As you all know, Twig was a big baby. Along with the other myriad of questions that are asked about a new baby, of course, was “How big was she?” Before Twig was born, I didn’t know that my answer of “Nine and a half pounds.” would open a whole new can of worms. The initial shock and awe was followed by “Was it natural?” (in this case meaning vaginally, as opposed to drug-free) and I’d follow with “Yeah, she was born at home.”
Cue dropped jaw.
As if I hadn’t already shocked them enough with my ability to push an above-average-sized child out of my loins. Now I’ve blow their mind with the fact that I not only did it without pain medication, but outside of a hospital.
I remember my husband saying, within a day of Twig’s birth, that we were proof that big babies can still be born vaginally. And we’re not the only ones. Shortly before Twig was born, I found my midwife’s office on Facebook and followed them. They post cute little birth announcements (anonymous of course) with something special about that baby or situation. Congratulating a mom who had a rough labor, adoring a full head of hair, that sort of thing. Often, especially with big babies, the weight is mentioned. And the shocker for me is that they catch big babies pretty frequently. Looking over the past few months on their page, it seems to be about 2 a month on average. Presuming they’re not the only people in the world who deliver babies, that makes for a lot of big babies! Or does it?
Why is it such a rare thing for big babies to be born when it’s not that rare at my midwife’s office? One could make an argument that by random chance, they have a lot of big babies born. Seems unlikely. Maybe it’s more in their ability to leave a baby alone. Most moms that I know start talking induction the second they hit 37 weeks and their doctors are the same. Even with the hospital midwives I had while I was pregnant with Peanut, they told me they wouldn’t let me go past 41 weeks, even though 42 is considered “safe” by most and beyond that is even safe so long as baby is still thriving. This study calls 42+ weeks “post-term” (rather than the 40 weeks that people seem to think) and says that 5-10% of all pregnancies continue to that point. Yes, risks increase at that point, but monitoring a pregnancy is often all that’s necessary.
So let’s assume you have a baby who is ready to be born at 41 weeks, which is actually pretty average (41 weeks 1 day for first time moms, 40 weeks 5 days for further pregnancies). You don’t know that, of course, and are induced at 39 weeks, which is also pretty normal. That’s two full weeks before that baby was ready to come out. Since babies gain about a half of a pound a week, that’s a full pound bigger than they would have been if they would have been allowed to choose their own birthday, not to mention all of the other development they would have gotten in the womb. So maybe it’s not that uncommon to have a big baby, we’re just not giving them the time they need to get that big.
Then there’s the story I’ve heard from multiple moms that their doctor tells them, after an ultrasound late in the pregnancy, that they’re going to have to have a c-section because their baby is too big. First, ultrasounds can be off by as much as 2 lbs at the end of pregnancy, so that supposed 10 lb baby could really be 8 or 12. There’s no way to tell.
And let’s say that baby really is a 10 pounder. Or even a 12 pounder. Baring medical complications like gestational diabetes, why would your body make a baby that was too big to actually exit? The answer is that it wouldn’t. If this was something that routinely happened, as many doctors seem to think that it does, we would not have survived as a species.
So is there such thing as a baby that’s too big to be born? Under normal circumstances, I firmly believe that there is not. So if you need to have an ultrasound at the end of pregnancy, try to ignore comments about weight in general. You can do this. You can birth a baby. Trust me, your body was made for it.