Labor Pains: My Natural Birth Made Me Appreciate My Epidural
I was never against the drugs. Drugs, I thought, were for other people. For people who could tolerate long needles shoved up their spinal cords. For people who didnâ€™t mind being confined to a bed. I didnâ€™t have something to prove when I opted for a natural birthâ€”I was just deeply afraid of doctor intervention. Now, I know this makes little sense when comparing the level of pain one endures during the dreaded ring of fireâ€”the agonizing sensation that occurs when your baby stretches your vagina to its capacityâ€”but there is a difference between the fear of the unknown and the fear of needles.
I opted for the unknown.
My motherâ€™s own birth story probably had something to do with my decision as well. Drugged up on scopolamine, my mother didnâ€™t remember giving birth to me in 1971. When she woke up from the drugs, her first words as a new mother were: â€œDid I have a baby?â€
My au natural decision lead me to a birth plan that included rocking, dancing, panting, a tub, endless midwife attention and music streaming through the room. My sonâ€™s delivery would be a labyrinth, said the doula who lead my birthing class. â€œSome women even howl like wolves,â€ she said.
But after my water brokeâ€”it coincided with a contraction that felt like someone whacked my belly with an anvilâ€”I didnâ€™t expect to be pummeled with excruciating back. The contractions were so overwhelming that I couldnâ€™t speak.
Once we got to the hospital, I dropped to all fours. I howled like a coyote on acid.
â€œAm I five centimeters yet?â€ I asked the nurse between contractions. My breath short and shaky, as if I had run five miles.
â€œI just checked you,â€ she said. â€œYou were only three.â€
I begged her to check again.
Five centimeters meant I could climb in the tub. The tub would magically alleviate all the pain. Like an epidural, it would wash over me. This is what they told me.
Hereâ€™s the truth. The tub was lovely. But it did not, I repeat, did not, take away the pain. I rocked myself back and forth in the water while a team of people (midwife, mother, ex-husband) took turns rubbing my back and sprinkling water over my shoulders for about an hour and a half.
And then what can only be described as a cement block, otherwise known as my babyâ€™s skull, attempted to split my vagina in two in a wild rage of energy.
â€œI feel his head, oh my God, I feel his head!â€ I screamed.
My midwife reached down between my legs and confirmed it. â€œYep. Thatâ€™s his head.â€ she said, calmly. â€œDrain the tub.â€ (That particular hospital wouldnâ€™t allow a tub birth.)