first task is to shift their thinking from pinning all their hopes on one day to looking at a broader period of time. It’s great to have a well-defined day to work around—we all like to be organized and having a deadline helps us to prepare, at least in the world of things humans create and control. This is not the case when we’re talking about a natural, physiological event.
The Times and Tools of Induction
My people are Cherokee. My first exposure and my earliest memory of when a baby was to be born came from seeing fat-bellied animals and the adults commenting, “Oh, that foal (or cub or pup or kid or young one) will be coming in the spring.” Sometimes they said the baby or babies would be coming in the fall, but usually it was the spring. There was always much concern if babies were coming in the winter, whether they were kittens, pups, chicks or larger domestic animals. The woodland animals seemed to be smarter and their babies just always came in the spring or fall. I wondered about it all. Humans are animals, too, and the elders seemed to talk about us in much the same way. The elders would comment about how a woman was walking and that her time was nearing. As her habits of wanting to stay home or make baby clothes or rearrange the house became more obvious, I would hear comments like, “It won’t be long now.”
Labor is induced by right timing. I observed this as I watched the animals and later as I had my own divine daughters. I walked the hills and waded in the creeks of Missouri as my time grew near with my first daughter. Under the care of a family doctor, I was told a due date. When I told the date to my family elders, they all said, “Ah, but the baby will come when it is ready!” I was the generation that stood at the door of science and nature; they seemed to be at odds with one another. One stated things as if they were facts, but the real facts turned out to be different. My baby was due on October 5 and came October 10. Going over the date was a concern to my doctor and seemed to say something was wrong with my body or my baby. The elders were calm saying over and over, “Oh, she will come! When she is ready, she will come and you can’t keep her in!” They were right. My water broke one night at 11 pm while I was asleep. Contractions started at 1 am. Tabitha was born an hour and 53 minutes later at 2:53 am on October 10, 1975; a fourth generation first-born daughter who grew to give birth to a fifth generation first-born daughter, Ariel, born at 43 weeks in her own home and in her own time.
I’ve heard doctors tell mothers they must induce because there is little to no fluid left around the baby. They use big words that sound scary to mothers, who then experience a flood when their bag of water breaks a week later. Mothers are told they must induce because the baby is too big, but then the baby born is normal size. Mothers are told they must induce because the baby is too old, but the baby born is early and covered with vernix. Mothers are told they must induce because their blood pressure is too high and labor would be too stressful, but they aren’t told not to make love. Mother and babies are always too little or too big or too early or too late or too something until there is now seldom a mother that is just right for going into labor according to her own right timing.