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.”