I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Giving birth is painful. I don’t care what anyone says, or what kind of birth you have – there’s no way to avoid the pain. It’s part of the tradeoff that women make to hold a beautiful baby in their arms. A baby who knows you from your voice and your scent – immediately. And, in my opinion, it’s worth it. It’s funny how we’ve been doing it for thousands of years and despite the gifts of modern medicine – it still hurts like a bitch.
It’s also REALLY hard work for me. Doesn’t anyone think about ME?
That said, over the past 7-8 years I feel like there has been a huge trend for women to STRIVE to have a “natural, drug-free” birth. Maybe this is because of the documentary “The Business of Being Born” (which, I recommend watching – whether or not you agree with its sentiments) or maybe it’s because the C-section rates have skyrocketed. Whatever the reason, I now feel like having a unmedicated birth has become a “thing.” Like it entitles you to have bragging rights on being superwoman, supermom, or just “so brave.” Here’s the thing: It doesn’t.
Delivering Evan drug free was never part of the plan. Sure the actual birthing part hurt 25,000 times more than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life, BUT I don’t think it’s made me a better mother, a stronger person, or given me any secret super powers (that I’m aware of – I could possibly be able to shoot lasers out of my vagina now though. I’ll keep you updated).
You bore me. That’s your superpower.
Obviously, this is just a personal opinion, but I think that if you’re going to give anyone a reward it should be to people who have their labor/contractions induced by Pitocin and then go on to have emergency C-sections after being in labor for 18 hours. We’re talking 90 second contractions, at full strength, peaking at 60 seconds. They occur every 2 minutes from the start. Even when you are dilated 2cm. And for the record, 2cm to 10cm can take a REALLY, REALLY long time.
And the difference between a Pitocin contraction and a regular contraction? SIGNIFICANT. I don’t care what anyone tells you, Pitocin does not parallel real labor. It takes it and makes it nasty. On Pitocin, my contractions radiated from my back, to my ribs, and then down my hips. I remember with both B & L being SO SORE the next day because I felt like someone was literally squeezing my entire midsection for hours on end. A real contraction (for me) did not involve my back OR ribs – but just my lower abdomen and later (when the baby was probably fully engaged) my hips. Real labor was insanely easier. And don’t even get me started on the C-section. That is MAJOR surgery. They take your organs out! To me, that is a MUCH MUCH braver experience to endure.
While I DEFINITELY think there are huge pros to having a drug-free birth, I also think think there are some huge pros for opting to medicate/get an epidural. And if you want one, DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. Here’s my breakdown…
- If they administer it correctly (and I found you REALLY have to communicate with the anesthesiologist on this – especially if you have scoliosis), the pain is minimal but you can still wiggle your toes, feel your legs, and feel the pressure of the contractions. I had an excellent epidural with Livie. I got it around 4:30pm (I was about 6cm at that point) and it completely took the edge off. I was able to relax my body a little bit and even rest before I started pushing.
- It you tear, you don’t know and you can’t feel the Dr. stitching you up. Sorry if this is somewhat graphic, but it’s the truth.
- Once you get the epidural, the nurse catheterizes you and you don’t have to worry about getting up to pee anymore. After spending countless weeks peeing more than once an hour, not having to worry about peeing is kinda the best.
- You can push a button for more drugs. Pushing buttons is fun.
- The huge needle. OK, so they don’t actually SHOW you the needle (at least I never saw it), but I know it huge and yes, it’s going in your back.
- Having contractions while GETTING the epidural. You’re supposed to sit still. Yeah, that’s easy.
- The “test” they do to make sure they didn’t screw anything up. FYI – if you hear a buzzing noise, it’s not a good thing.
- It’s not 100%. My epidural with Braeden sucked. It only partially worked and it was very left heavy (I almost rolled off the bed a few times). I felt all of my contractions, but thankfully did not feel any pain during delivery. Turns out this was due to my scoliosis.
- Once you get it, there’s no more getting out of bed.
- It makes me itchy. It’s a minor side effect but from what I’ve heard/read it’s pretty common.
- You have to wait for the numbing to subside before you can get out of bed. Obviously.
- Back pain and headaches can be common. The entry point of the epidural may also be sore.
- Postpartum recovery can take longer. They say the baby may not be as alert either (this was NEVER the case for me).
- Much quicker recovery – Despite tearing far worse this time around than any other birth, my recovery has been a lot faster. Obviously, I could get out of bed right away (though the nurse made me wait a little bit so that I didn’t just stand up and pass out due to pain, pressure, and blood loss), but there were other little things that I noticed that have made a huge difference in my recovery. It didn’t hurt as much to lay back in the bed, my body wasn’t as sore overall (this may be because it was also a Pitocin-free birth!), and the afterbirth pains were much more manageable. I also didn’t require as much pain meds after. Instead of taking Percocet or 800mg of Motrin, I was perfectly content with 600mg (I probably could have just gone with 400mg and been fine).
- Milk came in sooner – I’m not sure if this is 3rd time mom thing, but my milk started to come in during day 2. With both B & L it didn’t happen until at least day 4. This would have been a bigger pro if I hadn’t been stuck in the hospital for 2 extra days (engorgement SUCKS!), but Evan was almost up to his birthweight when we left on Wednesday. There were clearly NO weight issues going on with this guy!
- No swelling - While I don’t typically swell during pregnancy, I did come home with elephant ankles with B & L thanks to a combination of saline, Pitocin, and the epidural. When the nurses would come by to check on me for the first time one of the first things they noticed was that my legs weren’t swollen and then their next question would be, “You didn’t get an epidural, did you?”
- Less bleeding – I’m not sure if this because I didn’t get the epidural or because my delivery nurse, Gina, was BAD ASS (seriously, she was awesome – a perfect combination of “suck it up and you can do it” and empathy) and did a great job getting all of the gross disgusting postpartum stuff out of me, but I’ve had significantly less postpartum bleeding this go round.
- It freaking hurt. Duh. Although, it wasn’t JUST the pain. The pressure was difficult to handle as well. I kept thinking, “Why does it feel like I’m going to poop to this baby out??” (<–sorry TMI, but it’s the truth)
- The intensity was insane. I was really NOT mentally prepared for this kind of birth experience, so I might have felt differently if I was. But it just felt like every moment was an eternity and the loss of control was really challenging to deal with. I’m also slightly embarrassed about all of the screaming and crying I did. I know the nurses and Dr. are used to this kind of behavior, but I definitely felt the need to apologize a thousand times after all was said and done. Although, Dan WAS impressed that I wasn’t screaming expletives. Lol.
- There’s no slowing down the birth. Pushing is NECESSARY when you can feel your body ripping apart! Unfortunately, when you can’t control that pushing it leads to tearing and a very fast birth. This isn’t JUST challenging for me – but poor little Evan had all kinds of bruising on his forehead and eyes from coming out a little TOO fast. There was also that whole antibiotics issue, mostly because my active labor was so precipitous (not necessarily because it was unmedicated). With Livie, I had to wait about an hour for the Dr. to return to start pushing and I COULD because I all I felt was a little pressure. Her birth was pretty perfect.
Now, I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T aim have a drug-free birth if that’s what you are looking for. Hey, if that’s your thing – AWESOME. I definitely understand why some women chose this option. It IS how nature intended things to work and it leads to far less interventions and unnecessary c-sections – and obviously there are a lot of great pros. But, I’m kinda wary of hearing women brag about this decision like they deserve some kind of award. Labor and delivery is one day of motherhood. It doesn’t indicate what kind of mother you are capable of becoming. It doesn’t mean you are any stronger or any smarter.
This post is probably making people mad… just keep showing them cute pictures of me.
If I could go back in time last week and get to the hospital a little bit sooner would I get the epidural? Maybe… maybe not. It was an experience I never thought I would have and I can’t say I don’t appreciate it. It does give me a pretty insane birth story! Although, I do now think that people who plan for a drug-free birth might be insane. Or they might be smart, because they are definitely a million times more prepared to give birth than I was… But bottom line? Giving birth is not a race, a contest, or a badge of honor. It is an amazing and painful experience – no matter how you do it. And the only entitlement is gives you? The entitlement of being called “mom.” And that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
Medicated or drug-free birth — what was your experience? What’s your preference?