Category Archives: Pregnancy

How to Induce Labor Naturally or GET THIS BABY OUT!!!!

By | Natural Health, Pregnancy | 7 Comments

This is actually me with FOUR MONTHS left. You heard me. Imagine what I looked like on D Day! Or, don’t.

What really works to stimulate labor naturally? I never had to ask this question before my last baby. All my other kids were born early.

But with my last pregnancy, my estimated due date came and went,

and went,

and went.

Two weeks passed and we were close to having to schedule a medical induction because there are rules regarding how far past an estimated due date a midwife can attend a home birth in AZ. My midwife encouraged me to get this baby moving!

We were so far past the date that herbal methods like black and blue cohosh didn’t seem to be an appropriate choice and I only wanted to try those with a qualified herbalist’s advice.

Instead, I resorted to what all desperate mamas do in this situation. I googled “natural induction”. You can imagine the results. I got responses that ranged from the typical “baby comes when ready” to “eat pizza, pineapple and hot sauce”, preferably together. Ugh.

To be honest, I tried nearly everything except Castor Oil. (Well, ok, and the pineapple pizza with hot sauce.) The idea behind castor oil is that it cleans out a woman’s bowels, which are wrapped around her uterus. The movement is supposed to stimulate the uterus to contract. It worked for all the friends I’ve talked to who’ve tried it. But, I was grossed out by the thought and was afraid of being “sick” in labor. However, if what we used hadn’t worked, I would have tried it before resorting to a medical option.

The options below are from my own experience and I don’t recommend trying to induce labor earlier than a birth attendant suggests (midwife or OB). Babies really do have their own schedule and sometimes they need to go full term even if we feel ready. Always do your own homework and consult with your caregiver before trying any kind of induction methods, ‘kay? Just common sense here, people.

Here are the suggestions I used:

1. FOCUS on the task at hand. Having a baby requires focus and concentration.

2.  SEND the kids to Grandma’s (or your sister’s or your best friend…you get the point) if you have any. This goes with number one. Focus on the task. To do that – you might need your other peeps to give you a break. They can always come back when labor is progressing if you want them to attend the birth.

3. TALK to your baby. I’m not kidding. Find a quiet place. Tell  your baby you love him or her and are ready to meet them. Say it lovingly. Say it firmly. Say it with confidence and believe it. Say it out loud. You are the parent. Don’t be surprised when it works. Talking my kids into coming has sent me into labor all 3 times.

4. MOVE. As in walk. A LOT. I went Several MILES the day I went into labor. You can imagine how amazing that looked. I was Gi-gantic!

5. CONNECT with your partner. You made this beautiful life together. Be sure you’re ready to welcome it together as well. Seriously. If your partner has paternal leave, vacation time or sick time, ask him to stay home with you. When we hit the end of two weeks, Rob took off work to help me refocus and get things moving.

6. RELAX. Let your partner pamper you. Rob gave me a great massage that helped me relax and concentrate on the task at hand.

7. *****HAVE SEX.******  Boom, chicka, boom, boom, boom… Envision it. Yeah, that’s right. Pregnant women are sexy.

Seriously. I know, I know – some of you are thinking, “Really? I’m SO not in the mood” but – this works. Sperm is excellent for ripening the cervix. I could try to explain the science behind it but you can google it.
BUT – Don’t just have sex and get up to go to the bathroom like you usually would.

Have sex, then put your butt on a pillow and take a nap. Let that sperm hang out in there.

Your husband is cheering as you read this tip. Give the poor guy a break. Think of it as a last hurrah, something for him to hold on to in the sleepless, sexless nights to come while you’re recovering from birth. . 😉

**A friend recently asked if having a vasectomy will lesson the effectiveness of this step. The answer is – YES! A vasectomy blocks sperm from escaping. That’s how it prevents pregnancy. So, while you might get some contractions from the exercise and orgasms, there won’t be any sperm to soften the cervix. Do it anyway. It’s a great stress reliever!

8. PRAY and ask your friends to do the same. I sent out a request for prayer the day we stayed home to implement our “Get Giant baby out!” campaign and hundreds of my friends did just that. If you don’t believe in prayer, you can obviously skip it. But for me, knowing that friends who love me were thinking of me and were with me in spirit in that moment was a huge, huge encouragement.

9. – Think OPEN thoughts and take care of yourself. Imagine your pelvic floor as a wide open space to let that baby out.

10. *Castor oil. This should only be used after a chat with your OB or midwife. All the Mamas I know who used it drank the full 4 oz dose to get things moving. Eew. It’s kind of a last resort because  once you’ve done it, you can’t drink it again for several weeks.

11. Have Sex again. Seriously. Well, maybe BEFORE the castor oil. I don’t think I’d do it after. This IS THE SECRET TO GETTING THINGS MOVING! As many midwives say, “What put that baby in will get it out!” Just be sure you do it right. See step #7.

p.s. At 42 1/2 weeks, I delivered my 11lb 8oz baby naturally, at home with my midwife. Yeah, baby. I’m a rockstar now. Haha!

Seriously though, I wish I’d started going through this list a little sooner. Yeesh.

Think about your baby. Smile. Breathe deeply. TALK to that kid. YOU are the mama and you DO have influence over this experience.

I know we all have a plan for how we hope, expect, dream our baby will arrive. But in the end, if things don’t go as planned, be open to whatever is best for your family. Don’t linger on feeling guilty or disappointed if it doesn’t go exactly as you hoped. Just hold that sweet, squishy little baby and enjoy every minute.

*As always, I’ll remind you that I am not a doctor.  These are common sense choices I have made for myself. I have taken the time to research any health decisions I make and have consulted with my local herbalist and midwife. I encourage you to always do the same before choosing to take or administer any kind of remedywhether herbal, prescription or off the shelf at a local drugstore.**

Organic Mama Wisdom: Postpartum Care Tips

By | Natural Health, Pregnancy | One Comment

My dear friend is having a baby in a few months. As we celebrated her and her entrance to motherhood this weekend, I thought of a few practical tips I wish I’d known or accepted the first two times I had babies. This last time, as I’ve gotten back into the swing of baby-mothering, I feel so much more equipped and at peace with my role as my baby’s primary caretaker.

This postpartum healing experience is so different from my previous births, largely due a shift in my own attitude, approach to what really “needs” to get done and my willingness to let Rob pick up the slack. This time, I only took care of the bare minimums around the house and focused my energy on healing, nourishing my baby & loving his daddy and siblings.

As far as practical tips go, here are my suggestions.



You just ran a marathon

Climbed Mount Everest

and swam the English Channel

All that energy you feel

Is adrenaline

It wears off


Bask in the moment of your triumph

Let your body recover

It will take several months

To feel even close

To your old self


You are normal


In the meantime

Allow your friends and family

To celebrate you

And your new small one


Nurse right after labor

And every chance you get

See a lactation consultant

Birthing centers and hospitals have them

If you have trouble with your baby gaining weight after birth

See one again

It’s much easier to fix nursing problems at the beginning while supply is not yet established than it will be later


Rub coconut oil on your nipples after every nursing session

It is better than lanolin & won’t stain your clothes

Use it on your baby (it prevents cradle cap)

and all over you


Pretend you’re relaxing on a beach

Where there are no dirty dishes



Go to bed early, you’ll be up a lot in the night

Take naps, especially if your partner is home

Rest every chance you get


Eat watermelon

And you won’t fear your first post partum bowel movement

It’s better than stool softeners

Use your peri bottle

It will help you heal and cool things off down there


Don’t try to do housework your first week back

Let your love help you

In fact, let him be your servant

It’s part of his daddy job

Thank him often and kiss him lots


Eat nourishing food

Cooked veggies

Or Salads




Plenty of healthy fats

This is not the time to try to lose weight

You have a baby to feed

And a body to restore


Ask friends for help

Let loved ones bring you food

And pamper you


Start every day in the sunshine


Drink herbal tea

With friends

And relax

It will help you avoid

Postpartum depression


There’s plenty of time

To show off

Your new

Super-mom powers




Congratulations, Mama.


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Read more: Motherhood. Am I Going to Survive This?

Read more: Making the Hard Parenting Choices. I Promise I’m Not Judging You.

Healing – A Decision and Process

By | Miscarriage, Pregnancy, Spirit | 5 Comments

Today I am thinking about how to heal from pain in a healthy way. I actually borrowed my title from Scott Savage, a friend and the author of The Joshua Collective blog. You’ll see his name in my writing from time to time because he also happens to be the pastor at Crash, a group of service oriented followers of Christ among whom I’m grateful to be counted. Anyway, I digress.

A few months ago at Crash, Scott talked about forgiveness and how it can change our lives. He talked about the true definition of forgiveness and whether or not it’s always appropriate to reconcile with the forgiven person (it’s not, btw – think abuse etc). It was a very powerful conversation for me – so maybe I’ll talk about that sometime. But today, I want to share a phrase he used that has rung in my ears ever since.

He said, “Forgiveness is both a decision and a process.”

As I mulled over those words, it occurred to me the last part of the sentence applies to far more than just forgiveness. Since then, the phrase has re-attached itself to something else in my life, the concept of healing. Healing – “is both a decision and a process.”

Healing has been a significant part of my life the last several years. In that past 6 years, my brother, mom and dad all died of cancer. Healing from pain that profound has been a long process. Many of you know that I had a severe miscarriage last year. I’m not going to recount that all right now but suffice it to say, it was a scary experience for me and I felt very grateful to still be here in the end.

I determined immediately afterward that I would be open both to the grief and the healing I wanted to experience as a result. Part of me wanted to be authentic and part of me wanted to speed the process. (After all, as a mom, I didn’t have time to wallow in grief, right?) From time to time, I’ve shared what it’s been like to recover from the loss of our baby and deal with the “scary” factor of being pregnant after such a traumatic miscarriage.

So, that was the “decision” part. I’ve often heard people say that the only part of life we control is our response to it. The decision to seek healing was within my control.

What I wasn’t as prepared for was the “process” of healing – which has at times smacked me in the face like a ton of bricks.

There have been odd moments like when I reached my 11 week mark in the new pregnancy (the week of pregnancy in which I’d last miscarried) and realized it coincided with the due date of the baby I’d lost. Ugh. Or the wedding where I suddenly found myself gulping back huge sobs as I happily squeezed the chunky little rolls of my dear friend’s baby. Most recently, I surprised myself by bursting into tears at the feeling of practice contractions squeezing my belly. The last time I felt those labor pains, my baby was dead and I feared I might be joining him or her.

For a while, I stopped writing about these things because I didn’t want to seem to be drawing attention to myself and because I don’t have a pat answer for how to resolve those feelings.

But my experiences and the support of friends over the last few weeks has convinced me that sharing is not only a good thing, it’s part of the healing I so want to have.

A few weeks ago, I did an incredibly (un?)-acrobatic move (for which I’m not currently in shape!) in the bathroom of a hotel room that literally landed me on my bum for a week and limited my ability to walk or do basic tasks for several more. During that time, several friends and my mother in law supported me with love and help in the form of meals, healing herb teas, help cleaning and words of encouragement.

In the meantime, I had a chance to sit quietly and face the fear I’d been unsure of how to resolve. Somehow, just sitting there, being honest about how I felt and letting myself grieve quietly healed my heart in a way I cannot explain. Allowing friends to express their kindness so sweetly left me feeling surrounded and safe.

Finally, last week, my honest answer to a friend who asked how I was feeling about the upcoming birth of my new little baby resulted in an eye opening response from her. I had been hoping to “overcome” my anxiety before labor and go in feeling strong and utterly fearless.

But she said, “It would be strange if you didn’t feel a little fear after what you went through. Instead, why not acknowledge it as part of your experience? It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Just human.” Her words helped me to know that feeling fear doesn’t necessarily mean I’m “not dealing” with it.

Those little moments of help, of support and of wise words from friends reiterated what I’ve been starting to believe about healing.

Healing takes different lengths of time and different forms for all of us. I think it’s possible to become lost in grief or to pretend that our experiences haven’t affected us. I have seen this happen but that’s not what I want for me. For me, healing has taken the form of being open to those tears when they come but also being determined to get up and move as soon as I recover even a little strength. I pray when I feel afraid and ask for courage. And, not least, I’m learning to share honestly with those who love me about how those experiences are still changing me – and letting those friends strengthen me when I’m not sure I have any strength left.

I don’t know what healing you might be seeking in your life right now but I hope just knowing that you are not alone in looking for it will be encouraging to you. Decide you want to heal, pray, share with those who love you – and be open to the process of healing that will surely follow.

With love…


p.s. if you’re looking for more information about healing from Miscarriage, I’ve written quite a bit about it. Start with Recovering from Miscarriage, One Month Later.

I share my story in the hope that it will make you feel less alone. Please pass it on if you know of someone who it might encourage.

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Jessica’s Story: A Hypnobabies Birth

By | Birth Choices, Birth Week, Pregnancy | One Comment

A Hypnobaby Birth

by Jessica Pirkle Callan

We had been preparing for Maureen’s birth using the Hypnobabies program for months and part of the program is visualizing the birth in detail.  With an estimated due date of 2/15/11 we decided that 2/18/11 would be the perfect date.  Maureen would be fully cooked, my mother-in-law would be in town, Alex wouldn’t miss as much work on a weekend, and I liked it being an even number.  We wanted labor to be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so we wouldn’t miss any sleep.  And I really really really wanted it to be rainy!

When we originally decided all of this in early January, there was no rain forecasted.  A few weeks away from the date, they predicted a slight chance.  As the big day drew closer, the chance of precipitation increased until it was highly likely!

Friday, February 18th, we all got up, Alex getting ready for work, Lila (age 3) getting ready for school.  At 7:30 as they were about to leave, i hugged Alex goodbye and felt a contraction.  I told him so, but said to go ahead and carry on since it could be braxton hicks like i’d been having for weeks.  They left and I went about my morning and chatted with my mother-in-law who had been staying with us the last couple days.

She had come down with an awful case of the flu right after she flew in town, the likes of which we were all just getting over.  I didn’t want to tell her about the contractions, afraid that she might either disparage or freak out, but I was definitely contracting every 10 minutes!  I showered and dressed, thinking secretly to myself that this was the day; making sure I had comfy yet photo-worthy clothes on, legs freshly shaved, and water-proof mascara on 🙂

I tried to call Alex, around 10 a.m., but didn’t get thru.  I emailed my cousin, Sarah to giver her photography instructions adding a postscript that it might be today.  Alex emailed back saying he was on a conference call and I told him I was contracting regularly.  He said he’d come home if he needed to.  It was so weird being unsure about everything (my first daughter was born after I was induced “from scratch”).  Some women contract regularly for a day, then stop and resume a week later.  Sometimes labors come on quickly and baby is born a few short hours later.

I told him to come home despite my fear I was jinxing it.  He picked Lila up from school at 12:20 (normal pick-up time) and came home.  I went to an already scheduled chiropractic appointment (for an adjustment and to help my transversely inclined baby move into a more optimal position).  The chiropractor worked on some induction points for me and even marked them with a pen so I could continue to stimulate them at home.

I picked up some lunch and came home right as my sister-in-law picked up my mother-in-law (she was in town to help with the new baby, but we had planned to not have her at the birth).  We ate, Lila watched a movie, and Alex and I retreated to the bedroom to “apply some natural prostaglandin” 😉 Having contractions during sex was a unique experience!

We spent the rest of the afternoon feverishly cleaning and unpacking (we had just moved into our mostly remodeled house 2 weeks before).  I remember cleaning a toilet and having to rest next to it on the floor during a contraction. I also had candles lit, yoga chanting cd playing, and a homemade aromatherapy blend on, expecting active labor to start any minute.  I can’t remember at what point I’d texted my midwife that morning, but she sent her assistant over at 5 p.m. when my contractions were 5 minutes apart.

All of the hypnobabies newsletters I’d been reading are replete with stories of quick, sudden births-Mom arrives peacefully at the hospital and no one realizes she’s in active labor until baby starts crowning in the waiting room 🙂  I was sure that would happen to me, so i was incredibly disappointed when I was told upon my requested cervical check that I was only 2-3 cm dilated and 70% effaced.

I just couldn’t understand why the assistant midwife was giving me early labor tips instead of preparing for my baby’s imminent arrival.  I wanted so badly to be done by then, not necessarily because I was having a hard time but because I had a plan and things were not going as planned.  Also, I HATE having my sleep interrupted and absolutely dreaded the idea of having a baby in the middle of the night.  So the assistant left at 6 p.m. and we ordered Thai.

Alex went to pick up the food, while Lila and I stayed home.  I’ll never forget how sweet she was when I was contracting.  I had prepared her a lot by watching lots of hynobirthing videos on youtube.  I’d explained that my uterus was squeezing out baby Maureen and that I really needed to focus during the squeezes.  She knew to leave me alone if my eyes were closed or to say “peace” or “relax.”  I was laying over the birthing ball softly moaning and she gently stroked me saying, “peace” over and over.  My sweet sweet girl!!

We ate dinner, although I didn’t have much appetite, and Alex got Lila to bed.  I was hoping that things would either pick up or slow down so that I wasn’t pushing a baby out in the middle of the night.  I called my midwife and she suggested doing whatever i needed to relax, like have a glass of wine.

I decided to get in the heated birthing tub we’d rented and I did have a glass of wine while Alex sat on a chair next to the tub holding my laptop while we watched 30 Rock.  What an incredible difference the water made!  I could feel nothing but pressure with each contraction.At around 10 p.m., Alex needed to go to bed.

I took half of a unisom hoping to at least get a good night’s sleep before what looked like a a February 19th birth by now.  We actually contemplated me staying in the tub, since every time I’d gotten out to go to the bathroom, the surges were pretty uncomfortable.  Good sense prevailed and I set myself up to sleep on the couch-water, blankie, and pillow.

Labor did NOT speed up or slow down.  I had contractions every 5 minutes all…..night….long…..  I found that the hypnosis I’d practiced worked effectively as an anesthesia i if i went “under” before a contraction started.  But that gave me only 1 minute in between the end of one contraction and the preparation for another.  So sometimes I spent the 3-4 minute interval sleeping until the pain of a contraction jarred me awake, and sometimes I used the hypnosis to enjoy a pain-free surge.

I don’t know if it was the unisom or some primal power, but I could just lay my head back and conk right out until the next contraction woke me.  It was a very intense and primitive experience to labor all by myself in the quiet darkness all night long.  At around 1 a.m. I got some yogurt and granola- a very typical snack and timing for my pregnancy.  However, I ended up throwing it up a little while later.

At 7 a.m. I decided I was done with my solo nighttime journey and woke Alex up with the request to open up the tub and keep me company.  Again, as soon as my body sank into the warm water, pain became pressure and felt instantly relaxed.  We called the midwife and my cousin who both arrived around 9 a.m.

I requested a cervical check and was pleased to find that my night had been productive-I was now at 6 cm 90% effaced!  My midwife was also able to monitor my blood pressure, pulse, and the fetal heart rate while I remained comfortably in the tub.  What a luxurious difference from my hospital experience!

My sister-in-law, Rachael came by to take care of Lila.  We had planned to have her there as the “Lila wrangler”.  I wasn’t concerned about Lila being for the birth, in fact, she and I both kind of wanted her to witness it.  However, Alex and I wanted to be able to focus on the task at hand while someone else entertained Lila and fetched her snacks or whatever.

The next few hours are a blur for me.  Time was dragging and flying and standing still.  I know that I kept expecting to be done soon.  People kept plying me with food and beverage, but I had no interest in it.  I knew that I was supposed to keep eating to fuel my energy level, but nothing sounded good!

I would go grocery shopping in my mind, racking my brain for something that sounded remotely appetizing.  Popcorn! Someone made some.  I ate a few pieces.  I realized that that did NOT sound good.  Tea!  Someone made tea.  I had a sip.  It was not what I wanted after all.  I had a few blueberries, a bite of pizza that Rachael had picked up to feed the crew.  Those who know me, know that I love eating.  When I don’t want to eat, something serious is going down!

The weariness of missing out on a night’s sleep and exhaustion from focusing on the task of birth started to weigh on me.  I told my midwife that I didn’t want to do this anymore, and she offered to check me.  I had originally planned to only get checked when I felt the urge to push in order to make sure I wasn’t pushing before being ready.  Otherwise, I felt that checks are inconsequential and unnecessary.  I declined at first, but consented at 12:30 p.m.  My heart sank to find out that I was STILL 6 cm dilated and 90% effaced.  I felt devastated, like I had spent the last 3 hours doing absolutely nothing.

The midwife recommended get out of the tub and spending some time upright to move things along.  I’d gotten out of the tub several times to pee (bladder space was at a minimum and I was definitely staying hydrated!), and the contractions I experienced during those potty breaks made me want to stay in the water forever!

What a dilemma.  Labor pain-free in the tub, possibly forever; or labor painfully out of the tub, hopefully for a shorter period of time. At 1:15 p.m. I got out.I laid on my side in bed for the next hour and a half with Alex snuggled up behind me.  I was in such a sleepy daze in between contractions, but when they hit I sank into Alex as he rubbed my lower back.  It was a trance-like nap from which I eventually awoke in the sense that I become more aware of my surroundings and started to feel antsy.

I wandered around the house, trying to find an activity or locale that “felt right” but ended up back in the tub for some sweet respite.  That lasted only an hour, since I felt like I had to be “doing” something.  So I spent some contractions standing up with my arms around Alex as we swayed together, some hunched over the birthing ball, some sitting on the bathroom stool.  Rachael returned with Lila in tow, bearing smoothies from Jamba Juice and I had a couple sips.

At 4:30, Rachael took Lila to her house to eat dinner and hang out until birthing time or bed time-whichever came first.  I declared, “I really need to eat something!” and sent my cousin to the store for saltine crackers-the only thing that sounded good.  Alex suggested I listen to a Hypnobabies track on the IPod, which is something I should have been doing all along 🙂

So I found myself on all fours on the couch with earphones in, hypnosis settling over me, and my dear husband right beside me when all of a sudden… my water broke!!  Right at that point, I started to feel the urge push too.  With Lila, my water broke right as i reached full dilation and she was born 45 minutes.

I reluctantly asked for a cervical check.  Sure enough, I was 10 cm dilated and 100% effaced!  It took a little while to completely register for me that it was actually time.  I don’t run marathons, but I know that for people who do and for women giving birth that it is common to “hit a wall” and feel like you can’t go any further.  Usually, in the case of birth, reaching this point signifies that the end is near and once you break through the wall, it’s smooth sailing.  I had these thoughts in the back of my mind, so when I was feeling like I couldn’t go on, part of me was enslaved to the dejected feeling that it was true, but part of me thought that maybe that meant it was almost over.

Only a few minutes earlier, I had whispered to Alex that I just wanted to go to a hospital and get a C-section.  I asked him if we would still have to pay for the home birth if we did that, and when he said yes, my frugality spurred me persevere 🙂

Once I had shaken off all my doubts and discouragement, I set my mind to pushing out my baby!  My midwife suggested I do a couple pushes “on land” first before returning to the tub.  I complied, but was very thankful to get back to my warm, wet sanctuary to begin pushing in earnest.

I pushed peacefully, remembering the Hypnobabies directive to breath evenly and relax with thoughts of openness.  I was on my knees, with my arms folded over the sides of the tub-for some reason I had had a feeling all along that I would birth my baby while on fours, and although I did not consciously choose the position at the time it was just what came naturally.

I felt Maureen moving further and further down, until finally-POP!  Out she came into the hands of the assistant midwife!  I looked over my shoulder in disbelieving ecstasy.  “I did it!” was all I could think 🙂  A few seconds later (after orchestrating the humorous process of turning around without tangling my legs in the umbilical cord) I held my brand new daughter in my arms.  It was 5:31 p.m., so she was born at exactly the time we had envisioned….just with an additional 24 hours of labor tacked on 🙂

Maureen nursed very soon and very easily.  I immediately regained my appetite and phoned Rachael with a take-out request.  She arrived with Lila and dinner, and we all ate, drank champagne, and marveled at the new life that entered the world.  It was so incredible to go through the requisite post birth exams and everything in the comfort of our own home.

By 8 p.m., everyone had gone and Alex, Lila, Maureen and I snuggled together, read a story, and went to bed.  Our first night as a family of four was so delightfully mundane, hinting at many more sweet nights to come.

 Jessica is a former montessori teacher, a current yoga teacher, and a future doctor. She mostly spends her days at home with lila and maureen cooking, cleaning, studying, observing her children, playing, and reading. They occasionally venture out to go grocery shopping, hiking, or walking around the zoo.