"When's it due?" That's the first thing people ask when I tell them I'm pregnant.
Usually I manage to skirt around the question, giving a vague reply before hastily moving onto another subject. Because, the truth is, I don't want to tell them. I've decided to keep my due date a secret.
My decision stems back to an experience four years ago. Back then I was pregnant with my daughter. Once I'd come to terms with the lack of wine and blue cheese in my life, I had a pretty good pregnancy. It's fair to say I enjoyed it, even. And then I got to the last month.
The texts, Facebook messages and phone calls started a full month before my due date. "Is it here yet?" along with, "Get a move on and have that baby!" and – my personal favourite – "Time to eat a hot curry."
There was nowhere to hide. If I updated my Facebook status I'd get a "Still pregnant then? Lol!" regardless of whether I was talking about anything baby or pregnancy related.
The ultimate low came when a well-meaning, elderly neighbour saw me waddling down the street and advised me to "Have a bit of rumpy-pumpy – that'll get things going!" A little piece of me died.
In the end my baby arrived 12 days past her due date. While the rational side of me knew all the unasked for advice and comments were well meaning, I was past caring.
It's difficult to be rational when your ankles have swollen to twice their size and you haven't slept properly in weeks. I considered shutting my front door, turning off my phone and not appearing until I was holding the baby in my arms.
And that's why, this time, I'm keeping my due date a secret.
It turns out I'm not alone. Holly Lees, a mum of three from Bristol, went a step further. "I was due on the 11th of November, but I told anyone who asked that the baby wasn't due until the end of November. If they pressed me for a specific date I just said the 30th."
Like me, Holly kept the truth to herself because past experience proved she would be hassled otherwise. "I didn't want to deal with the never-ending texts and Facebook mentions, asking if there was 'any sign of baby yet?'" says Holly.
"It made a massive difference to how I felt at the end of the pregnancy. It was a lot less stressful and I just spent the last weeks relaxing without feeling I HAD to reply to people all the time."
That feeling of relaxation is something that was sorely lacking from the final weeks of pregnancy with my daughter. I should have spent the beginning of my maternity leave having long baths and listening to whale music. Instead, I was feeling frazzled and stressed, annoyed with people for hassling me, but too polite to tell them to leave me alone.
As the days ticked on I felt like a failure. Other mums with later due dates were sharing the excited news of their baby's arrival. I started to wonder if I was actually pregnant at all and felt cross with my body for not sticking to the timetable. It was like I'd got the first bit of motherhood wrong before I'd even become a mother.
New mum Shirley Saint-Cricq, from Reading, knows that feeling all too well. "I was made to feel as if I was doing something wrong. So many people kept giving me 'cures' to 'get the baby out'. It seemed everyone was interested in the status of my uterus!"
When you look at the statistics, it doesn't make sense why so many view the due date as a deadline, almost as if pregnancy is something to be project-managed with targets to meet on time.
"Only around three to five percent of babies are born on their estimated due date," explains midwife Clemmie Hooper and author of the popular Gas and Air blog. "It's important to remember your estimated due date is exactly that – an estimate."
Another often ignored fact is that a full term pregnancy is classed as anything between 37 to 42 weeks, something the 'time to eat a hot curry' brigade seems to forget.
So if you go past your due date and deliver at 42 weeks, your baby isn't actually 'late' at all, says Clemmie. "The vast majority of babies know when it's time to be born based on their own physical and developmental readiness. If you go post-dates – as frustrating as it may be – in a healthy pregnancy, you're giving your baby the best chance to be born happy and healthy."
It's not so easy to stay relaxed about due dates when everyone else seems convinced you should, 'get a move on and push that baby out', though. And that's why Clemmie reckons keeping your due date to yourself might be a good idea.
"The bonus of taking a laid back approach to your due date is that you'll be less stressed. The more relaxed you can be the better, because you have more chance of allowing your body to naturally go into labour."
Armed with this new evidence, I'm going to stick to my guns about not revealing my due date. Hopefully it will help avoid those unwanted sex tips from well-meaning pensioners, along with the constant mentions of hot curry.
I'm firmly in the Due Date Secrecy Club. Who's with me?
More:Is It Just Me?
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