When you are pregnant (the first time) you read A LOT. You read TOO MUCH. You read about ultra-sounds, birth defects, what food you should eat, what food your baby’s size is equal to, what exercise is best, how to sleep, how to keep from vomiting on someone in church who is wearing perfume, what nursery colors are best for eye development, what car seat is the safest, what car seat is the lightest, why you should or shouldn’t put your baby on a schedule, why you should breastfeed, and of course about labor. There are so many people telling you what is wrong with every modern aspect of giving birth from the position used, to the doctors that are ‘interested in speed’, and even being at a hospital itself. The one and only thing that stuck with me was the reliance on drugs. The incredibly unlikely, yet very real, risks involved with epidurals didn’t sit well with me. Therefore we decided that we would try for a drug free labor with Emma Grace.
Once we knew natural labor was the goal, I of course read everything I could find on natural labor. I was sure that preparation was the key. I walked 2-3 miles a day, took a weekly prenatal yoga class and did a prenatal pilates dvd at home. I was armed with a list of breathing, focus and position techniques to help manage pain. I had a husband ready to help in every way he could. This was going to be painful but beautiful and it was going to start off my journey in motherhood feeling attached and accomplished.
Honestly all of that preparation paid off for the first 8 centimeters. Shane and I blasted NSYNC pandora and literally danced it out through contractions. When I couldn’t handle being up I used the birthing ball and Shane massaged my lower back. When that lost it’s effectiveness we moved to using a massaging shower head with hot water on my lower back through contractions. Each one of these things worked wonders. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it unbearable? No. In fact Shane and I would both admit that it was a pretty cool bonding experience for us. The problem came sometime between 8 & 9 centimeters when I no longer had the strength to hold myself up in the shower and I left the hot water. My first contraction out of the water was a pain I will never be able to explain. I collapsed while screaming and Shane had a doctor in to check me immediately. In a matter of 45 minutes I had gone from 6 cm to 9 cm, and though the water had been amazing once I was out the pain was beyond my anything I had feared. I went from thinking, “This is painful, but what a wonderful choice” to thinking, “I AM GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW AND NEVER SEE MY CHILD. CURSE YOU HIPPIES.” In the last 30 minutes it is possible I said those things out loud. I know I told Shane I quit and he would just have to deal with never having his daughter. I did not yell that I hated him, so that was a win.
I read that epidurals make you more likely to tear because your muscles don’t get the message to relax and push the baby out. I tore in 3 places. THREE sets of stitches. THREE.
I read that epidurals block the hormones responsible for you bonding with the baby. We don’t need to rehash this, I pretty much did the opposite of bonding.
I read that natural labor makes for easier recovery. Maybe I just had the wrong expectations, but I could barely walk for two weeks. It took me 4 or 5 days to have my first bowel movement, which was so painful I sobbed for 20 minutes while having labor flashbacks.
I am not trying to say that natural labor is evil. As I said, it started well and eliminates some very rare but real risk. I just want to share a story that isn’t all rainbows and butterflies because I never read one beforehand. Every natural labor account I read talked about all of the good and none of the bad. It was even once equated to orgasm. ARE YOU FREAKING JOKING ME? Even if you are happy with your choice, let’s be honest that the pain in the end has to be equal to enemy torture. I am pretty sure only Jack Bauer could do worse to me.
I was sure that I was going to be eliminating so many problems that I ended up having, and you know who didn’t have any of those problems? A number of my friends who used epidurals. I just want to remind any woman making a birth plan that it could go exactly as you planned, and it may not solve a single problem. Having a child is incredibly difficult and there is not one right way to do it. If you want to try anyway, please do. Just know that you may still have depression, you may still have a terrible recovery, you may still have breast feeding problems, you will experience pain unlike anything you could imagine and you will not be given a medal.