Old Wives Tales..Can it really kick start labor?
I couldn’t wait to become a mom. As soon as I got these positive results on my pregnancy tests, I began thinking about all the baby-related things. What would the nursery look like? Would it be a boy or a girl? Would the baby look like me or my husband? It was all out of excitement! I literally couldn’t wait to get to the end of each and every day at 40 weeks until I could start my motherhood journey.
During my third trimester of pregnancy I started to research old wives tales on how to induce labor.
When I was pregnant, my friend told me that she had taken eggplant Parmesan and suddenly her labor started. Another friend said that I should have sex because it would bring on contractions. Another one swore by caster oil and DOULA said that walking around swinging soothed the babies when they were born too early. The doctor recommended walking every day for at least 30 minutes after the due date just as a precaution as well – since there is no 100% effective way to induce labor once it has stopped. My pregnancy was not boring, but these stories from friends made me wonder if any of them worked? Of course, it is important for people to be patient because a baby does not launch itself out of the womb into the arms of mom’s and dad’s but the idea that old wives tales may have some grounding in reality is something interesting!
Texas heat + Pregnancy Patience= Ready to be done!
One of the hottest Texas summers in recent memory was tame compared to what I went through while pregnant! I had to break a sweat just tying my shoes! Every day I checked the weather hoping for rain – but that didn’t happen.
I used to be very active and enjoyed being outside. Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I used to go for long walks, go shopping, or play volleyball with my friends during the weekend. But since having my daughter I rarely go out of the house during the summer because it’s hot. All I want is to sit inside in the air conditioning while watching tv while she plays.
I was quite hot and bothered. I had heartburn, indigestion and back pain! All of this plus extra weight led to swelling in my feet. Fortunately, all of my symptoms would cease after she’d been born. There was nothing more I longed for than her arrival so that those problems would vanish for good and she could finally meet her doting mother.
My doctor gave me the option of being induced, and I jumped at the opportunity to get things happening sooner rather than later, so there was no reason to wait. With the passing of each day, I felt as though I was one step closer to welcoming my baby into this world – so I had a countdown going on in my mind! It was amazing!
My husband and I looked forward to the night before my induction. We celebrated our last night together as just the two of us by going out to dine at one of our favorite restaurants. We discussed how much we looked forward to welcoming our little girl into the world, and what we would name her should she turn out to be a Princess after all! We got home, set our alarms extra early (I didn’t need an alarm to wake up because I was so excited!) and went straight to bed due to my excitement level. I couldn’t stop thinking about this life-changing moment! My husband couldn’t sleep either, but for a completely different reason: he spent all night debugging his code so that he could bring up a big presentation in front of his team the next day! He’s such a great guy, hey?!
As soon as the clock struck 6:30 a.m., I hurried to my local hospital and called the nurse like my doctor instructed so that we could finalize everything for my surgery that afternoon. Imagine my surprise when I was told “I’m sorry Miss, but you cannot come in for at least another hour.” It felt like such a letdown since I expected my surgery to be completed much sooner, but as soon as I hung up the phone and took a few deep breaths, I knew it would all turn out alright in the end and told myself not to stress about it too much.
My husband and I showered, got dressed and even packed the car up with pillows, bags and the car seat. We were hoping for a quick morning start before 6 AM, but we knew it was happening later in the day – argh! But when it did happen all of our efforts were well worth it because we ended up being just fine without the help of our local hospital which had no beds left to fill at the time.
As the event approached, I started to get anxious, and rightfully so as I wasn’t sure when my induction would start. And because everyone else had already gone into their training sessions, I had no one to talk to or anyone who could reassure me that this would all be okay since it was my first time. The lunch break didn’t come for another two hours, by which time I was getting hungry and frustrated.
Another thought then entered my mind. What if they not only postponed my induction, what if they cancelled it? This option was one that I wasn’t quite ready to face. My husband had taken two weeks off of work so that he could spend time bonding with the baby and if the induction were moved to another date time, we would have less time to bond with our desired one.
After another stressful hour had gone by it was finally time to call the nurse again, after crossing all of my fingers and toes hoping I’d be informed they were ready for me and to come in.
A nurse at the hospital put me on hold which usually is a sign that things are not working out as planned. My husband looked across the room and gave me a pitying glance. Seconds later the head nurse got back on the phone to tell us that they wouldn’t be able to start my labor pain relief after all because another woman in labor came in right before I did and they were overbooked. She said she would let our doctor know, but then told me I needed to call her office first thing tomorrow so they could schedule an appointment for this week because I was still too far from delivery and couldn’t get behind with my Tuesday afternoon schedule now that I’m letting my patients down due to delays.
Um, did she just say I had to come into the office? Why couldn’t I make an appointment on a certain date via phone or email instead? Why did 34.2 seconds pass by before I even realized that she was telling me that everything was set up for me during my next office visit? I think stage four of the five stages of grief just hit me…right in the feels.
I could hardly hold myself together. I was sobbing hard and ugly, my face distorted and snot bubbling up and running down both my cheeks. It had been days since my husband last saw our family because he took on extra work to enable me to recover from a serious operation. Under the circumstances, I didn’t think it fair he should have to report for more duty, but in the end he was glad to go as he worried about me all alone home recovering from surgery.
My husband helped me to settle down, which meant we no longer had a choice but to take things as they came. I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment to see my doctor the next day. Not too bad, I thought. At the appointment, I was told that if all went well, I would be ready for surgery in about a week or two – not too bad at all.
I was sitting in the waiting room, bouncing my rapidly growing belly up and down as I tried to will my child into the world Today was my mom’s birthday, and I knew that secretly my mother wished I would give birth today, so she could share her grandchild’s special day with us.
They called me back and I sat on the table, shifting around waiting for the doctor to come in.
I heard her voice down the hall and knew she was headed towards my room. I saw her enter, a big grin on her face, then she said “I have some terrific news to share”.
Awesome, I thought! “You can get me in tomorrow?”
“No” she said, “I got you in on Monday, which is wonderful because it will be next Friday”.
I couldn’t believe it, how is this was good news? Is this a joke? Did she want me to cry? Just then, the door opened and I saw a familiar face. Mom came to my consultation date. She took the morning off because it was her birthday and wanted to be there when I found out if they could induce me or not.
The doctor relayed everything she had said to my husband and me. Hearing it again was like rubbing salt in the wound after already learning that I would need a surgical in vitro procedure. “Any old wives’ tales we could try instead?” my mom asked. The doctor listed things such as castor oil and walking, but it was hard not to feel defeated as we all left her office.
As I walked to the parking lot with my mother we quickly discussed our plans for breakfast that day. We had just said it when my mom questioned if I would ever use castor oil if she bought it. Given what I knew of its powerful laxative effect reading online, I was hesitant but agreed to try it as a last resort.
My mother left the hospital and went to buy some castor oil. She would meet me for breakfast at a diner that she was supposed to be at an hour earlier but because of my stomachache i was there first but I wasn’t really hungry so I just sat there, eating cornflakes out of the box with non-dairy creamer until the waitress came up to me and said that “because you don’t have a real table here we will let you stay but all orders must come to the counter” and I just kind of ignored her until my mom showed up with a bottle of liquid in her hand and said: “Caster oil – remember sally told us about his cure.”
Old Wives Tale #1: Caster Oil
I sat at the diner table in dismay when I realised I had to wait another week. It was my parents’ anniversary and we were going out for breakfast. Before eating, I downed two tablespoons of caster oil. It tasted awful! Especially for such a festive occasion! Swallowing two more tablespoons almost made me gag but if it worked it would be worth it.
Hours passed and I waited for something to happen. I hoped contractions would begin, or maybe I’d feel labor pains, or maybe my water would break! Instead all that happened was a rumbling in my stomach. We had planned to go to the mall and try the next “old wives tale”: walking around aimlessly but I was afraid of leaving the house. I ran to the bathroom and spent the afternoon on the porcelain throne reading YA books on my Kindle . Actually it was too bad because it makes way more sense to read in public places so you aren’t stuck at home getting stir crazy while waiting… Lesson learned.
The verdict was in and it was a no-go. The only thing that worked about the bottle of caster oil was cleaning out my system after nine months of constipation. It was nice to have some relief but I would never try that again. Once I opened the bottle of Pandoras Box, there was no going back!
Old Wives Tale #2: Eggplant Parmesan
When I read about a “cure” for constipation, the idea of eating eggplant parmesan seemed like an unnecessarily gassy way to go! I mean, we already know that after a heavy meal it’s not uncommon to break wind. In this case it’d be better to try something new than an out of date “old wives tale.” I decided that if instead I take my husband out for an endoscopy appointment then he might have enough room left in his belly for a nice romantic Italian dinner later!
I can’t stand vegetables so I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this meal. Enter the eggplant that came with a side of cheesy pasta and marinara sauce. My stomach was full, as were my eyes which had trouble seeing straight after finishing my second helping.
I had read online that many women claim this dish, eggplant parmesan induces labor. Reviews stated that anywhere from 8 hours to 48 hours after people eat eggplant parmesan women go into labor! I had even heard that an Italian restaurant customers could get a gift card if the eggplant parmesan didn’t induce their labor within 48 hours.
I lay in bed that night waiting on contractions. Hour after hour passed and each time I got up to use the bathroom, I became more anxious.
As the sun came up, I started to write off this experience as a failure. But I felt that I needed to give this tale the full 48 hours.
Well, after 48 hours of no labor pains, I figured it was just not meant to be.
Just the same old false contractions I had been feeling for weeks.
Even though we loved our dinner, had we known that particular food was meant for unlucky people who want to dwell on their sorrows, we would not have ordered it.
Old Wives Tale #3: Walk the Walk
Next on my to-do list was exercising since I got the okay from my midwives. I wasn’t sure what kind of exercise would be best, but walking seemed like a good start. I had read that slow, low-intensity walking could actually stimulate labor and get things moving, so that is what I did as often as I could remember in the midst of my busy schedule. This one part is hard to fix because it’s not really big enough to warrant rewording, but if you want to rewrite this sentence completely, take out walking and write ‘exercising’.
The next day I went out for a leisurely walk around the Galleria, stopping from time to time to do breathing exercises and imagine my labor as an upcoming party. When it came time to return home I sat in the carriage, occasionally reaching up under my shirt to feel if my belly was any larger. It wasn’t. But this only seemed to make me more aware of how much longer I needed to wait. To distract myself, I read several blogs written by women who had recently had children themselves. In some of these accounts the women actually gave special thanks for the support of their partners – something I hadn’t really considered until then.
Even though my contractions increased in frequency and strength, I did not go into labor.
Old Wives Tale #4: Swinging
As the day passed, and I had yet to go into labor, I decided to make use of a silly old wives tale.I decided to swing on a playground set. Yes that’s right – swing, like you would on a playground set.
I read online that multiple women swore by swinging back and forth. They said they would swing for 45 minutes or more pumping vigorously back and forth.
We went to the park and mustered up the courage to ride the swings. After a while, we began to get momentum and were ready to pick up our pace. Unfortunately, I realized that there was a sign stating that only children under 48 inches were allowed on the swings so we decided it would be best to go walk around gate and come back at another time.
I felt out of place, like a giant banana slug amongst all the sparrows. The grandmother was at the park with her grandson and they both were swinging next to me; it seemed so ordinary. I wanted to give them an explanation for my odd behavior but my dignity checked out minutes ago with that bottle of caster oil!
As my heart rate climbed, I felt stronger pains in my body but they were not severe enough to stop the swinger gymnast that was me at the time.
Another one bites the dust.
Old Wives Tale #5: Doing the Deed
I’ll make this short and sweet. At nine months pregnant the last thing I wanted to do was to be intimate. But after reading many other mother’s success stories online (two of three claimed that engaging in intercourse would help ripen the cervix) I figured I might end this pregnancy the same way it all started. One experience is a good indicator but two of three? Definitely something worth trying at least once! All I will say is that it did not work. No details necessary…
Moral of the Story
After trying many crazy tips and tricks, I finally came to a conclusion. As effective as old wives tales can be at expediting the arrival of any being of immense power who is ready to make its way into the free world, they won’t work unless you are truly ready to become a parent and your baby (along with your body) is already in labor.
But if it’s not time for any of that, these things will just be uncomfortable or even embarrassing.
I believe in letting natural-born instincts take over. Parents-to-be know their babies the best. Let them lead the way, and trust me; the wait will be well worth it.