Monday, August 2, 2010

In Praise of Epidurals

This is a part of a series of guest posts for first time moms that I have put together from a variety of moms with a variety of perspectives. This one is written by Kate of This Mom Loves. Please stop by her blog to read more of her posts. You can also follow This Mom Loves on Twitter.

No nightmarish horror stories here. Imagine having to be told that you are having contractions, because you are unable to feel them. Experiencing the sensation of pushing your little baby out of your body, but without any pain. Sound good? Here’s my story.

March 9th, 2006

The due date for my firstborn child arrived. Nothing happened. Everyone thinks they’ll go early, but no such luck. By this time, I was very worried about delivery. Not so much labour, as I had a concept of what contractions were, but very apprehensive about feeling the baby coming out of me. I was also praying (literally) that I would arrive in time to get the epidural. No fancy birth plan for me; give me some meds, and I’d be good to go.

March 10, 2006

10:00 a.m. We went for a morning walk down the road to my in-laws’, and then back up a huge hill. I could hardly make it! By the time I got in the shower at 11, contractions had started, and there was no sign of stopping. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by being one of those rush-to-the-hospital-and-get- sent-home types, so I held out for a while.

I tried a hot bath, but no position was comfortable except being doubled over. My doctor’s instructions were to call his office when labour started, so eventually I tried but it was closed for lunch until 1:30. When I finally got through, I was told to come in to his office (just down the street from the hospital) to check in.  I would say that was the worst pain of the whole experience: enduring contractions while in the car, the waiting room, and lying on the examining table at 2 p.m.  as my surprised doctor realized I was already 5 cm dilated. (See? No crying wolf for this mommy!)

I was sent to the hospital where I immediately asked for an epidural. The well-meaning nurses suggested I get in the hot tub or walk the halls. No thanks. Epidural, please. A nurse broke my water, and I was then 8 cm dilated. Epidural time!

My doctor dropped in conveniently after his work day was done, and decided that he would go grab a bite to eat, and “we” should start pushing at 5:30, which “we” did. Here’s the great thing about the epidural: nothing hurt anymore! I wasn’t completely frozen or immobile (although I wouldn’t have trusted my legs to hold up had I stood) but there was no pain whatsoever. I totally understand there are those who see natural childbirth as a rite of passage, some sort of imaginary medal to be pinned on, but I say why turn such a beautiful day into a painful experience if you don’t have to?

After almost an hour and a half of pushing when directed (“You’re having a contraction now, Kate. Push!” “Really? I am? Okay!” – see, the beauty of the epidural!) Frannie was born at 6:54 p.m. (I didn’t even feel a thing when the doctor performed an episiotomy...something else I had spent a long time worrying about.)  I anxiously awaited the movie-moment when the doctor announces “It’s a ...!” which didn’t come. One of the nurses had to ask “Is it a girl or a boy?” and the doctor said “Oh, let me check,” and flipped her over before announcing her gender. I was thrilled, because although we all have to say that we don’t care as long at it’s healthy, I was secretly hoping for a girl!

In terms of the drugs, here are my thoughts: I don’t see how my little girls could be any healthier or smarter (though I could be a little biased!), so I am quite sure the epidural had no long-term impact on them, and it made childbirth a much more positive experience for me. And though all of my “interventions” (the breaking of the water, the epidural, the episiotomy) may seem unnatural to some, I have faith in modern medicine. This was the right kind of childbirth for me; only you can decide what’s right for you. Just don’t feel pressured in to making a decision one way or the other. If you’re worried about judgment, you can always LIE! It would be highly unethical for your medical records to be released to your mother-in-law or childbirth instructor, so they never have to know!

This is only my opinion , and the beauty of this week here at Ingenue Mom is that there will be different perspectives shared, so I’m not saying I’m right, I’m asserting what I know worked for me – twice! My experiences were so terrific that I can’t even complain about the womanly curse of childbirth pain, because I had it easy.

And in case you’re wondering how my second birth compared, it was almost identical, except Maggie was one day early. (I was matron of honour in a wedding two weeks later, so I gave her strict instructions not to be late!) The pushing was only sixteen minutes this time, but my water had to be broken again, and I required another episiotomy. The afterpains were worse, but the breast engorgement didn’t happen, so there were tradeoffs the second time around. And this time, my wonderful doctor remembered to announce “You have a daughter!”

My Dad often laments “If only people would put as much effort in to marriage as they do into weddings...” and I think this applies to childbirth as well. Don’t stress too much about making the day perfect, or sticking to some predetermined, overspecific birth plan.   It’s the minutes, days, weeks, months, and years that follow which make you a real parent. Save your energy for’re going to need it!

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Liz said...

I remember being terrified about the epidural, too, but really, it is SO much better than tearing!

Mama Hen said...

Hey Cameron, thank you for joining Mama's Little Nestwork! I will let you know about my features as it gets going! Don't forget the Mama's Little Nestwork snazzy button! :) Have great day!

Mama Hen

The Millennial Housewife said...

Great post! I've been reading a lot lately condemning women who choose to use an epidural. I say -it is YOUR decision and whatever makes you comfortable is what the right decision is for YOU. I unfortunately, had to have 3 c-sections so I didn't have the decision to make! But, I have three healthy, beautiful children and what more can you ask for?

The Planet Pink said...

It's great that your experience was wonderful and exactly what you wanted. That's the important thing, no matter how one chooses to birth. It's not about medals (nope, not even for the natural childbirther!) or about impressing other people. It's about the choices you make for your body and baby in light of the knowledge and information you have.

Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom) said...

I really like your birth story! Especially at the end where you say save your energy for the years ahead...I agree!

I had an epidural for my failed. I felt every.single.thing-including the episotomy! I made sure they got it right with #2...feeling all that is highly overrated!

Jill said...

Glad you had such a positive birth experience!

Amy said...

Cameron, thanks for featuring Kate! I am TERRIFIED of a botched epidural because of an experience my friend had. So, this was good to hear. I still haven't made a decision about childbirth. Can't wait to hear other birth stories!

Steph, from Be Positive Mom! said...

Love your birth story! I, like Melissa above, had no luck with the first epidural. I thought it'd be easy and then it didn't work... yikes! With baby #2 it worked like a gem. Just in case, I have a picture of my little guy for focusing through labor. It helped when I did have pain. After they are born, the pain seems like a blur anyway.... :-)

Steph, from Be Positive Mom! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Urban Cowboy said...

I had to hold my wife when they gave her an epidural...I think I was panicking more than her.

This Mom said...

Thanks for sharing my story here, Cameron! I'm looking forward to seeing the other perspectives shared here this week.

To respond to the comment above, I think it must be very common for the partners (i.e. men) to freak out more than the moms with the epidurals, because I found that both times the anesthesiologist and nurses seemed just as concerned about my husband as they were about me! I think perhaps it's because the men can see what exactly is being done. As for me, I had researched well in advance, but chose not to think about it when the time came!

Jaclynn_kyuss said...

Being that I am 6 1/2 months tomorrow I love all these stories! The episiotomy scares the hell out of me along with the 2 hours of pushing! Oh geeze.. shaking in the knees!

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