Full disclosure: this will not be a blog post about DIY induction methods. This will not be a post about the pros and cons of a hospital induction. This WILL be a post about what it feels like when your body just won't go into labor. I have had two babies, two labors, and two experiences of feeling like my body was failing me, or tricking me with false starts.
When we hear birth stories, we rarely hear the parts where the cervadil and pitocin aren't creating productive contractions. We rarely hear the parts where labor starts naturally, but fizzles out as soon as we arrive at the hospital. But these things happen all the time! And they are as much a part of the birth story as the rest.
My first labor began at 41w4d with an induction at the hospital. Though my birth fantasy involved walking in the woods and having an unmedicated, uncomplicated labor, my birth reality involved cervadil, morphine, pitocin, sterile water injections, more morphine, more pitocin, AROM, an intrathecal, 5 hours of pushing, and finally, a baby. For a long time I was plagued by the idea that my body wouldn't and couldn't labor on its own. My baby came out beautiful and healthy at 8lb11oz, without an ounce of vernix. His skin was peeling. He was ready to be born, so why wouldn't my body just do it? There are so many (so many!) potential answers to that question, but the truth is that I'll never know. Maybe if I'd pushed back the induction one more day. Maybe if the lights had been lower, maybe if I'd been calmer, maybe if I'd gotten acupuncture, maybe, maybe, maybe...
3.5 years later, pressure mounted as my due date with my second baby came and went. Contractions began the evening of 40w6d. They were manageable and mild, but I couldn't relax. I was worried about arranging care for my older child and I was excited to be experiencing the onset of labor in my home, a totally new experience for me. I decided that we should go to the hospital, and as we drove there I sat stiffly in the front seat feeling (knowing) more and more that this wasn't the "real deal." We spent the night in the hospital, only to go home first thing in the morning because the contractions had stopped completely. We made sheepish phone calls to our parents and doula. How to explain? "No baby?" they asked, "Labor can just... stop like that?"
The answer is yes, it can! Prodromal labor can last for days or even (gasp!) weeks, starting and the same time each day and calming down several hours later. Sometimes the "shock" of arriving at the hospital can cause even early labor to stall; the bright lights, the new smells, the feeling of being "watched," and the monitoring equipment can create an anxiety or alertness in your body and mind that is not conducive to laboring.
There are things you can try when labor is petering out; ask to be left alone, dim the lights in your room, walk, rest, bounce on a ball, turn on music. But you know what? Those things might not work either. You're not doing anything wrong, you are just creating a very interesting first chapter of your birth story.
The stars appear each night in the sky. All is well.