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I was terrified of being induced again.

I didn’t really enjoy the 30 + hours of non-productive painful contractions occurring every 2-3 minutes, or the one-on-top-of-the-other contractions on the pitocin drip. And while I did like the epidural and thought it likely that I would want one again, I didn’t want to be basically forced into it because really, anyone who is on a pitocin drip but refuses an epidural is either a martyr or a Viking.

Women have a love-hate history with pain control during childbirth. During my nesting phase in the last month of my pregnancy I read a bunch of non fiction books on child birth, and I learned some interesting things.

I learned that for hundreds of years, women were told that their labour pains were punishment for Eve’s mistake in the garden of Eden. When Queen Victoria insisted on ether to help control pain when she delivered her eighth baby, it was considered revolutionary.

Doctors were against pain control during labour. They suggested that a woman who couldn’t hack labour pains couldn’t hack being a mother, and indicated that a pain free labour was generally against God’s will.

So pain control during labour became a feminist issue. Doctors had access to pain medications and were withholding them from women, and Queen Victoria made it suddenly respectable to admit that you just didn’t want to suffer any more.


Then word got out that some doctors in Germany had invented a combination of medications which made women entirely forget their labour. The woman simply checked in and woke up the next day with a newborn swaddled in a bassinet next to her bed.

It didn’t matter to the women that the labour wasn’t actually pain-free. They didn’t remember it, so it didn’t count. Now women were demanding their right to escape the curse of Eve and so doctors began to provide it.

Except that most doctors didn’t bother to train themselves properly. The german doctors who invented the “Twilight Sleep” claimed that it would take two years to acquire the finesse of balancing this drug combination properly. Most doctors spent three days learning it. And instead of dedicating one doctor to monitoring the woman throughout her labour and adjusting medications as necessary, they did an assembly line approach where they gave the drugs and went on to the next woman.

So while some women had the blissful “wakey wakey, here’s a baby” experience that they wanted, many more had nightmarish half memories of being in pain and tied up and confused and frightened.

After a while it became accepted that women had babies in hospitals without family present under the influence of drugs, and woke up alone and confused. In fact, men began to publish scientific papers about how the modern woman was far to refined and delicate to withstand the pain of child birth, so they shouldn’t be allowed to go drug free even if they wanted to.


…And so the drug-free movement began, because now it became a feminist issue to be able to REFUSE the drugs.

Really, I think, it’s all about control.

I don’t think most women actually WANT to be in pain during child birth, but we do want the right to choose how we experience the birth of our child, with all of the good and bad that comes with whatever option we choose. Whether we choose to have an epidural, which increases the risk of C-section,  or a natural home birth which comes with its own small risks, or something in between, we want the power to choose for ourselves, and not be told what to do by a bunch of penises in white coats.

I am no different. I didn’t know if I wanted an epidural or not, but I did want to experience a natural labour. I wanted to see if my body could actually do this without pig semen being deposited on my cervix, or fake oxytocin injected into my veins. I wanted the power to go into labour without the interference of the medical establishment.

But when I went in for my 40 week appointment, my OB told me that she couldn’t even sweep my membranes because my cervix was still sealed tighter than the mines of Moria. This was ominously familiar. The same had happened in my pregnancy with Owl.

Then, just as I had been told with Owl, she said that standard procedure was to induce at 41 weeks.

Now, you may want to raise your hand here and remind me that I had the power to decline an induction at 41 weeks. Of course I did. But on the other hand, when you decline recommended procedure, you take the responsibility for the consequences.

Chances are that nothing bad would happen if I postponed for a few days. Increased risk of stillbirths only appears after 42 weeks, after all. And from what I can tell, it seems that most midwives in BC allow women to go to 42 weeks.


If I said “no,” to a doctor’s recommendation and then something bad DID happen, I would never, ever forgive myself. And it wasn’t worth that risk, no matter how minuscule. My own personal preoccupations with labour preferences could never come before the baby’s well being and the risk of lifelong self-blame.

I did plan to ask the people at the hospital if we could start with just ONE prostaglandin gel and then wait a day or two before the next one. But I didn’t even really want one. The prostaglandin gels had only created non-productive painful frequent contractions last time, not actual true labour.

But in the meantime I had a week to avoid the damn stuff altogether.

So I went to Google. I went to Facebook. I went to Twitter. A twitter conversation with a friend about religious observances in the government of Canada devolved into a discussion of orgasm and its ability to trigger labour. Another friend took me out for spicy Indian food. I walked and walked and walked.

Then my neighbour mentioned that her midwife had given her a recipe to trigger labour. She took the concoction at noon and was in labour by 1:30 pm. The baby was delivered before 4 pm.

Now, I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but that sounds like a pretty good correlation to me. So of course I asked for the recipe. The recipe involved fruit nectar, which I couldn’t have because of the gestational diabetes, almond butter, castor oil, and an essential oil that I couldn’t find at the Longevity store.

But I was pretty sure that the really active ingredient was the castor oil, anyway. Another neighbour told me she used castor oil for her second and it worked. A friend told me about a friend of hers who tried it and found that it worked. Now, as I’ve said, the plural of anecdote is not data, but I haven’t actually talked to anyone who tried it and said that it DIDN’T work.

Dr Google backs it up, too. There haven’t been many studies on castor oil, but the most referenced one I found indicated that it seemed to work for more than 50% of women who tried it if they were already full term (doesn’t seem to work if your body isn’t ready to go into labour). I’m not sure how respectable that study is, but there seems to be actual science at the root of it.

Researchers have found that castor oil somehow metabolizes to mess with your prostaglandin receptors, basically acting as a fake prostaglandin, so it really could cause smooth muscle contractions to stimulate labour.

But there were also a lot of warnings on Google.

For one thing, castor oil is a noted laxative, so a lot of women said that it worked but also caused a misery of the stomach which did not improve their labour experience. Others warned that it might have a laxative effect on the baby and increase risk of passing meconium in the womb, although there isn’t enough data to support this theory.

So I decided to hold off for a couple of days.

… and then the baby stopped moving.

I didn’t notice at first, until I laid down at the end of the day and was not disturbed by squirmings and wrigglings. I realized that she hadn’t poked me in the bladder at all that day. When I concentrated I could feel the occasional flutter which reassurred me that she wasn’t dead, but that was it.

The next day was the same. If I actually paid attention I could detect the occasional small movement, but no big squirms, even if I drank cold water.

So I went in to labour and deliver for a non-stress test. A friendly nurse strapped on a fetal monitor which showed that she was fine, just sleeping a lot, and that was reassuring.

…but being back in that bed was NOT.

I went in for the NST alone because PH had to stay home with Owl, who was sleeping. It felt nightmarish walking back into that ward and being put in that row of beds where women sat while waiting for a labour room. I had spent hours… days… on one of those beds, vomiting and suffering from contractions, doped on morphine, and miserable.

Now I was scheduled to be back on one of those beds in just a couple of days, going through it all over again.

castor oil

…It was time to try the castor oil.