Nowadays pregnancy and childbirth are much more stylish than when I started bearing children in the mid-90’s. And it seems there are even more opinions about what’s right and what’s not right. (Of course my opinion is superior.) I feel like I can offer a different viewpoint than most women because I have delivered six babies (well, seven if you count the stillborn. Which I did completely naturally but it was such a different experience we won’t be including it here) and I have done both epidurals and natural (using Hypnobirth).
–Let me just insert a disclaimer here. This is my opinion. These are my experiences based on my views of life and the universe and reflect my personality. Yes, I know the most important thing is that the baby arrive healthy. Believe me, I know that better than most women. Don’t get all up on your high horse and think I am attacking your childbirth choices, whatever those might be. This is just me talking. On my blog. So please keep that in mind before you comment.–
Most women have this desire to deliver a baby naturally. Somehow it has become the pinnacle of a woman’s achievements. A woman who can deliver naturally, breastfeed for 16 months and teach her baby a full vocabulary of sigh language is the woman who is a success. If this isn’t you, you’re a loser. At least that the unspoken message out there. I happen to not agree with that at all.
These are the reasons women claim to want an unmedicated birth and what I have to say about them:
1.)You can walk sooner after giving birth. You just had a baby! Where is it you’re going to be walking? There is nowhere to go. Listen, you need to get in bed and stay there as long as possible. Do nothing if you can avoid it. Your life is about to get a million times more difficult. Rest while you can.
2.) I don’t like needles. Where have you been, you wilting Victorian violet? Needles are part of life. Get over it. Nobody likes them (except heroin addicts maybe). Newsflash: the epidural is in your back. You won’t see it. Also, you will eventually be in so much agony that you would welcome a needle in your eyeball if you thought it would make the pain go away.
3.) It is better for the baby. While this has generally been proven not to be true, I can say from personal experience that my drug-free baby was one of my sleepiest. She has since turned into my feistiest child. But all my epidural children are extremely mellow. I’m not saying that their births are the reason why, but is it just a coincidence?
4.) It’s cheaper. Very true. I have had to pay for epidurals out of pocket and it’s a drag. With epidurals costing upwards of $1000 it can be tempting to skip them. With baby #6 I had an epidural and he was born ten minutes later. You can bet I wanted a partial refund. But when you’re in pain you’d pay anything, anything!, for the pain to stop.
5.) I just like the idea of doing things naturally. Well, having a needle dripping chemicals into your spine is certainly not natural. But this seems like a pretty weak reason.
6.) I want to feel superior to women who’ve had epidurals. Nobody ever says this out loud. But I think it’s definitely the #1 reason most women go natural. I know the smugness of being able to say, “oh yeah, I’ve done it without an epidural.” We mothers are a competitive bunch. Let’s just admit that right now.
7.) I watched some documentaries and read some books and they say that’s what’s best. Oh my gosh, really? Okay, you’re entitled to your opinions, as is Ricki Lake and lots of people who think that painting a nursery with non-organic paint is the most cardinal sin. Let’s be pragmatic, though, and look at some of the benefits of going medicated.
The benefits of having an epidural:
1.) You are at a party and you’re the star! Having a baby is such a thrill and it’s so fun to call everyone you know, update Facebook and Twitter and take last minute votes on baby names. It’s so exciting to be at the center of the best party ever. Guess who doesn’t care about any of this? A woman who is having to focus on doing relaxation exercises every three minutes during her contractions (excuse me, “surges”).
2.) You can make sure there is good music playing. Guess who doesn’t care about music? Yep, that woman in labor who doing those hypnosis exercises.
3.) You can make sure you look good for the pictures. Everyone sneers when I say this, like “how can you think about doing your makeup when you’re about to have a baby. You must be really vain.” But let me remind you that there will be about a jillion pictures taken and you will be in most of them. And those pictures will be around for a very long time. If you want to look haggard and terrible, go right ahead. But I prefer to have nicely done hair and makeup. You’ll be forever grateful you took the time. Guess who couldn’t give a crap about looking good? That lady who’s in transition and about to die a thousand deaths!
4.) You remember to take pictures. I wonder who’s husband was a little busy helping his wife deliver a baby? And who forgot to take pictures or even turn on the camcorder? The husband who is constantly telling his wife in a soothing voice to imagine she is walking down a staircase, and with each step she is becoming more and more relaxed . . . . When there’s an epidural happening, your husband gets to take his rightful place as #1 cheerleader and cameraman.
5.) You can savor the moment after birth a little better. I know a lot of women say that the pain disappeared the moment they held their babies, but all I could think after I delivered my baby sans epidural was “Pain. Pain. Pain. Damn. Damn, Shit.” Holding my baby was the last thing I felt like doing.(and Heaven forbid you just had an episiotomy without anaesthesia. Yowee!).
Obviously I’m very pro-epidural. I had my first four children with epidurals but I felt like by baby #5 (Adelaide) I should be pretty loosey-goosey down there and hopefully the baby would just fall out. It did not happen that way. And having learned my lesson, I went back to an epidural for #6.
This is how the unmedicated childbirth actually went down: I did my Hypnobirth exercises (I’ll be talking more about Hypnobirth tomorrow because I feel like if you are determined to go naturally this is a pretty good method) and the labor was actually not too bad, especially considering I was being induced. I bounced on a yoga ball the whole time (about five hours). I am not a water-lover so the idea of getting in a bathtub or shower was completely unappealing.
Everything was pretty swell except I really needed my husband a lot. Husbands are very involved in Hypnobirth. It would have been nice to have him go get me something to eat (oh yeah, I eat during labor. I’m totally crazy like that.) I guess that’s the point of a doula but that doesn’t really appeal to me. The nurses at the hospital were pretty cool and let me do my own thing and barely bothered me. I guess since I’d had enough babies they figured I knew what I was doing.
At some point I started feeling horrendous pain and sure enough I was ready to push. Things quickly spiraled downward and I though I would die/burst into flames/split in half at any second. I only pushed for about three minutes but it felt like three days and by the time I was done I was crying and swearing. I was so worn out and in pain that my husband caught the baby and I didn’t even want to hold the poor thing. I couldn’t open my eyes, I was so miserable. Mister was standing there going, “open you eyes! It’s a girl! Look!” I peeked one eye open and went back to my whimpering and cursing. And then the doctor told me to push out the placenta. WHAT??? I never had to do that with an epidural! Oh no, with an epidural it somehow magically appears. But if you are going natural you have to find the fortitude and courage to start pushing all over again. Let me tell you now, it’s daunting.
Thankfully I didn’t require any stitches down there. But it still hurt like someone had set my nether-regions on fire. There was no waning epidural residue to cover up the pain. Instead I just kept asking for more and more ice compresses and all the Vicodin in the hospital. Even though my legs were working just fine, my poor privates made it pretty impossible to get out of bed.
I felt like a truck had just run me over. It was about fifteen minutes before I felt strong enough to hold little Adelaide (who at the time was named Clementine). And then I wanted everyone to leave me alone so I could sleep for the next two days. This was quite different than the epidural experiences I’d had where I was the life of the party and thought every single aspect was perfect and delightful and I felt superb afterwards.
Honestly, it was not the beautiful, joyous experience that I’d had with my epidural babies. The pain really, really detracted from it. Maybe it’s because I had something else to compare it to but ultimately when it came time to have another baby, I had to go with the pain-free experience. It’s just so much nicer. Such a pleasant, lovely way to have a baby. And that’s what’s important to me.