With all those posts about epidurals last week, I just had to respond with my own.
I was an epidural girl at one point in my life–so I very much relate to those who prefer them. In fact, at my first birth, I had no real plan for my birth except to get that epidural ASAP. And I did. And it was wonderful! I was being induced and after trying to make it through the unbearable contractions for hours while they pumped me full of pitocin that epidural was a God-send!
For my second birth I didn’t think twice about the epidural–I already knew I was getting it. My water broke early in the morning and by the time I made it into the hospital I was 7 cms and in full-blown active labor. I let them know the second I walked in I wanted my epidural waiting for me. Of course it took some time for the anesthesiologist to actually get to my room as he was with another patient at the time, but when he walked in I was so elated. Also, he looked like Ben Stiller–which I told him between contractions. Before he left the room I was already feeling the relief. “I love you! I really, really love you.” I told him. He laughed. I am sure I wasn’t the first nor the last women to say those words to him that day.
This labor progressed much faster than my last and in less than two hours it was pushing time. Awesome! I reached for that button they put at the top of your bed–you know the one you can push a gazillion times, even though it will only let you release small dosages over carefully timed intervals–and I pushed the hell outta that thing. I was feeling a lot of pressure. In fact, I soon realized I was also feeling my thighs, my butt, my stomach, my…
“Hey! Wait a second!!”, I said while giving my OB a very serious look, “I can feel everything!”
“You’re just feeling some pressure and that’s totally normal,” he replied. He clearly wasn’t getting it. “No! This is not pressure. This is P-A-I-N!! I am telling you I can feel everything! EVERYTHING!”
But it was too late–my daughter was crowning. And there was nothing I could do but push with the urges and try and get that watermelon out of me as quickly as possible.
“If you really push, this baby will be out of here in less than 10 minutes!” he assured me.
Ten minutes!? Oh I don’t think so. This was a race I was going to win! I got that baby out in less than five.
Of course I had one hell of a third degree tear and my nether regions were black and blue for days, but she was out!
It wasn’t until days later that it occurred to me that I had a natural birth. Well, mostly anyhow. Then I started thinking more about my birthing experiences. It was kind of cool to be able to feel the entire thing–baby getting lower into the birth canal and then wiggling it’s way out. I felt this odd but beautiful sense of connection to the birth that I didn’t remember feeling with my first. Perhaps it could be chalked up to my overwhelm by the brand new experience of labor and becoming a mom for the first time. Maybe it was the “natural birth” I had this time around. I can’t say for sure. All I new is I felt on this sort of birth-high that was wonderful. It got me very interested in reading more about other people’s experiences with natural birth, and I found that a lot of other moms who had unmedicated births often spoke of the same feelings I felt.
“Huh,” I thought, “maybe natural birth (on purpose!) is something I would consider if I had another baby.” This feeling actually took me by surprise. But as I was pretty sure we weren’t having anymore (haha!) I just put a pin in the idea for myself, and started exploring the idea of becoming a doula.
Fast forward to my third pregnancy a few years later. I decided I liked the idea of a homebirth. I had attended a few and found it to be very different from my hospital experiences. Mainly, I liked that it was quieter and that the mom could walk around and find comfortable positions instead of being made to lie down. I really hated lying down in labor and birth. To me it felt a bit like being forced to poop while hanging upside down by my ankles. It just felt wrong.
Planning for a homebirth was a vastly different experience than for my first hospital birth, where my only plan was to get the epidural ASAP. Truth is I was still scared. I don’t like pain. But I prepared myself with books, and by learning labor relaxation techniques… and talking my husband’s ear off every night about it.
When active labor hit me I was doing pretty well. Rocking back and forth and hanging out in the bath. I even thought for a while about asking my husband to play some guitar for me. But this labor was progressing a lot quicker than I expected. It seemed like almost as soon as I got relief from one contraction the next one was on me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt kind of dizzy and like I was going to vomit. I felt like… I had made the biggest mistake of my life. “OH MY GOSH!” I thought, “what if I can’t do this?!” And then came the striking realization that I had no possibility of getting an epidural at all. For a moment I actually panicked. I was going to have to do this entire thing on my own steam!? No way. No freaking way!
And then the baby started crowning… and in a matter of minutes I had this beautiful little darling nursing at my breast. Just like that.
Did it hurt? Oh hell yes it hurt! I felt it all. Every last bit. But you know what else I felt? Peaceful. Really, really, incredibly peaceful. I felt like this baby and I just went through some sort of private marathon and came in first place. Instant feelings of bonding coursed through me.
I think that what made me feel the happiest was just knowing it was my right to choose for myself with each pregnancy. I felt both empowered by and in awe of my body’s incredible accomplishment.
I don’t feel bad about the use of my epidural in my first two births anymore than I feel like I am a better person because I didn’t have one in a later birth. (My births all hurt and I am proud of myself either way!) I am just happy that I can make that choice for myself.
For more takes on the epidural decision, read from one mother who is absolutely in favor of them, and one who is absolutely not.