When the water breaks: A data analysis

We had a labor scare. Or rather, I had a labor scare. Marta knew all along that nothing was happening.

It all began with the dog getting his teeth cleaned.

I had taken Finn to the vet on Monday and I mentioned that he seemed to be having some trouble chewing. I wondered if he had a tooth problem. The vet took a look and said that he couldn’t see much of anything, but probably that was because of all the build-up on Finn’s teeth. A cleaning isn’t necessary, he said, but it will help his breath smell better and might identify any infection. Marta and I decided to splurge.

So Friday Finn got no food in the morning and I took him over to the vet, where they put him under a light sedation and cleaned his teeth. If they found any infections, they told me, they’d extract the tooth in question. That afternoon I went back to pick up Finn and they gave me a bill for $300, a good $120 more than I was expecting.

Turns out they had to extract a molar that was completely cracked. They also had to do some gingivitis treatment to another tooth. Because of this, they’d given Finn a pain injection and started him on a large dose of antibiotics (hence the extra cost). He has a huge hole in his gums right now, they told me, but don’t worry: it’ll heal right up.

Finn was more subdued that normal getting into the car and, back home, he curled up in a ball and went to sleep. But he was eating OK and was fine on walks, so I figured all was OK. And all was, mostly, OK. Except that he was drinking a lot more water and, though I had noticed this, I hadn’t really noticed.

Come Saturday and I decided to hole myself up at home writing one of the three term papers I need to finish before Marta gives birth. Seeing as we don’t really know when that will be, I am trying to get started early. So Saturday, Finn and I went for a short run in the morning and then I spent the rest of the day with my computer, my translation theory books and several copies of an Argentine comic, which I am attempting to analyze.

Marta came home about 7 p.m. and we ate. Finn had been following her around again (perhaps he senses that the due date is near), but he came to lie by the table as we ate dinner. I was cleaning up the plates at about 7:30 and we were getting ready to take him out for a walk, when Marta suddenly gasped.

“Look,” she said, pointing to the ground near where Finn was laying. There was liquid. And lots of it.

My first thought was that Marta’s water had broken. I was paralyzed.

“Oh Finn! What happened,” Marta interrupted my thoughts. “Poor thing!”

Then I realized that, no, Marta’s water had not broken. The dog had peed himself. Which was frightening in its own right. Normally Finn lets me know if he needs to go out. Normally, too, a dog will get up and pee somewhere, squat style, not just pee on themselves while they’re lying down.

So I rushed with him out the door, apologizing profusely to him for not having taken him out earlier or having noticed that he was drinking so much more water. He forgave me. And we walked around the block. Meanwhile, pregnant Marta mopped up the big puddle of water I had thought at first was hers.

Finn’s going to be OK. I think he was just still slightly sedated and full-bladdered. But the scare, on top of what just happened to my sister, made me realize that Marta could go into labor any day. We talk about this like it will follow the due date we were given by the hospital. Like at 40 weeks, on May 11 exactly, Nico will knock on the door and asked to be let out (wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy?).

But really, she could come any time in the next four (or even five) weeks. We’re at week 37 now.

To try to get a handle on this, I went searching for some statistics on due dates. One of our books on pregnancy mentioned that around 11 percent of babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks) and I told my sister this before she went into labor, just to help calm her. But now, on other sites, I’m seeing anywhere from close to 0 percent to 3 percent.

Finally, I remembered the CDC, which was always my go-to for comprehensive and accurate body-related data back in my reporting days. I went to their site and quickly found this report that, among many other tables, includes a breakdown of average gestational age of babies in the past 20 years (data on page 10).

As it turns out, about 12 percent of babies are born preterm, though the figure is slightly lower (10 percent) if you’re talking about the rate for single babies. In 2010, for singletons (as they call single babies like Nico and Linnea), about 27 percent were born between weeks 37 and 38, exactly where we are now. At week 39, 29 percent were born; between weeks 40 and 41, 28.2 percent were born. Statistically speaking (Dad, am I right here?), then, it’s most likely that Nico will be born sometime between May 4 and May 10. This is great news for me because, when Marta and I bet on the due date a few days ago, I chose May 9. She chose May 13.

Interestingly enough, way back in 1990, some 37 percent of single babies were born between weeks 40 and 41, while just only around 19 percent arrived between weeks 37 and 38. Which means, again according to my highly evolved statistical analysis, that babies nowadays are much more impatient than they used to be.


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