Holidays are a time when many of us gather with with family and friends, when hearts are open, tables are full, spirits light and oxytocin flows just from being with those we care about and sharing meals and good times. For some families, babies arrive on the holiday to make the day even more special and significant then other years. For health care providers, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, birth photographers, lactation consultants and those that work with birthing families, holidays are often times spent away from their own friends and families so they can help women become mothers and see the birth of a family.
I have a clear recollection of being pregnant with my second daughter through the holidays of 2000. Grumpy, crabby, “done” with being pregnant, and very mad that everyone else seemed to be so festive and happy. Hard to make plans for holiday gatherings and meals, unwilling to have people over and not wanting to go elsewhere, I complained my way through each day, surprised like any other fully pregnant 40 weeker, that I would wake up each morning in my bed, “still pregnant.” I agreed to join friends for our traditional sushi rolling party that we did every New Year’s Eve, and pregnant or not, I was going to be rolling and eating sushi. Alas, baby felt like joining the party, and I went into labor New Year’s Eve. A slow labor ramp up seems to be the way my babies come, and I mildly contracted through the night, all New Year’s Day and into that night. As was the case, I seem to go from early labor to transition rather quickly and soon was pushing a baby out into the world in the pre-dawn hours on January 2nd. 01/02/01. Missing 01/01/01 by just a few hours. Missing the tax break and a New Year’s Eve baby by a day. Regardless, a memorable New Year nonetheless for myself and my family.
I sit now waiting for the call to join a client as her birth doula, as other women, clients of mine, tick the hours past the holiday celebrations, very pregnant and wondering if they too, will have a holiday baby.
As a doula for over 10 years, I have attended births on every holiday, my birthday, and my children’s birthdays, as those babies come when they want to, regardless of the plans of those of us on the outside!
I thought I would check in with those women who have given birth on a holiday like July 4th, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s, Halloween and others to find out what their experience was like. And also ask those who themselves were born on a holiday, how has it been forever having their birthday associated with a holiday well known by many here in the US.
“I birthed on a holiday!”
Most of the women I spoke to who gave birth on a holiday had gone into labor spontaneously. Several of them had a long labor, for several days, with the baby making their appearance on the holiday. I wondered if they felt that their birth team minded not being with their family on the holiday. Everyone reported that, regardless of home birth or hospital birth, the birth team seemed very present, happy to be there and upbeat about welcoming the new baby. A few hospital birth mothers remarked at how empty and quiet the hospitals were during their births. Discharge seemed to take a bit longer and it was sometimes harder to be seen by a lactation consultant or other specialist. Some babies born on Christmas were given a green and white striped hat instead of the “normal” newborn baby hat after birth.
Many women talk about celebrating their child’s birthday on the original holiday date when the child is young, but as they get older, they have moved the celebration to a day that is not the holiday, so that friends and family are more available to join in the celebration. They shared that others seem “dismayed” that they gave birth on a holiday, expressed regrets for the child’s birth date, as if it was a bad thing.
I recall being at a birth on July 4th, and the baby was born about 30 minutes before the fireworks over the city were to happen. The midwife and nurses turned off all the lights and we swung the mother’s bed completely toward the wall of windows, and the new family, and staff and I all watched the big fireworks show in silence, baby snuggled at mother’s breast. I whispered in the baby’s ear later on, “Remember, these fireworks will always be to celebrate *your* special day!”
All the women I spoke to, who birthed on a holiday, made sure to comment and share that they felt it was important to have the baby pick its birth date, and be born when it is ready, even if that is a holiday. They all recognized what Lamaze speaks to when we share information in our Healthy Birth Practice, Let Labor Begin On Its Own.
The women all stated that they wanted to be sure that their child, born on a holiday, would always feel special and have celebrated, and not have their child’s birthday get lost in the shuffle of holiday celebrations.
“I was born on a holiday!”
I spoke with women who themselves were born on a holiday and they shared what it was like to have to share their birthday with a holiday that everyone was celebrating. The folks who were born on Christmas or New Year’s shared that they frequently felt like their birthday got “overlooked” or “short shrift” in the celebrations of the season. As a child, they often had to express their frustrations and share that they needed their families to make their birthdays special, “If I was born in August, would you wrap my birthday gifts in Christmas wrapping?” said one woman. Gifts often said “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday.” One woman, born on New Year’s Day remarked; “At least I wasn’t born on Christmas!”
Many women who are born on other holidays, like Halloween or 4th of July, share that it was great fun growing up with that birthday date, and continues to be fun into adulthood. One woman shared that being born on April Fool’s Day was not fun, and she got pranked a lot with empty boxes wrapped as presents and other jokes. Not something she has enjoyed, and she shared; “I felt like my birthday was always a joke!”
“I worked with birthing women on a holiday!”
I also spoke with health care providers, who shared that they enjoyed working on holidays, that facilities were often quiet, and low key, and the birthing families that they work with seemed extra appreciative of their support on the holiday. They often wear a little something special to make things more festive, a Santa hat, or Halloween headband or an American flag on July 4th. Sometimes, hospitals put something special on the meal tray, a flower or decorated cookie. They are glad to be helping in any way they can.
I think that family and friends, and even the public makes a lot of comments to pregnant women who may find themselves likely birthing on a holiday, adding an extra layer of stress for these women, to what can already be a time period raw with emotion at the end of pregnancy. I am glad that these women are treated well by care providers. None of the women who responded to my small, unscientific survey said that they felt pressure to induce to avoid a holiday birth date.
I think that as educators, we can stress that babies come when they come, and recognize the additional pressures that women may feel to birth or avoid birthing on a holiday date. We can provide tips on coping with holiday celebrations and plans when “very pregnant” and honor the emotions that some of the women may be experiencing. Reassuring women that their babies know when to be born and helping them to prepare for however things unfold is a gift we can give to our students and clients.
Have you birthed on a holiday? Were you born on a holiday? Do you support birthing women and frequently work on a holiday. Please share your experiences with all the readers in the comments and let us know what your experience was. Is anyone waiting on a baby now? Do you expect to get called to a birth? Are you working in a hospital? On call? Finally, a huge thank you to all the professionals who give up their holidays to support the new babies coming into the world.