Just over a year ago I gave birth to our last baby. I had some pretty serious, yet luckily fleeting, moments of anxiety at the beginning of my 3rd and last pregnancy, and it was all related to my previous labor and delivery. My first labor and delivery was pretty near picture perfect. I labored for 6 hours, about 3 of those were in active labor and I was able to give birth naturally like I had hoped for. The only thing I truly didn’t like about my first birthing experience was when my physician broke my water. The breaking of the water didn’t hurt…but him pushing down on my belly to expel said water HURT LIKE A YOU-KNOW-WHAT!!!
Anyway, back to my 2nd birthing experience. I went into it with the wrong mindset, because I assumed since my first labor went quite fast, that my second would be even faster. WRONG. Labor started at almost the same time, so when I didn’t have a baby in my arms by 8:00 AM like with my first…I was so defeated. My feelings wavered from mad, to sad, to anxious and just wanting to give up and go home, because clearly this baby didn’t want to be born.
It only took two and a quarter more hours, but I was feeling so over it and like it would never end (transition stage!). I was on the verge of getting an epidural when I stopped the anesthetist from setting up any further because I felt the urge to push. It didn’t take long and I had our second baby in our arms. It truly was a “traumatic” experience for me, though believe me I know—there are far worse experiences than that.
It truly deterred me from wanting to get pregnant and having another baby, which is a big reason why our second and third children are 3.5 years apart. When I learned I was pregnant with our third, I was very excited at first, but I had a day that I remember very vividly where the anxiety crept in and took over my mind. I had awful visions of labor and delivery and visioned it taking even longer than our second (which still, by all means didn’t take that long), and the anxiety just made my mind whirl. I also had horrible thoughts of something happening to our children, and I don’t usually go to those deep dark places, but that’s what anxiety can do to a normally rational and healthy person.
Luckily those feelings didn’t stick around long and I decided to let it be. Whatever would happen, would happen and we would be okay.
At 39 weeks exactly, after lunch on a Saturday, I began timing contractions. I let my mother-in-law, who was going to watch our older boys, and my husband know that things could be happening. Then, I started to question whether or not I wanted to have another natural birth. I knew I could do it…but did I want to? It was mental torture waiting for Ethan to be born and it made me anxious to think about how long this labor would be.
We got to the hospital at 4:15 and I was told I was 5 cm—which didn’t excite me that much because I was that with our second and it took 8 hours to get to 10 cm and baby. Then the anxious thoughts crept back in and I thought there was no freaking way I was going to potentially labor like this for 8 hours or more!
It’s ironic, or not, that I had just talked to my SIL Laura and my mom that morning about how I think I would really be more open to an epidural this time so I could attempt to try and relax and enjoy the laboring process more. Mom and Laura both essentially said the same thing — no shame, don’t be a martyr, you have done it twice already and you have nothing to prove.
I was still on the fence until I heard that my doctor wanted to break my water again when he arrived (remember how awful that was for me with my first labor?) and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when my friend and birth photographer Sam arrived and she told me to just go for it.
I joked with her “I’ll have an epidural—in the name of science!” Seriously though, I was extremely curious to see how different it was compared to a med-free birth, and this was my last chance to find out.
I don’t know why, but I felt like her permission validated my desire to have an epidural.
Here’s what I learned from my epidural experience:
- You will have to wait for the epidural, so mentally prepare to wait
- When the anesthetist arrives, it still takes time to finish set up and get ready (time to wait some more!)
- It took just under 10 minutes to place—palpating between the
- The epidural does not work instantaneously! Judge me, if you want, but I honestly didn’t realize this as a nurse (I work in ER where we don’t give epidurals) and I never had one as a patient. IV works instantly, apparently epidural does not!
- It will be a long 15 or so minutes, but the epidural will kick in (I probably asked every 1 minute or more when it would start to work)
- Since my water broke while my epidural was being placed, I felt the urge to push as soon as my water broke
- My doctor told me when it was time to push
- I couldn’t feel the contractions, but I could feel everything happening down ‘there’
I only ended up needing the relief from the epidural for about 1/2 hour of my labor. I know I could have done it med-free again…but all that matters at the end of the delivery is a healthy mom and a healthy baby. All three times I have been blessed with being healthy and delivering three healthy babies.
To expand on my last bullet point: I don’t know how other women experience epidurals during delivery, but I could feel the “ring of fire” and feel him being born. However, since I had experienced this twice before, I knew what to expect, and that part never bothered me anyway—it felt like I could finally do something with the pain of the contractions.
So what are my conclusions of this scientific experiment? I know without a doubt had my first labor not progressed so quickly, I would have eventually asked for one. I also know, for me, that I’m really glad I got to experience two med-free labors & deliveries, because it’s the most empowered I’ve ever felt as a woman.
I also know, I still felt extremely powerful and proud and happy when I delivered our third son, with the aid of an epidural. I also often wonder if it was a sign to ask for and accept that epidural, because of Jonathan’s craniosynostosis. I know that delivery was hard on him and caused him a lot of pain because his skull bones couldn’t overlap and flex through the birthing canal. I wonder if it would have hurt me more and caused me more pain without the epidural?
Whatever the reasons, I chose to have an epidural, and it was wonderful. I’ve also done it without meds, and it was wonderful too.
You do you, mamas. No pressure. No guilt. No shame.