I am 7 months pregnant. I spend my days reading parenting and pregnancy blogs. They all but say that if I get an epidural, my baby and I will go straight to hell after delivery. In our birthing class, my partner and I are taught breathing and massage techniques. The instructors suggest that when I am in labor, my partner shows me pictures of our dogs to boost the good vibes and ease the pain.
“I’ve got this,” I think. My mother (who had her last child 26 years ago) recalls how she delivered her first baby with no epidural. Apparently, right after pushing me out, she exclaimed “I’m ready for another one!”
My partner, even after watching those 1970s birthing films (which should be shown in HS sex ed for birth control) says, “I think you’ll be fine – you’re pretty tough.” I agree. I mean, I can get a tattoo like a champ – so labor and delivery? Should be a piece of cake.
At my baby shower, I sit with my friends – many of whom are new mothers. For them, labor and delivery is a not-so-distant memory. I brag about how confident and prepared I am for labor. “I’m kind of looking forward to it,” I say. My friends smile, and say nothing. When I talk about how I can’t wait for my baby to come, an older woman chides “only a first time mother would say that!” I laugh but am wondering why she would say that.
Fast forward 2 months. It is three days before my due date, I am pregnant AF and I have tried every home remedy in the book to induce labor. Swinging at the school playground gets the credit, as it is the last trick I attempt before my water breaks. I am not in any pain, but I begin to get anxious. It seems to just be occurring to me that there was an actual baby inside me for the past 9 months. I take a shower and do my hair and makeup. I know I am supposed to labor at home as long as possible, and I still don’t have any contractions – I start to feel like the baby will be safer with medical care. So, around 1 am, we head into the hospital.
In triage the nurse asks me if I plan on getting an epidural. I recall the articles I read, and remember the horrible things that will happen if I have anything other than an unmedicated, natural birth. I am also starting to feel like I may need all the help I can get with this strange experience. I tell her that I will see how it goes. I start to get some mild contractions. I can tell they aren’t strong from the graph on nurse’s computer, but they are starting to feel really painful. Like, as painful as I thought the strongest contraction would be. F***.
As I progress through labor, I am enveloped in agony. I cannot move or talk. I can barely breathe. I actually have the thought that the reason so many women used to die in childbirth was probably because they flung themselves off the side of a cliff (not true, BTW). I recall some advice I had received from a family member to “receive and accept the pain.” I really try to do it. When it doesn’t work, I am not upset. I have no energy to be mad and the result is a weird, zen-like state. I labor through the night, and although my partner is by my side, I am alone. No soothing playlists or puppy pictures are going to help me. In fact, I can barely remember that I have two dogs; and frankly do not care where they are or who is caring for them – which had been my biggest worry about going into labor, up until this point.
I will spare you all the gory details, but at some point in the morning, I asked if I could have some pain relief. My contractions were so strong that my baby’s heartbeat was not increasing as it should have after each one, meaning that IV medication would have been unsafe. At that point, crying hysterically, I resigned to the fact that I would definitely be getting an epidural. I was still in excruciating pain, was terrified, and most of all felt that I was failing myself and my baby. The staff assured me that they wouldn’t administer anything that could hurt the baby, but my ingrained distrust of the medical system told me to not believe them.
So, what happened when I finally got that big, bad, epidural?
Nothing happened. Nothing bad. What did happen was major, necessary pain relief. I still felt every contraction, and it still hurt, but more like a 4 out of 10 – instead of a 20. The epidural helped my body relax, reduced the intensity of the contractions and stabilized my baby’s heart rate. I was able to actually interact with others and fix my makeup (lol).
When it was time to actually push, the epidural had basically worn out so I was able to feel what I needed to in order to get that baby out. And, just like everyone says, even though I thought I just couldn’t do it anymore, my beautiful and perfect baby boy was (finally) born at 5:10 pm. Despite all of the warnings to the contrary, he nursed right away and is an excellent nurser to this day.
Do I regret all the research I did during my pregnancy? No. Honestly, I don’t know if any of the suggestions I used actually helped me. I would be more than fine with never having any dates or raspberry leaf tea ever again. But, gathering all the information I could helped me to feel that I had some control in an unfamiliar situation. And of course, it is important to make informed decision – but I definitely fell prey to the fear mongering that seems to be so rampant on the internet.
So, I am writing what I wish I had I had read. My goal in sharing this isn’t to scare anyone – rather to do the opposite. I got an epidural and everything was totally fine. When push came to shove (pun intended) it was 100% the right decision for me and my family. Honestly, – ANY method of giving birth, whether it is natural, unmedicated or a C -section is totally bad-ass. Women are truly warriors!
Did you get an epidural when giving birth, or go au natural? Are you expecting and weighing your options? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.
(**The above is not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. I am simply sharing my experience. If you are pregnant and considering your options for pain control during labor please discuss with your provider about the best choice for you and your baby**).