If you're even a little bit plugged into social media, you've almost definitely heard of April the giraffe by now. You might be anxiously watching "giraffe cam" for the first signs of labor (because really, what's cooler than watching a giraffe give birth and what's cuter than a lanky little baby giraffe?!)
But, I mean... it's been a week, right? "WHEN IS SHE GOING TO HAVE THAT BABY?" is more or less what the internet is screaming in the form of exasperated posts and memes. If you're pregnant yourself, you're probably right there with her, waiting for your own little one's arrival at the same time.
But while we wait (and keep the giraffe cam tab open in the background juuuuuust in case), we can discuss what we humans can take away from April for our own birth plans.
1) There's no crystal ball for knowing when labor will begin.
When the live feed of April's pen first went live, Animal Adventure Park simply stated that April was near the end of her pregnancy. Somehow, Buzzfeed and other media outlets turned that into "April is having this baby any minute now!". Yet... here we are... a week later.
If you've ever had a baby, or are in the tail end of pregnancy now, you know that this isn't anything exclusive to zoo animals. As soon as you get anywhere near your estimated due date, people will start asking the infamous "have you had that baby yet?"
And it's not just other people! The third trimester is a tough spot where most people are over being pregnant and just ready to meet their baby. This results in looking for any sign at all that labor is coming soon.
"How long after you lose your mucus plug do you go into labor?"
"I'm 3cm dialated. How soon will I go into labor?"
"How long after baby drops will I go into labor?"
"What are the signs that I'm about to go into labor?"
Take a look at any mom group and you'll see questions like these posted frequently.
So what can we learn from April here? As frustrating as it is, there's no real way to know when labor will start until contractions start into a labor pattern. Some people may go into labor immediately after showing one of the common signs of labor starting, but someone people will have multiple signs and still not go into labor for days or weeks.
2) A watched pot seemingly never boils
A watched pot never boils. I'm sure you've heard the phrase before. But that's not keeping a bunch of us from staring at our computer screen, waiting to see little giraffe hooves appear, if any of the memes circulating facebook are something to go by.
And once those first signs of labor do appear in our own pregnant selves, we still tend to focus completely on it, despite everything we know about pots and boiling water and all that.
Timing every single contraction from the start and doing every single internet tip and trick to get labor started can be frustrating and worse yet, exhausting when you need to conserve your energy more than ever.
As doulas, our best advice whenever a client thinks that they may be in labor is to "ignore it". Yep. Ignore the fact that you're in early labor.
Well, not completely. Start getting plans that need more lead time into place (like dog or baby sitters, letting work know what's going on, etc). But for the most part, go about your day.
If it’s the daytime, do your normal routine. If it’s night time, try to sleep. The best thing you can do is actually to see if you can get the contractions to stop or slow down. Change positions, drink water, take a bath, kick your feet up and distract yourself with a Netflix binge. Pre-labor contractions may stop and give you a break to rest. True labor contractions will keep getting longer, stronger, and closer together.
When contractions start getting too intense to ignore, then start timing them.
3) You might want to save Facebook posts and texts for after the baby has arrived.
So to recap the prevailing theme, we're all quite frustrated that it's taking so. long. for April's baby to arrive. And I'm not judging (I legitimately have a tab of the giraffe feed open as I write this), but this is a giraffe baby on the internet that we have probably never met and probably never will meet. So if we're feeling impatient, imagine how impatient your family and friends will likely feel waiting for you to have a baby when they get the news that you're headed to the hospital.
Imagine the intensity of labor and preparing to meet you new baby with a chorus of "is she/he here yet?!" on top of it. Or trying to focus on laboring and connecting with your support team, while also glancing at the clock and hoping the group of family in the waiting room aren't too tired and have gotten something to eat, etc etc.
We've been waiting for April to have her calf for a week now, but at least we're watching from behind a computer screen (and she's a giraffe and has little to no concept of privacy).
As my friend and colleague KayLee Proctor (owner of Little Apple Doulas) put it on her facebook post on the subject: "And here, folks, you'll see Exhibit A of why I don't recommend announcing when you're in labor: the world has no chill when they know a baby's about to be born. Luckily, the giraffe has no clue we're all watching/commenting but if you're getting bombarded with texts and phone calls wondering where the baby is, it could have a negative impact on your labor pattern."
This last lesson that April can teach us when making out own birth plans is that we may want to think twice about everyone on facebook or our contact list know that we're headed to the hospital. Save yourself the inquiring questions and buzzing phone and just post baby's first photo when they've arrived.
(Or live stream your birth if you want to. It's your birth and baby and we support you either way!)