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Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh Headshot

When the Baby is Late

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I am not a cute pregnant woman.

Some gals carry entirely in their bellies. They wear sundresses and cutesy "Got Milk?" T-shirts over their baby bumps. From the rear, they could still be mistaken for Pilates instructors or table dancers. Not me. My pregnancy is visible from all angles. Sure, my belly looks pregnant, but so does my butt. And my shoulders. And my ankles. And my nose. When pregnant, I appear to be carrying one or more babies in several locations throughout my body.

Which is why it is all the more impressive that, other than that brief altercation with someone's grandmother last week over the parking space she stole from me in front of the ice cream stand, I have not been particularly temperamental or unreasonable during this pregnancy. Despite looking like a medium-sized tool shed, I have largely kept my cool.

Until now.

Because, you see, I've just passed my due date. And I can feel the crazy coming on.

Yes, yes, statistically speaking, a woman is far more likely to give birth a day or two before or after her due date rather than precisely on it. The math makes sense. But you fixate on that date. It becomes a mantra to get you through.

"On April 24th, I can sleep on my stomach again."
"On April 24th, the heartburn will end."
"On April 24th, I'll touch my toes."

Your due date becomes the finish line. And when you arrive there without a baby, it's as though you've just run a marathon only to be told they've extended the distance of the race. Instead of twenty-six miles, you'll be running twenty-eight. Instead of nine months pregnant, you are working on ten.

And so, it stands to reason, we otherwise kind-hearted, large-bodied women, have by now, developed some sensitivities. Thus, there are a few things it might be best not to say to us:

  • 1. "You look like you are ready to pop." Ah, yes. The clever balloon metaphor. This has been a favorite comment of mattress delivery men and husbands of women who are not really my friends. For some reason, if a gentleman is carrying a piece of furniture into my home, he thinks he can tell me I look so large I might explode. I feel like retorting, "Really? Because you look like you are ready to be kicked in the face."
  • 2. "Oh, I didn't even notice you were pregnant." To be fair, I think when people say this, they are trying to be kind. You know, not mention the elephant-shaped woman in the room. And yes, in a fair universe, the opposite of comment #1 would be a safe remark to make. But we're past the due date, people. All bets are off. When someone tells me he or she didn't notice I was pregnant, I want to answer, "Really? I didn't notice you had a head." I'm carrying an extra sixty-five pounds here. A lot of it's in my chin. I do not wish to be told, "You look the same."
  • 3. "Are you having a boy or a girl? Do you have any names in mind?" Thought you'd play it safe and go with classic conversation starters? Great. Join the club. Once a woman has been pregnant for what can easily be rounded up to a year, she has answered these questions a couple of times daily for the duration. That means she has been queried about the name or gender of her child over 700 times. By now, I'm making things up. This one's a boy, but sometimes I tell strangers he's a girl. Because I can. Before my first daughter was born, I got so tired of answering the name question that I started telling people fake ones. "I just love the name Mildred, don't you?" Or, "I think Bernice is precious." I especially favored names that rhymed with the baby's last name. "It will either be Barbara or Martha," I would say. "Barbara Harbaugh," the person would repeat, stumbling a little. "That's beautiful." Yep, it's mean, but when one's body is misshapen, one's brain follows. Fact.
  • So is there anything safe to say? Are all women past their due dates crazy people? Probably. I can't speak for all of us, but I don't mind when folks ask me sincerely how I'm feeling. Sure, upon occasion, I offer too much information. "Well, I'm irritated that I peed on myself when I sneezed just now." But, for the most part, I actually find moments of clarity when I think someone is genuinely concerned. Today, when a friend emailed to ask how I was doing, I replied, "I'm okay. I've actually been taking this week to cherish my girls. I watched them sleep last night when I couldn't. Once the baby comes, we'll be topsy-turvy for awhile. It's good to remind myself -- and them -- that we are going to be okay."

    And we will be okay. Because one day this baby will come out.

    Until then, just don't ask me his name.