#76, the German Labor Cocktail

Meet Eileen Cabot O’Keefe, born 02/02/2020 at 10:31 AM.

I’d gone in for a regular prenatal appointment on Tuesday, at 37 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and my blood pressure was high, which had not been the case the rest of this pregnancy, or in my others. I got monitored for a couple hours and went back the next day and it was still high so the physician’s assistant pulled up a calendar and told me I could choose my induction date: Friday, Saturday, or Super Bowl Sunday. Friday seemed way too soon, Sunday seemed dumb. Saturday we were going to a party early in the evening at my in-laws’ and the labor plan was to have them watch Alice and Hugh anyway. So I picked Saturday. We’d go to the party and hang out and I would have a giant glass of wine and then we’d go to my 9 PM induction and have a baby on Sunday, hopefully.

“It is very helpful to get a good night’s sleep” prior to your induction, according to the packet the hospital gave me.

On Saturday morning, twelve hours before my induction, we all went and picked up our new minivan. It was the full family’s third visit to the car dealership and Alice and Hugh had climbed inside and pretend-drove and stomped in their heavy boots on the seats of every car on the floor.

I’d had the *~iMmEnSeLy~* satisfying experience of the car dealership calling me, to nag us about when we’d be done with our financing of the car and when we’d be able to come get it, when I was in the labor and delivery triage area getting monitored on Tuesday night. This call had followed several days of increasingly brusque emails about when we’d be done arranging the financing. I was lying there Tuesday evening hooked up to the fetal monitor and saw that the dealership was calling me and I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a call so fast. “I understand how frustrating it is for you that the credit union is taking so long and that the end of the month is approaching. Please understand that having a car that fits all of us, as opposed to a car that fits only four of us, is also my top priority for me right now as well because I am LITERALLY MAYBE HAVING A BABY TONIGHT. YOU CAUGHT ME IN THE HOSPITAL IN FACT!!!” (The doctor had said, at one point, that if my blood pressure stayed high they might induce that night. By the time I got the call, I knew that my blood pressure had stabilized and that I would be going home. But.) I lay there and soaked up the dealership guy’s backpedaling. I am sure my blood pressure went down further during this call. Then I went home.

After we picked the minivan up, I took the kids to Wegmans and let them load crap into the cart. We’re leaving you to have another baby, let these fruit snacks serve as a stand-in for me. My mind was scattered and buzzing around like a fly in a jar, causing me to randomly and in an urgent voice throw down arbitrary rules such as “You can get a sugar cereal but it canNOT be Lucky Charms” and “any toy you choose HAS to be under $6.”

I’d been Googling how to induce labor. Hugh’s induction took 29 hours and I figured anything I could do to get the process started ahead of time on Saturday might be useful. I’d come across something called the German labor cocktail, which depending on what recipe you read is generally some combination of castor oil, almond butter, apricot nectar, and champagne or lemon verbena tea or schnapps. Bloggers don’t agree on how effective it is, other than VERY, VERY, and very. (“85% SUCCESS RATE. Okay, so I’m not a statistics major, nor do I have an evidenced-based article to back up that percentage. BUT…. I did research the heck out of this method after I heard about it. I read a lot of birth stories, and it looked like about 8-9 out of 10 women who tried this method (correctly) were successful in going into labor within 24 hours.

Wegman’s had castor oil. They did not have apricot nectar, but I figured the castor oil was the key. I bought orange juice, Prosecco, and a little envelope of Justin’s almond butter, along with the children’s $40 worth of junk. When we got home I blended it all up with ice, poured it into my largest size dachshund-themed Tervis Tumblr, and drank the oiliest mimosa I’ve ever had.

Kevin took Alice to hockey, and I lay down with Hugh for a nap. It may be very helpful to get a good night’s sleep prior to your induction, but if that’s not possible it’s probably still mildly helpful to lie down in your bed next to your giant, highly nap-resistant 3.5-year-old with a blanket pulled up over your head. During our rest period I had two real contractions, and I continued to have them throughout the afternoon. By the time we got to my in-laws’, I was mildly uncomfortable.

At eight it was time to say goodbye to the kids, who I was now thinking of as my “real” kids. I felt terribly sad when we left them, and had about a minute of wanting to cry extremely hard because there was no way that I was going to love this new baby as much as I love them. I was just about to ruin their, and all of our, lives, but it was too late now, you can’t take back a German labor cocktail. Driving to the hospital in our boat of a car Kevin and I were silent.

At the hospital, the night shift nurse, Rachel, confirmed that I was, indeed, having contractions. It seemed somehow unwise to mention the German labor cocktail — something about the words “German” and “cocktail” — and so I didn’t. Though the contractions were real, they were irregular, and I was started on Pitocin around 10 PM. At 5 AM Sunday morning, I got an epidural. At 10 AM, we decided on her name. And then I was fully dilated and it was time to push.

After I pushed once, they told me to reach down and feel her head. With Hugh, I’d pushed for over two hours. On Alice’s terrifying birth night, I’d reached down and felt what I thought in a panic must be her head but it was actually a newborn-head-sized blood clot.

This third time, three minutes into pushing, I reached down and I felt her head, and her hair, which had been visible even on her ultrasound pictures. I pushed two more times and she was out. They put her on my chest and we met our last baby.