Full moons, storms, and women in labor


My informant, RW, is my mother. She was a labor and delivery nurse in a Dallas hospital in the 1990s. I asked her to tell me if there were any superstitions or rituals she learned working as a nurse. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home. I refer to myself as SW in the text.


Main Text:

RW: “If you were ever working during a full moon or a stormy night, you knew it was going to be a busy shift.”

SW: “Why?”

RW: “I don’t know why the full moon. The thunderstorms was probably because of barometric pressure. I don’t know… And you never, ever, EVER say ‘it’s slow tonight’. If anyone started to say it was slow everyone starts screaming at them going ‘Ah noooo! Why?’ And it always happened, there’d be a giant influx after that.”

SW: “Who was the first person who told you about the full moon thing, or the thunderstorm thing?”

RW: “My nurse preceptor at Parkland. They thought it was something to do with the gravitational pull or something I don’t know.”



The fact that saying something can make it come true is an example of performative speech. It’s interesting that even in as scientific of a job as working as a nurse, folklore is still very prevalent and spreads. Despite everything they know pointing to the lack of influence of full moons on how many women go into labor, the belief still persists. This probably is a very old belief having to do with lunar cycles and how they have been tied to menstruation and fertility for many cultures. There is also still an element of labor that is uncontrollable despite all the scientific knowledge we have, so folklore fills the gaps in what science can’t explain.