5 Things I Wasn't Ready For When I Tried To Induce Labor Naturally

I've never had regular periods (if that's too personal for you, stop reading now), so when my midwives told me my due date was July 1st, I took it to mean... not a lot. The concept of a "due month" instead of a "due date" has gained popularity for a reason: 40 weeks is not an exact clock you can set your uterus to, as anyone who's ever been pregnant can attest. So I was somewhat prepared to ignore my due date entirely, but there were things I wasn't ready for when I tried to induce labor naturally after that joke of a due date came and went. Trying to figure out when you'll give birth feels like a guessing game, and my attempts at getting the damn show started didn't help my odds.

So when I was still hella pregnant and showing no signs of being imminently headed for birthing pool on July 16th, I was displeased but not surprised. It was Atlanta, it was roughly 87,000 degrees outside, and despite a breezy pregnancy, I was also carrying my 6'4" partner's massive fetus. In other words, I was done. When the midwives suggested we induce, I was onboard. It was the first of many deviations from my obsessively laid birth plan that I would make over the next few days.

I was onboard with induction, but I was extremely determined not to have any medical interventions in my birth. No Pitocin, no Cervidil, no epidural — nothing. If we were inducing, we were doing so "naturally," also known as the annoying way. I had already done spicy food, had sex, and a spent lot of time hooked up to my breast pump, to no success other than some totally useless contractions. I had no real concept of how real things would get once we really tried to induce labor, which included the following:

How Gross A "Mucus Plug" Actually Is

The three days I was in labor — three — included 12 hours with a foley bulb inserted. This basically involves forcing a tube through your cervix (which is likely still pretty damn closed), inflating it with saline until it's about 4 cm in diameter, and then taping it to your thigh to provide downward traction. It literally is designed to manually force your cervix to dilate from the inside. The idea is that once it comes out, you're dilated to at least 4 cm, and "hopefully" your body just keeps the ball rolling at that point.

That did not happen for me. I didn't keep progressing after the foley bulb came out, the powers that be broke my water, I still didn't progress, so the doctors finally had to do some borderline-illegal sh*t with Pitocin levels to avoid a c-section and I was awake and in labor for 61 hours before my kid was born. Like I said, induction is imperfect, just like the entire birthing game. But my son was healthy, and I felt like an actual god afterward, so it all worked out better than OK.

What did happen was I spent a sleepless night walking laps around the hospital floor (trying to do my part!) while my mucus plug leaked out of the catheter that was taped to my leg, and just kinda... oozed out. I mean, I cleaned it off as often as I could, but it went on seemingly forever at a maddeningly slow-but-ceaseless trickle. God, it was gross.

That It Wouldn't Be Like Flipping A Switch

It's more like trying to push a car uphill: no matter how far you push it, it's not going to start rolling on its own until you reach the top — and every woman's "hill" is a different length, and you don't know how far you're going to end up pushing the car until you commit to doing it.

Nipple Stimulation Isn't Fun

Those words used to mean fun. Why aren't my nipples fun anymore? I want to go back.

How Many Different Strategies There Are

Some people try to induce labor naturally at home, and the internet will readily tell you of the infinite number of tactics people have attempted to employ to vacate their uteruses. So that much I knew. But when I was inducing in a hospital with a team of midwives, I was definitely surprised by the number of non-medical ways they had to try to trigger and advance labor.

How Boring & Time-Consuming It Would Be

Turns out, inducing labor isn't just a matter of figuring out the right button to press and then watching the rest of your body effortlessly fall in line behind it. More often, it's a matter of doing tedious, monotonous, uncomfortable, mentally under-stimulating sh*t for a lot longer than you'd like to, especially considering that you have absolutely no guarantee that you'll be rewarded with a baby at the end.