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Most women I speak to tried something or other to kick start their labour. It seems strange to try to trigger an event which is generally recognized as one of the most painful experiences a woman will endure in her lifetime. But I guess we do it for the same reason that PH always eats the least favourite part of his dinner first – to get it over with.

For me, the real spur was fear of being medically induced, which I had already experienced and was not anxious to repeat.

I knew that castor oil was my best hope, but I also felt rather pessimistic about it. I suspect that if left to its own devices, my body would carry the baby past the 42nd week mark.

Probably, castor oil would just cause me horrible diarrhea and I’d still have to be induced on Tuesday.

So I started with a small spoonful on Saturday. Most recipes that I saw involved 1-2 tablespoons.

I took a TEASPOON and waited for the diarrhea.

No diarrhea.

No baby, mind you, but no diarrhea.

So with increased boldness, I took two tablespoons on Sunday, mixed in with my yogurt, and waited.

…and waited.

….and waited.

I had a bit of loose stools but not to a frightening degree. In fact I was still able to go out on errands and such (I figured walking around would be good, and the car always sent me into Braxton Hicks contractions).

No labour.

I was disappointed, but not at all surprised. I mean, even doctor-approved medications still took 52 hours to get Owl out of me, and when I miscarried my body even held on to THAT.

My mother needed pitocin to have me, too. Her water broke but no contractions ever started.

Maybe I was a genetic dud.

“Do you think I should try more?” I asked PH.

“Yes,” he said.

“I might be up all night with diarrhea, though.”

He shrugged. “Or you could avoid being induced.”

I took the castor oil. This time I gulped it from a shot glass and chased it with pomegranate juice.

Wondering what castor oil tastes like?

It doesn’t TASTE like anything. But the oiliness is so VERY oily that it feels extremely wrong to swallow the stuff. You have to chug it before your body notices the oil and then fight back the urge to gag it up.

Anyway, I went to bed shortly after.

I woke up at about one with mild diarrhea and no contractions. With a resigned sigh, I returned to bed. My moving about had woken PH, and he wandered downstairs. This seems to be a nightly ritual of his – he suffers from brief insomnia, falls asleep on the couch and snores there until early morning when he returns to bed.

It’s a good thing, too, or I might have accused him of kicking me awake at 3:14 am because that’s what it felt like. The sensation reminded me of when the transmission sticks in our ancient SUV and then suddenly shifts with a jerk that gives the impression that the car has just been kicked in the pants.

The impact came in the small of my back, and then turned into a serious contraction.

I had time to think “Well, that was interesting,” before I felt a pop and sudden wetness running down my legs. I leaped out of bed and ran to the bathroom with water gushing out of me in an uncontrolled stream. Once on the toilet I wiped down my legs and confirmed that the amniotic fluid was clear – no meconium staining.

I was hit by another contraction, and some more mild diarrhea. When that was done I waddled quickly and awkwardly to the closet and yanked out some Depends (yes, I own Depends for reasons). Then I mopped up the wet on the floor and pulled out my cell phone. My pregnancy app (which was great, by the way. It’s called Pregnancy+ and comes with a kick counter, too) had a contraction timer.

I spent the next half hour pacing back and forth in our bedroom and timing contractions. I was surprised at how quickly they were coming – every 2-4 minutes. Apparently when I contract, I do it FREQUENTLY. But they weren’t too bad, and only lasted about 30 seconds.

The contractions felt different from my post-prostaglandin gel contractions that I had had with Owl. Those had come with a sharp, stabbing feeling, as though I was being impaled between the legs. This time the contractions were feelings of deep, gut-twisting pressure. I found it much more bearable. I tried to breathe through the contractions and every now and then I muttered to myself to be sure I could talk through them, because books say that as long as you can talk through the contractions, it probably isn’t time to go to the hospital yet.

At around 4 in the morning PH got up to use the bathroom and found me pacing back and forth in the hall staring at my cell phone. I told him that my waters had broken and that I was having contractions.

“But they aren’t very bad yet. Try to get some more sleep,” I said.

He LOOKED at me and settled himself down in front of the computer instead. Apparently it isn’t reasonable to expect one’s husband to sleep after you’ve just told him that a baby is on the way.

When the next contraction hit he checked the timer and raised his eyebrows. “They’re three minutes apart?”

“Yeah, but they don’t last long and I can talk through them,” I said through the contraction.

“Have you called your mother?”

“No, I’m going to let her sleep for a while. I could go on like this for hours – you remember last time?”

He raised his eyebrows and looked unconvinced.

For the next hour I paced around, trying to keep myself comfortable during the contractions. I tried a magic bag, and tried sitting vs standing (standing won). I didn’t use the shower because I didn’t want to risk waking Owl, who was still slumbering away despite the light in the hallway and the footsteps back and forth.

PH occupied himself on the internet, and tried to distract me with humorous news and such. He quickly learned that I was immune to all humor and attempts at distraction during a contraction, and from then on confined all jokes to the safe space between them.

The contractions weren’t increasing in frequency or duration, but they did seem to be getting more painful. The deep, twisting pressure was feeling increasingly intense. At 5 am I texted my mother to just give her a heads up.

She immediately phoned me. She thought that I should call labour and delivery and see what they said. I told her I’d think about it. I really didn’t want to risk a drive all the way to the hospital only to be sent back home again, like last time. 

“I’m going to wake Owl,” said PH when I hung up.

“What? Why?”

“You woke up your mother. That means that we’re getting close to time to go,” he said.

“I was just waiting for a decent hour before I let her know,” I protested, but a strong contraction came on and I paused to breathe. PH watched me lean on the wall, breathing heavily.

“Yeah, they’re getting worse. I think we should wake up Owl. I don’t want our baby to be born in the car.”

Eventually we agreed on calling labour and delivery first. The nurse I spoke with did say that I should come in since the contractions were close together and it was my second birth, even though I was able to speak to her during a contraction.

“Of course they have to say that,” I pointed out to PH. “But you know my contractions came this close together last time and absolutely nothing was happening.” Another contraction hit and I leaned on the table and groaned.

“I’m waking Owl,” said PH.

Owl is easy to wake up, thankfully. He has never been big on sleep, so when we have to wake him up early, he just opens his eyes, says “oh,” and hops out of bed. This time was no different. By the time my next contraction hit, PH was already answering Owl’s questions and pulling clothes out of his dresser.

“What’s Mommy doing?” Owl asked, observing me keenly.

“Remember I told you that it can be owie when a baby is coming out?” I reminded him when the pain had eased off.

“But the doctors can give you medicine so it won’t be owie, right?”

“Right. So we’re going to take you to Nana’s, and she’ll get you breakfast and get you to school, and we’ll go to the hospital.”

“And when you’re done school, buddy?” said PH, pulling a shirt over Owl’s head, “MAYBE, you will have a baby sister.”

“Yeah. MAYBE. But maybe she might take a long time to get borned. Like I did.”


It took us about twenty minutes to get Owl dressed and then get me out to the car in between contractions. By then I really was ready to go to the hospital. The contractions were the same duration, the same amount of time between them, but getting increasingly intense.

Breathing was no longer enough. The contractions were squeezing noise out of me. I tried to moan and groan rather than whimper or scream. A friend of mine who has had three unmedicated home births once advised me, “NEVER scream. It really makes the pain worse.”

PH went as gently as he could over the speed bumps on the road by our house. I have to say that they weren’t AS BAD as they had been when I had been induced. Last time my contraction pain was sharper, more like I was being stabbed than squeezed, so bouncing on those bumps had been like I was being driven down further on a stake. This time the contractions were more like a feeling of intense downward pressure, like I was a toothpaste tube being squeezed.

I finished moaning through a contraction and then remarked, “These contractions had better actually be doing something this time.”

“I have a feeling that they are,” said PH.

“Why your cont-actions are doing something?” asked a voice from the back. I closed my eyes. Another contraction was coming on.

I sat in the car while PH ran Owl in to my mother and father’s sublet apartment. He came back quickly and jumped into the car.

“Okay,” he said. “To the hospital.”

I groaned.