After three children, I have yet to give birth without feeling time pressure. When my oldest daughter, Rowan, was born, my mother was visiting from Germany, and I beat her return ticket by a week.

My ex-husband was scheduled to deploy to Egypt for 6 months around the time my son, Ian, was going to be born. His unit refused to let him stay back until after the birth. I was still in the Army myself, and we lived about 35 minutes from Fort Campbell. Rowan was 3 1/2 years old.

With Maya, my 80 year old dad misunderstood my due date and booked tickets to Germany (where he spends half the year) the week BEFORE I was due.

My last two labors have been induced by castor oil. While this method may not be for everyone, it has worked well for me. I'll never be able to use it again, and not only because alex would run screaming if I turned up pregnant again. Proving that our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for, I now have a taste aversion to castor oil (although it really doesn't have much of a taste) and vomit if it hits my taste buds. Interestingly enough, I discovered that Burt's Bees shimmer lip gloss contains castor oil when I became nauseated after applying it and looked at the ingredients.

I've found that the traditional way of taking castor oil, by mixing it with juice, a) doesn't work (water and oil don't mix) and b) is completely revolting. The only way I was able to get it down is by mixing it into a chocolate shake and chugging it. Don't mix it in a styrofoam cup though - I was a little alarmed when my concoction started eating through my cup.

Castor oil is a smooth muscle stimulant. This has the desired effect of causing uterine contractions, and the not so desired effect of causing bowel contractions. Since a normal dose of castor oil for constipation is 2 teaspoons, and the dose I took to induce labor was 2 doses of 4 ounces each (a total of 8 ounces, or roughly 24 times the usual dosage), it should come as no surprise that I thought I was turning inside out approximately an hour after taking the stuff.

Both times I used castor oil, I went in to labor within 24 hours, once within 6 hours. From my anecdotal experience, it is effective. The last time I tried, I managed to get the first dose down; when I drank the second dose, however, it didn't even hit bottom before it came back up. My body had obviously learned what happens when we drink castor oil (massive diarrhea), and had very wisely decided it was having no part of that. I therefore had to use senna, another stimulant laxative, to complete the process.

The nice thing about the unpleasant side effect of castor oil is that after a vaginal delivery when you've used it, you won't have to have a bowel movement for several days at least. Especially if you have torn, or if you've had an episiotomy, the last thing you want is pressure on your perineum.