When I was 36 weeks pregnant the first go around, I was told by my doctor to expect a “hefty baby.”
As she poked and prodded at my growing belly while I lie there, vulnerable, on that bed, her words repeated in my head a hundred times.
And my confidence shrunk.
Because it’s one thing for the asshole walking down the street to tell you you’re looking big, but when your doctor’s measurements confirm it, you assume it to be true.
My doctor cast the first doubt in my ability on that day. Because though my own mother gave birth to me via cesarean section, it was not until that moment that I felt categorized to do the same.
For someone who would go on to be pregnant for five and a half more weeks, her words continued to stick with me- to expect a large baby. As each day passed, I grew increasingly concerned. Her words, though meant to be lighthearted, weighed heavy upon me. It meant the weeks leading up to Wren’s birthday were fueled by anxiety, stress and bewilderment- how the hell was I going to pull this off?
As Wren’s estimated due date came and went, I would be sent for three more ultrasounds, where they too, would tell me to expect my baby to be large.
I began to feel like my body was failing me for not trying to eject her already, and I started eating all the weird shit and walking up big hills and losing sleep.
The situation I was in with Wren was, and is, a very common occurrence today. Nearly one in every three pregnant mothers are told to expect a “hefty baby,” otherwise known in the science world as fetal macrosomia, or one weighing at least nine pounds and four ounces.
The issue with these predictions is that they are not accurate, according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG), as ultrasounds or manual examinations alone are often 15-18% off the newborn babe’s actual weight at birth. It turns out, then, that of the one in three women who are told to expect a large baby, only a fifth of those who’ve been told to expect it actually produce a baby weighing at least nine pounds and four ounces.
So you can likely guess what happened next to me- I gave birth vaginally to a perfect baby who was not categorized as being macrosomic, even though she cooked eleven days longer than her estimated arrival date. When she came out, I was actually surprised to see she was pink and rosy, unlike the friendly green giant I’d been expecting. I, like the vast majority of women who are told to expect large babies, was pleasantly surprised to have produced something completely average.
And then the doubting game faded, which had been playing in my conscience for five long and hard weeks.
But that doubting game I was playing is a dangerous one- it causes mamas to stress about self-inducing at home as the birthday draws near, fearing trauma to herself or the suspected large baby if they grow too large, according to recent study.
When she gets to the hospital, that doubting game makes her twice as likely to ask for medical intervention than the next woman, because her confidence in her abilities has been undermined.
That doubting game then goes on to send more mamas into inductions. Those who receive an induction are then more likely to have cesarean sections. All of this puts stress on the healthcare system, on the recovering mother’s physical health and her emotional state, and all of this, the vast majority of the time, is completely unwarranted when the 8-pound baby is produced.
And even if that mama is one of the few who does go on to have a large baby, lets keep in mind one very important thing -her body may very well be fit and able to do it.
The average healthy woman, in the absence of maternal diabetes, is encouraged by evidence to proceed with a vaginal delivery with an estimated fetal weight of up to 11 pounds, as according to ACOG.
BECAUSE WOMEN ARE AMAZING and birth is a normal, healthy process.
So why, then, do care providers continue to scare the shit out of us with their predictions?
Here’s what I wish I’d said: Dear doctor, please feel free in your lighthearted joking way to give me your prediction, but also told me it’s just that- an educated guess.
Dear doctor, please follow your prediction up by telling me birth is about more than just data and statistics, too, and that even if I was growing a large baby, I ought to trust in the process.
From one mama of a SLB(Suspected Large Baby) to another, should you find yourself in this situation, I understand your fears. You are allowed your moments of self-doubt, just remember to park them and then to drive on. Because no doctor, or any other person for that matter, can place a cap on your capability or set a limit on your determination.
So screw the scare tactics and fuck the fortunetelling.
What we know to be true is that women have done this for centuries. As far as we’ve come with ultrasound technology and all that jazz, there are still mysteries to birth, and maybe that’s what’s most fascinating and exciting of all- nobody can predict birth.
People did not evolve by accident or by chance. What history generally holds to be true is that your body will produce a baby that is the perfect fit for you.
So just trust the process. Trust your process. You are not a number, nor are you a statistic, you are you, and you alone were meant to birth your baby.