Dr. Feelgood (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Epidural”)

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I had my first baby in my early 20s. I was starry-eyed, a bit naive and the ultimate optimist (oh, and strong-willed and opinionated…)  In keeping with that mentality, I was hell-bent on enlisting the help of a downright magical midwife and experiencing the most beautiful of natural births. And I did.  Well, sort of. I got the “natural” part right. The “beautiful”? Not so much.

I was in labor for 24 hours excruciating hours and was repeatedly offered tranquilizers, pain-killers and the like. I systematically refused all pharmaceutical assistance as though I was diligently working on some sort of Natural Childbirth merit badge. And I’m not sorry, either–it was an incredible, life-changing experience.

Fast-forward 15 years to my second pregnancy. Magical midwife? Check. Starry-eyed optimism? Check. Natural Birth Plan in place? You betcha.

Well, it was all natural until I got that little epidural.

I was completely anti-epidural. I had romantic notions that you should just take it like a woman, that pain was just part of birth and that somehow sucking it up and working through the pain was a noble exercise. However, after 18 hours of intense, mind-blowing labor, I was told that I wasn’t dilating.  I’d made no progress in about 15 of those 18 hours. WHAT?!?!

Me: “I can’t do this any more”.
Handsome Husband: (encouragingly) “Yes you can, baby!”
Me: “No, really. I’m done.”

Remember that Natural Birth Plan I mentioned? Well, item #2 on that birth plan was “No Epidural.”. Nothing more–just “No Epidural.” In my head, epidurals were an unnecessary nicety to make women more comfortable. In my head, they would probably damage your baby.

Worried about making an uninformed decision about an epidural, Handsome Husband put in a quick phone call to our physician/CMO Brother-in-Law.  His response in a nutshell? “Better living through pharmaceuticals.”

Our Brother-in-Law said that an epidural was the best choice in this case, that it would help me make progress in the dilation department. He went on to explain that my body was probably so tired and tense at that point that I would have a difficult time giving birth naturally and may end up with a c-section. Um…no thanks.

He was right–I got the epidural and my body was able to relax. I dilated quickly after that (good thing, too–Sophie’s cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and her heart rate was plummeting from 150 to a terrifying 60 after every contraction). I pushed Sophie into the world 13 minutes after a doctor scrubbed in for an emergency c-section. Yep–that little epidural saved me from having a c-section.

What did I learn? There’s no right or wrong way to give birth–you have to do what works in the moment. Your best-laid plans may fail and it might not play out exactly as you’d pictured. And you know what? That’s okay. When you look into the inky eyes of your brand-new baby, nothing else will matter.

So, now I’m pregnant with number three. This time around, I still plan on having a beautiful, natural, magical childbirth. However, item #2 on the Birth Plan will read  “Epidural, if needed.”

Did you have a Birth Plan?

And how did that work out for you? 🙂

Do you have any labor tips for our pregnant readers? 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Great story Kelly! I think whatever way gets a healthy baby into the world and keeps mom healthy too is the best plan. And I have to say after one emergency and one planed c-section, that way works too and isn’t as scary as it sounds 😉

  2. As an evil ob gyn (an mhave to say that there is no one right way to have a baby and every labor and also delivery is different!

  3. As an evil ob gyn (an mother of 2!) I have to say great story and that there is no one right way to have a baby and every labor and also delivery is different! Sometimes pregnant get to wrapped up in their desired experience that they forget that the ultimate goal is to have a healthy baby and mom at the end of the road! So many women come into labor and delivery with an exact plan of how they want thing to go and that’s great but labor (and motherhood) is not that easy to make happen a certain way and often things go drastically differently than planned in order to get to the goal (remember, healthy baby and mom). It’s good to have a birth plan and an open mind with realization that things may not turn out exactly like you wrote on paper!!

    • “Evil” Ob Gyn?? No way!
      Funny story: After using midwives twice and swearing by them, I am using an Ob Gyn this time around! I started with a midwife and after a several months of visits, I found that I just wasn’t connecting with her. I’d been accustomed to having this big friendship connection with my midwives, and I just wasn’t connecting with this particular lady. Around month 6, I met with an Ob Gyn for a non-pregnancy issue and she was AMAZING. We had an instant connection and I felt so comfortable with her. So, I asked if she had room in her schedule for a new patient. She came with me to the appointment desk and booked out visits for the remainder of the pregnancy. So, another great example of going with the flow in your pregnancy! I came to realize that the midwifery aspect was not what made me most comfortable–it was the specific person that was “in charge” of my labor that mattered most. In this case, it happens to be a doctor, not a midwife!

  4. Here is the thing I don’t think that any one person has to follow a certain “Norm”. Especially in today’s world where alternative medicine is become not so alternative.

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