My sympathy to all who are struggling with pain/not sleeping/spousal lack of sympathy.... there's been more than all that than I would like this pregnancy!
As for natural methods of ripening/induction, for my last pregnancy I used a number of "preparatory" herbs, including (very, very small doses of) blue cohosh, motherwort and.... uhm... there were a few others, I can't remember now! My husband actually did most of the research and just starting putting a few drops in my water and I kind of freaked out when he told me it was blue cohosh, but I've since done the research myself and come to understand the various effects of different doses and timings. We only used it in the last week before my due date. And lo and behold, DD was born on her due date... but really, who knows.... :-)
This time is another story it seems. Although I have been doing UP/planning for UC, things are getting a little scary and I'm beginning heavy-duty herbal preparation for possible induction in a couple days. I noticed my amniotic fluid levels had dropped a bit over the last couple weeks (without any noticeable leakage) and frankly have just had this sense that the baby "wants out" over that time period, if that makes any sense.... the movements just feel less "playful" or "stretching" and more "I need to find the exit from here, and soon!" That combined with a rather belated response from the perinatologist I consulted with a month ago about a non-related issue (OY, people, there is a deadline here and you need to answer calls!) had persuaded me to get a complete ultrasound, which was yesterday. Well, my fluid levels were lower than even I realized and the placental function seems to be dropping, and the doctor basically came in and told me she strongly recommended I proceed directly to L&D for immediate induction. (Uhm, really?! With my three year old in tow and, like, don't even go home and get a bag or call my husband first?!)
Thankfully I have a good friend who is an OB and I called her immediately for her opinion... and she reassured me that although these were not good findings, there's a decent body of research showing both that fluid levels can be brought up in a matter of hours with massive hydration efforts and that induction at this stage of pregnancy does not necessarily improve outcomes. I was also offered a non-stress test (with the doctor warning me that if there were a lot of decels they would recommend immediate c-section, did I really want to do this? And I was like... well, shouldn't we know about it if there are? And it doesn't obligate me to go straight to a c-section even if there are, but if there aren't, wouldn't that be good? Not liking this lady!) which I decided to do, and I was happy to see that this looked good still... good variability, no decels... of course the doc who wanted to induce me immediately didn't seem to think this was anything to be happy about (gee, was she hoping to find more problems??) and was very curt when I told her I was going to go home and drink a bunch and rest and do some research (oh, and talk to my husband!).
Anyway, spent a few hours thinking/researching and at this point am pushing fluids and rest (except, uhm, fluids mean I have to pee, and peeing means I can't sleep.... but at least my feet are up!) and planning to go back for a repeat ultrasound to check fluid levels and non-stress test Monday morning. I feel comfortable with this right now, and can check the baby's heart rate myself periodically with my stethoscope. Oh, and as mentioned above, pushing some herbs to soften my cervix (blue and black cohosh, motherwort, evening primrose oil both internally and topically) because there is the possibility that Monday morning I will learn that I have not succeeded in bringing up my fluid levels and/or placental function has dropped more, at which point I would probably let them begin intervening.... and I would like to be as ready as possible for that.
Still undecided about what I would do if I go into labor before Monday, as there is a lot more stress on the baby/cord from contractions without adequate fluid cushioning it... might opt for hospital delivery or even just go and let them monitor baby for a while and possibly come home again if it seems to be tolerating labor well. Might just have to be a gut instinct thing if it comes to it... I've felt like this baby was going to come quickly for months now, and can't quite imagine driving to the hospital in labor let alone home again! But we will do what we have to do to take care of this little one... just wish it was easier to figure out what the best choices were sometimes...