This is one of the best perspectives I’ve ever read on this topic. It’s exactly what I needed to hear today.
The best part:
"I’ve run races where I felt like I was in great shape and there was no reason why I shouldn’t run a personal best. And then I’ve ended up walking through the finish line, feeling angry with myself and confused by my body’s inability to do what I felt it should.
On the day my son is born, there is no place for those types of feelings. I have eaten well, stayed as active as has been comfortable, and I’ve taken good care of myself for the duration of my pregnancy. If I end up with a c-section, does that mean that all of those efforts were a failure? Of course not. There are no failures in childbirth. Only babies, and families, and birthdays.”
Say nothing. Don’t invite any parts of them into your space.
Why am I trying to have a baby without getting an epidural? Your guess is as good as mine. I can’t quite put my finger on why this appeals to me. I’m not really afraid of a needle in my back. I don’t like pain any more than the next person. No one is pressuring me. I don’t consider myself much of a hippie. I don’t even really worry too much about an epidural slowing down labor or hurting the baby or causing extra complications, although I do understand the idea and am wary of a “cascade of interventions.”
I don’t know. My mom did it. So did my grandma. I’m a person who’s not very good at running but signed up for a marathon and who gave up candy for a year when I was 10, so maybe I just do stuff like this. Maybe (cringe), if I’m being honest, I want people to think I’m tough. Oh, I also like the idea of getting back to my regular self quickly after birth. One woman I talked to almost got an epidural right at the end, and her doctor said, “You can have an epidural if you want, but if you hold out you can be eating pizza in 30 minutes.” Yes please.
Most of all, as stupid as this may sound and as quickly as I may realize what an insane idea this is the minute I go into labor, I just kind of want to know what it’s like, what women have been doing forever. You only live once, you know? Might as well allow yourself to have intense experiences.
I’m delivering at a hospital that’s known to be a bit of a baby factory. 90-95% of women there get epidurals. I like the idea of being surrounded by the best doctors in the city, but I felt like I needed something to counter the intervention culture there. So we hired a doula (and I just said I wasn’t much of a hippie - ha). We’ve met with her twice already - with them, actually, they’re two women who work together and take call on alternating nights - and they gave us some things to think about, some exercises to try. I’ve been trying to be diligent about doing the yoga poses they say will keep the baby in the right position and practicing managing pain I encounter in daily life in the way I want to when I’m in labor. Every night I hold a handful of ice for 60-90 second blocks and try different things to take my mind off the discomfort (deep breathing, petting Molly, listening to music, leaning against Kevin). I practice relaxing, breathing, and counting during difficult yoga poses. I failed miserably during my charlie horse incident the other morning. When I felt my calf clench up, I gasped, kicked my leg in the air, and sprang out of bed. But going forward, if they keep happening, I’ll use them as practice pain.
I’m reading some but not a lot of books. I’m taking a “comfort measures” class. I’m trying to focus only on the good birth stories I’ve heard (please don’t leave any negative ones in the comments) while at the same time mentally preparing myself to be as flexible and go-with-the-flow as possible. (If I have to have a c-section, I don’t want to feel like a failure, for example. I want to accept my reality the best I can and enjoy the experience as much as possible.) I ask for reassurance from Kevin whenever I need to that he won’t think differently of me no matter what happens in that hospital room. I’m jotting down notes on my phone that inspire/comfort me.
Oh, and we’re making a list of birth preferences (not a detailed birth plan - I get stressed out at the thought of being a demanding patient) that should help things along - stuff like not putting in an IV in unless it’s necessary and using a wireless fetal monitor so I’m not hooked up to a bunch of machines and can move freely.
Do you really think you can do it?
I have no idea. Regarding unmedicated childbirth, I’ve heard everything from (these are direct quotes), “Oh, Brady, it’s no big deal” and “If the baby’s in the right position, there’s nothing to it” to “I felt like I was going to die,” “I will never do that again,” and “Somebody tricked me and told me I could do it.” Some really tough people I know have gotten unplanned epidurals and some people I think of as not really that hardy have made it through without. I’m starting to get the sense that a lot depends on your unique situation - how the baby’s positioned, your anatomy and frame, the baby’s size, even how much sleep you get in the days prior. I really want to do as much as I can without pain meds, but I also don’t want the birth to turn into a traumatic or dangerous experience just so I can make a point.
Are you nervous?
Kind of. It’s hard to be nervous for pain you’ve never experienced before, though. I just don’t know what to expect. I’m nervous about non-physical stuff like “failing” for sure - that I won’t make it through and people will think I’m a wimp. I’m nervous to come and report back to all of you that I couldn’t do it. I’m nervous about being ridiculous or embarrassing or mean to Kevin or the doula or the doctors during the worst of it. I’m nervous about not knowing if and when I should “give in” - like I said, I don’t want it to be stubborn and traumatic, but I know labor inevitably gets hard, and I hear almost everybody without an epidural wants to give up at some point. I don’t trust myself to know where the line between struggle and unnecessary suffering is.
Sometimes, though, when I remember how far we’ve come and how sad we were for so long and how hard we had to try for this, I think, “I can do it.” I almost get excited for it. The physical pain can’t be as bad as two years of infertility. It can’t be as hard as miscarrying. What I’m trying to keep in mind now, and will try to keep in mind through the delivery, is that this is all good pain - all of it brings us closer to this baby, a baby that I still feel impossibly lucky to have.
If anyone out there has any tips or encouragement (no horror stories please) I’d be grateful to hear them. And since I’m an over-sharer, I will definitely let you know how my experience goes. :)