39 Weeks Is the Cruelest Month

39 weeks is the cruelest month, bringing

contractions that produce nothing, mixing

hope with annoyance, stirring sleeping husbands 

in the middle of the night, whispering “hey, time this!”

(my apologies to T.S. Eliot.  But not really.)

Yesterday marked the 39th week of this wonderful, miraculous, gestational period.  Ahhh….there’s nothing like humbly participating with God in the creation of new life to really flood my soul with peace and docility.

Bwa-hahahahaha!  I actually had to look up the word “docility” to make sure it was the right one, so often do I not use it.

My cousin came in from NYC to visit for the weekend, and I thought it would be fantastic if I went into labor while she was here.  She doesn’t have any children, and up until yesterday afternoon, had never even felt the gigantic, horrifying freakshow that is another human being writhing about under someone else’s skin.

So I made sure we fixed that.  She made sure she didn’t pass out while feeling the baby’s heel skim its across my abdomen.

But still, it wasn’t enough.  After all, what else says, “gracious hostess” quite like dragging unenthused participants into the excitement of labor and delivery?

Last night I thought I was going to go into labor.  Ken, my cousin and I sat up and watched 3:10 to Yuma, while consistent contractions kept me distracted from the plot.  When the movie ended, and Ken and I were getting into bed, I whispered to him that we may need to start timing things, and maybe a few hours from now I’d get to gleefully wake my sleeping cousin and tell her, “Hasta la vista, we’re going to the hospital to have a baby, and you get to figure out what to make five screaming savages for breakfast.  Have fun!”

Clearly, God likes my cousin more than He likes me, since the contractions did not go anywhere, I didn’t go anywhere, and I was the one who had to figure out what to make five screaming savages for breakfast.

Docility.  It’s my middle name.

Today, we visited the Hartford Children’s Museum, where I tried to put myself into labor by walking the seven million, decidedly stroller unfriendly stairs, and chasing after five screaming savages.  Still nothing.  I couldn’t help notice that “Connie”, the giant fiberglass sperm whale statue outside the museum seemed to smirk at my labor-inducing efforts, despite our strong resemblance our bodies shared.

From the museum, I rode in the van to the train station, where we all said goodbye to a visibly relieved-I-didn’t-go-into-labor-while-she-was-there cousin.  While Ken drove us home, I moodily checked the blogs of two other women I know who are also in their peaceful, docile, 39th week, mostly to make sure they hadn’t gone into labor and left me behind.

They hadn’t.

Misery loves company and all that.

I started compiling a Twitter list of labor inducing suggestions, ranging from the delicious (eat pineapple) to the- er- intimate (figure it out yourself).  The absolute best, however, is this one, which I fully plan on using on my due date, which is this Saturday:

But the day wasn’t all me, me, me, listen to me complain about how docile I am during the twilight of this pregnancy.  No!  Today Deacon Tom of Catholic Vitamins told me that his interview with me was posted (ok, so it is all me, me, me).  The extremely complimentary and deeply patient Deacon spoke with me about God’s plan for my life, giving me a chance to talk (at greeeeeeaaaaaaat length) about the spiritual formation I’m in, the Disciples of Jesus and Mary.  Go give it a listen.

But before you go, tell me your favorite labor-inducing trick in the combox.



Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at ghostfawnpodcast.com

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  • so many things to love…

    I have one that surely won’t start labour – make sure your parents, on a very firm vacation schedule, come visit you several provinces away and spend a great deal of effort, time and money to do so.  Cook and freeze a lot of food, pack a hospital bag and walk for two hours every day.  I guarantee you nothing will happen.  Nothing.

  • Momof11

    walk, scrub the kitchen floor on your hands and knees, help remove a tree stump in your mother’s yard, walk, walk walk, walk, etc….and finally, for child #11 pitocin because of pre-eclampsia, which went nowhere until I was allowed to get up to use the toilet after having been told i was at 3cm…..I caught the baby in the bathroom (literally)

  • Jasmine

    To start my natural labor in my 42nd week of my 2nd pregnancy my midwife gave me 2 shotglasses of castor oil.  I did not leave the bathroom for 2 hours, but 3 hours later I started labor.

  • Holy cow.  I came to read this before checking twitter….so I got to see her response here first, which is an even more hilarious context.  Oh sweet sassy molassey I am laughing out loud!!!!  So good.  So, so good.

    And if I have to say “trampoline” to you one more time…..

  • Jjdoc2

    Here was my favorite, and most likely to succeed idea:  walk along a curb with one foot on,  and one foot off the curb, thus creating a “twisted pelvis” which would definitely move things along.  Yeah, I tried it on my street.  I’m sure my neighbors posted the phenomenon to utube somewhere.  Does going into labor 3 days later count as success?

  • you already know mine, but Mastergland is also a very effective tool.  BTW, eating a bag of Reece’s pb cups with the castor oil will keep you from getting diarrhea, but still gives the horomonal surge you need.  The double strength red raspberry leaf tea would be great when you are having a bunch of contractions, it helps them to become regular and more effective.

  • steph

    I realize you have like 4x more children than I do and probably deserve to go into labor before I do because of it,  but if you do…. oh Cari…. hell hath no fury like a pregnancy buddy abandoned… just food for thought. hugs and kisses.

  • Better Than Eden

    There’s a midwife saying, “what gets the baby in, gets the baby out”.  We’re four for four…

  • ROFL.  Midwives are cruel, cruel people.

  • I totally understand.  I felt more relief than anything when I saw that you were still pregnant, too.  Er….I MEAN, I was happy to see that you and the babe were still healthy.  
    Yeah.  That one.

  • Lesson plans for today:  Kids can study weather patterns and the microhabitat of our cul-de-sac’s flora and fauna while I do lopsided laps around the circle.

  • The next door neighbors have a trampoline.  And since spring break is over, no one’s home during the day.  How much do you think they’d mind if I slipped over there during business/school hours and tried to jump, jump, jump my way to labor?

  • I tried castor oil with Joaquin.  I still have nightmares about it sometimes.  *shudder*  But at 42 weeks?  Yeah, I just may find a hidden pool of courage and give it another try.

  • Well, Ken will certainly endorse the “scrub the kitchen floor” and “do yardwork” suggestions!

  • Micaela

    I used castor oil for my last baby. I went in to labor within 30 minutes, had very little, er, bathroom time… And then stalled out at 4 cm after walking the hospital ALL NIGHT. he was born 42 hours after castor oil. But don’t worry, I wasn’t in labor the whole time. He came when he was ready. What DID finally help were the techniques at spinningbabies.com to get him into proper position. When I went into “real” labor, it went like gangbusters. Dang babies and their dang plans.

    P.S. Waiting with bated breath.

  • Oh man.  One more night of false/stalled out labor just may do me in.  At least I’m not worried about not getting to the hospital in time- what with Ken’s vaaaaast experience delivering babies, we can just pull over at some Hartford gas station if we need to.

  • Colleen

    Worked for us too!!

  • As much as I HATE HATE HATE being pregnant at the end….I do try to remember that God already knows the exact second this baby is to be born (and has known since the beginning of time), and no amount of worrying or tricks or walking I can do is going to change that. 

    That being said, it’s usually when I decide to finally have that full glass of wine at the end of a pregnancy (because the baby’s already cooked and all) that I go into labor and try and dodge the nurse’s question about “What’s the last thing you ate/drank?”

  • Karen

    Sorry, I got nothing.  I had to be induced three times—the last time, the stubborn little nut was 12 days overdue. The only reason I didn’t agree to be induced before then was, both my OBs were OUT OF TOWN on the Fourth of July weekend. Who DOES that to a heavily pregnant woman?

    I did go into “labor” voluntarily with my second, after eating a meal of spicy Indian food…but then labor petered out and we had to nudge it along with Pitocin anyway, which was a bummer.

    I will say, the best way to be induced (seeing as how I am an expert now) is for your OB to gently scratch at the bag of waters, as mine did for my last labor.  He said he wasn’t going to puncture it, just make a very small leak. The amniotic fluid has prostaglandins that help ripen the cervix and dilate it, and darned if it didn’t work like a charm. Plus, because I wasn’t on a Pitocin drip, I was able to walk all around the hospital (even outside in the gardens) while in labor. It. Was. Awesome.   So ask your doctor about that IF the prospect of induction does come up. 

  • Karen

    No, yardwork is useless. With #1, I was a week overdue and decided that it was the perfect time to haul giant decorative rocks out of the front garden, rocks that I had wanted out of the front garden for months.  I’m sure the neighbors didn’t know what to think about this poor giant pregnant lady picking up 20 pound rocks and putting them into a wagon for her husband to pull to the backyard.  I still had to be induced.  😛

  • Every morning I check on both of you first thing to see who’s going to get the gold medal and who has to settle for silver.


  • Kbtrouy

    remember to eat a whole bag of reeses!   Remember!  And if no labor then, at least you had some deliciousness.

  • Victoria

    We went camping 3 weeks before the due date: driving over bumpy roads, sleeping in the truck . . I was pretty young then. Then got home, got an insane urge to clean out the refrigerator, and number 1 son was on his way by dawn. I don’t recommend camping any time in the month before, however.                                                                              For number 2 son, what did the trick was loading the coin-op laundromat with all my clothes and pushing “on.” Luckily my best friend was with me at the time, and got me to the hospital . . .

  • Jasmine

    Yeah both of mine went 42 weeks – the second came out at 11lbs 4 oz..  by then I was willing to do just about anything to get the child out..

  • Nicole Hough

    Ahhhhh, that crazy feeling of desperation at the end of pregnancy…I know it well. As the mother of 9, (3 of whom I adopted, 6 of whom I delivered) I remember all to well what you are going through. I wish that I could give you some tips, but everything that I tried has already been mentioned, as well as desperately pleading with every saint associated with childbirth and pregnancy to intercede on my behalf. I had to wait the little buggers out until I had to be induced. Just try to relax and enjoy the final feelings of knowing exactly where your little one is and knowing that he/she isn’t being assaulted, um I mean loved too much by your other blessings. 🙂 Prayers for a speedy delivery!!! 

  • Materfamilias

    Have your membranes stripped, then go to the movies. Has worked for me every time.