The Gestation Period


I am due to give birth in four days, and I am ready to crawl out of my skin from impatience. I’ve done everything safely possible to get things going—yoga, walking, red raspberry leaf tea, primrose oil, spicy food, you name it. But my little boy is cozy and comfortable and doesn’t seem like he has any plans of coming early, or even on time. In fact, my midwife says, most first-time moms usually go a week or two past their due dates.


I should acknowledge each day in-utero as another day my son grows healthier, stronger, but I’ll be honest, in my mind, that just translates to the fact that each day he gets BIGGER. And bigger does not seem better when this bulkier, brawnier baby will have to somehow exit my body.

Many people compare labor and delivery to running a marathon. I’d like to agree (though, as a first-timer, I can’t really imagine). But based on the excruciating waiting period in the last weeks, I’d like to morph that simile a bit to include what it’s like for someone who has never given birth, who has no idea when she'll go into labor, and who chose to go to a midwife practice where inducing is not spoken of until absolutely necessary.

Labor and delivery is like a marathon, yes, but instead of knowing the date and time of the race, and having the assurance that it will be 26.2 miles, no longer, imagine that, instead, on any given day, at any given time within a few-week span, you can be tapped on the shoulder and told to begin running this race. Right now. It does not matter if it is 3 a.m., if you are sleep-deprived or mentally prepared, hydrated or nourished enough, that horn will sound, and you must begin. Then, when you are running, you are never told how long you will have to keep moving your legs. That, too, is unpredictable. It just ends when it ends. The finish line can be at 26 miles, or 30, or 65, you never know. You might be running in hilly New England, flat Chicago, scorching Arizona, or rainy Seattle. Again, there is no guarantee of anything. Injury, needing medical intervention—there’s no telling what will happen. Will the blisters, the shin splints, the chafing, the cramps, the muscle tension be unbearable? You have nothing to base the experience on.

These are the things I’ve been obsessing about for the last two weeks—the many many many unknowns.

When I can’t handle the waiting and the analyzing, I visit friends, I plan lovely summer outings for my son and I to stroll through museums and zoos (when, in all actuality, I will probably just be at home, sleep-deprived, and changing yet another diaper), and I go to yoga classes (where the other yogis look horrified that my baby’s head will pop out in downward dog).

Possibly sensing my impatience, or having overheard me say to another woman that I am SO ready to have my baby, my yoga teacher last Friday ended class with a message that appealed to me.

She stressed the importance of this incubation time by referencing the following quotation:

“Everything has a gestation period, a time period that must pass before things will come into form. If you plant a carrot seed, it takes about seven weeks for the sprout to make its above-dirt entrance. Bamboo, which can grow up to thirteen feet in as little as one week, takes up to seven years to break through the surface of the ground. But for seven long years it looks like absolutely nothing’s happening. Now that takes some commitment.” ~ James Arthur Ray from Harmonic Wealth

I left, thinking, Seven years? I can last another week.

Later, when talking to a friend, we used this analogy for writing as well. So much of the final published thing is dependent on the cultivation—the writing down of ideas, the reading of inspirational excerpts by beloved authors, the workshops, the drafts, the revisions, the submissions, the rejections, the waiting until it is really really ready.

The last part, I think is, by far, the hardest.

Two weeks ago at the Muse, I went to Nicole Bernier’s session in which she focused on this very idea. She confessed to having sent out query letters to editors and agents when her novel was not yet done, in essence wasting some of her vital contacts. Later, she presented her novel when it was done but not yet revised. Finally, after hefty revisions, her novel was ready, and she sent out her querries, which were responded to quickly and positively. Recently, it--her highly-praised book, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.--was reprinted in paperback.

Did I mention that she was having and raising her five children in the midst of all this?!

Nicole’s honesty was admirable and her lesson an important one. Though we must wait, and the waiting can be agonizing, sometimes we need to let our writing gestate, even when it appears as if absolutely nothing is happening under the surface.

About the Author See other articles by Nadine Kenney Johnstone

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