When I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant the “What To Expect” emails told me that I could expect to have a baby. But since my due date was still so far away, and since so little of my life goes as expected —I was, as my midwives recommended: “managing my expectations” or —in the parlance of our times—“cool with whatever.”
And then “whatever” stretched on for another month and a half. And my veins continued to swell under my skin like Bruce Banner. And my fingers vacillated between total numbness, or a burning sensation like I had dipped them into fire ants. However, since this excruciating pain didn’t fall under the categories of Sleep Deprivation or Nausea it was glossed over by people who only understand the kinds of pregnancies that go as “expected.”
As the weeks lurched by I started to wonder if there was a medical possibility that I might never have the baby. I remembered there was a Chinese woman in her 70s who complained of stomach pains and when they operated doctors found a fossilized fetus. It didn’t matter that this memory probably surfaced from my years reading the National Enquirer poolside during hurricane season with my family, or that its veracity might be disproven with some light googling. I was 10 months pregnant. Basic logic—and those cheery fucking emails— said I should have a baby already. I felt like I was living in an M. Night Shyamalan film. Dramatic. Boring. The preview was better.
My husband, (whom I will call King Boo) and I had actually HOPED our kid would be born late. We delighted in the idea of an April Fool’s Day birthday so we could forever fuck with him or her, (or “them,” because we are millennials and cool with whatever). But that day soared by, complete with a passive aggressive entry in the baby book that I started on our due date. “Thanks for ruining a lifetime of practical jokes, love you/mean it!” We read the Birthday Book frantically, (you know, the one that qualifies your entire personality based on nothing more than your birthday?) legitimately concerned that our child might be growing less and less artistic and more conservative by the day. And then we were knee-deep in April. And then ($&#^!) all the people due after me had their babies. Some of those beautiful assholes had their babies sooner than expected. Some of those gorgeous bitches got to PICK A DAY! I was happy for them, sure, but happy like “how nice………for you.”
That’s when my Emily Dickinson period began. These were literally dark days, conveniently snowy and miserable. My wardrobe narrowed to one vomit-colored sweater and my activities dwindled to sighing and an embarassing glut of TV. I wanted to read books, I really did, but I couldn’t close my hands around them and if I held something in front of my face my fingers went numb in minutes.
My days began as follows: In the dull gray pre-morning I would rise, my hands burning from the inside like the skin was about to peel off in flames, and don one very fetching Nike wrist brace designed for lady golfers, because one was all I could ever find and if I didn’t pee immediately I would die. Then I would sleep fitfully for another hour, coiled in my pregnancy pillow, occasionally dragging my useless fingers across King Boo’s skin to show that I was alive and not totally indifferent to his existence. Then the sun would come up and I would sigh incessantly, moan about being pregnant forever, and try to eat a waffle because it was the only thing that didn’t require fork, knife or spoon, none of which I could hold with my flamin’ hot Hulk hands.
By the time my last midwives appointment rolled around, I was disconsolate. I sat down heavily in the chair to do the 4th non-stress test in 2 weeks, and the cute and quirky midwife—whom I had previously liked so much—told me that it was time to make an appointment for induction. She told me what induction entailed (the drug-free option involved inflating two balls inside my cervix? Well EFF THAT.) Anime tears formed in my eyes as it dawned on me that I was not, in fact, cool with whatever. In that moment I realized that I had exactly one expectation; And that was NOT to be induced. I did not want IVs. I wanted options. I wanted my nice birthing room with the full-size bed and the shower I could stand in forever and the tub where I imagined I would give birth in black and white instagram perfection, with a triumphant dew on my brow, well-lit, like a mermaid. I asked the midwife to excuse us, I then cried, and King Boo and I discussed our next move. We made the appointment for induction with no intention of showing up for it, collected our things and went home to launch Operation Stop Drop and Ploop.
See, when you’re expecting a baby, one of the eleven thousand or so things people expect you to have is a “Birth Plan.” Knowing such as I did how historically pointless a plan was, King Boo and I had joked that our birth plan was “Stop, Drop, and Ploop.” When people asked we told them exactly that. It was funny before, but things had gone awry. Now shit had changed. We needed to act. We needed progesterone.
If you are a doctor—which I am not, and therefore not able to give medical advice— you should just go ahead and stop reading now because I am about to stress you out. If you are not a doctor, I’ll explain progesterone.
Progesterone is a hormone that the body releases during ovulation and menstruation. It is also involved in the natural progression toward labor. Many things can help with the release of progesterone, and if you were to search the internet, say, in total desperation, you would find some of these recommendations:
- Eating Spicy Food
- Having Sex
- Eating Pineapples, Dates, and Eggplant
- Hiking, Climbing Stairs, Swimming
- Other random foods
- Actually almost any kind of rigorous activity
- 800,000 Different kinds of herbs, salves and teas
- 100,000,000 yoga positions to repeat in 30 minute intervals approx. 3x a day
We started with impossibly spicy curry; nearly inedible curry. We followed that with awkward, nearly impossible sex. I went to yoga in inappropriately high temperatures. I drank quarts upon quarts of Red Raspberry Leaf tea. I scheduled acupuncture— needles make me want to vom—with a woman who said, “I’m not making any promises, but…. I get babies out.” I squeezed the color out of my doula’s hand as this woman with the needles applied them first to the spaces in between my foot bones ($&#^) and then ran actual electrical current through more needles directly into my tail bone. At night, before bed, KB (King Boo) and I hiked up and down the 6 flights of stairs in our building over and over until I turned a color and he made me stop. I did squats. I ate eggplant. We tried sex again. I had my membranes swept. Twice. I started to push the limits of what was recommended (Don’t do this. And don’t sue me). Against my doula’s recommendations we “stimulated my nipples,” which was both way less sexy and way less stimulating than it sounds.
And, still, every motherloving day, I woke up more pregnant.
Finally, Sunday morning, three days before my induction date, KB caught me pining at the window like a gray cartoon donkey and asked, very sympathetically, what he could do.
But we both already knew. It was time for the Castor Oil.
For several thousand years, Castor oil has been used as a stimulant laxative. It increases muscle movement in not only the intestines, but also the uterus. It has, what can be described as a distinct odor.* It has, what I would call, a dodgy reputation. My cursory survey of one group of Facebook moms returned about a 75% positive response. Many said that they/their sisters/a cousin had used it successfully. Those who cautioned me against it warned that I would endanger my baby and that he would DEFINITELY be born with meconium (shit), in his lungs. They claimed I would spend weeks in the NICU. Quite frankly, I liked the odds.
On Sunday afternoon I mixed a tablespoon of Castor Oil with orange juice and drank it down with authority. (Remember how I said I wasn’t a doctor?) Six hours later I took an unholy shit. Twelve hours later my water broke. Twelve hours after that (and a full two weeks after his expected due date) our son was born.
God bless you, Castor Oil.
You work exactly as expected.
*it smells like burning plastic and looks like it comes directly from the head of a sperm whale