For some cosmic alignment oriented reason, I have come across or have been told a number of birth stories recently, which always understandably brings up my own story, of giving birth to Hootie. While most of my women friends either had c-sections or an epidural, I have been hearing a lot lately about women who endured childbirth sans drug intervention. I hear their stories, and there's generally speaking a lot of grueling labor, a lot of intense pain, exhaustion, sweating profusely, and being extremely proud afterwards, for their gigantic balls of steel. I have zero doubt in my mind that ALL of these women, any of which have endured drug-free childbirth, have enormous huevos. They all have tolerated what I have heard to be the biggest pain on the planet, closely followed by the root canal. And to every single one of them, I say, "Wow. You have balls of steel."
But why do it? I have never understood this. I know it is an intensely personal decision, whether or not to be medicated while a bowling-ball sized being is shoved through an oriface on your body normally the size of an olive. But I'm really curious about why it is so important to women who choose this route?
Clearly, I didn't choose this route. I never once set out to choose it; I didn't have any idea what I would want until the time I was delivering Hootie. I left it completely open, to go whichever way I felt would be right. I had assurances from my OB and the anesthesiologist that an epidural would not harm my child. So I felt as though it would be safe to choose either way.
On the day my water broke, two days before my due date, I already knew I would need to be going to the hospital right away. I had tested positive for Strep B, which meant that while traveling through the birth canal, Hootie was at risk for getting some of these Strep B germs (harmless to me) in her lungs, which would be extremely dangerous for her. Therefore, I was to be on two bags of antibiotics prior to delivery to protect her. And since I had already been dilated to 3 cm and 90% effaced for several weeks prior to this, I knew I needed to go in pretty much right away.
So, at 4 am when the water broke, in classic gusher piles on the floor fashion on the way to the bathroom, I calmly woke my husband and my Mama, who was sleeping in our guestroom, telling them it was time to get ready to go. Labor started, though did not hurt. I drove us all to the hospital in our truck - my Mama couldn't really get in the back part of the cab due to her rheumatoid arthritis, and I wasn't sitting in the back; so I drove, Mama sat up front, and my husband sat in the back. We arrived, got me hooked up to all sorts of monitors. I could feel the contractions pretty well, having to breathe through them and all that you hear about how to manage contractions. Things went on this way for several hours, and though it wasn't comfortable, I could deal with it.
I had a tiny bit of pitosin when I sat at 6 cm for a little bit, and then things sped up. At about 7 cm, they were checking me and also told me that the anesthesiologist was in our area with the epidural cart, if we wanted to take advantage of it. The nurse added that it could be up to 45 minutes from the time I decide I need it after she leaves, until she is able to get back to my room to administer it. I thought about it. I wasn't in excruciating pain, but I was getting a bit tired, the contractions were close together, and I had no idea how much longer the process ahead of me would be. So I said sure, let's go for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was in and out in about 10 minutes. The hardest part was holding completely still during a contraction for her to inject the needle. It didn't hurt, especially compared to the contraction.
Within minutes, my legs were moveable but numb. I couldn't feel anything but tightening when I had contractions. My Mama took a nap, I took a nap, and we waited until I was dilated to a 10, which was about an hour or so later. We had the mood music going on in the background, the husband and Mama had gotten a bite to eat. Everyone was laughing and joking. It was an extremely mellow situation, nothing like what you see on television.
My nurse, Elise, was managing two rooms at the time. Another nurse came on duty, and she had to choose which room to work in. She chose ours, because there were a "lot of really fucking intense people in that other room!" and we, well, we were laughing and making faces at each other.
So about 2:00, I got checked again. Dilated to a 10. Ready to push. The OB was called, and the nurse set my husband and Mama each on one side of me, to help support my legs while I pushed. They'd wait for a contraction, tell me to push, tell me when to stop, and we'd wait for another one. My husband and my mother were really frigging proud of themselves, because for a while, the nurse left the room and let them manage it all on their own. Finally the OB came in, and Hootie was born at 3:11 pm. The way I felt about that child is a story unto itself, and not the subject of this post. But I can definitely say this... although I know I could have had balls of steel and gone through it without the epidural, it afforded me a calm yet exhilerated experience of giving birth to my daughter. I was thrilled, I wasn't in agonizing pain, and I had enough energy to enjoy the experience and the time afterwards in which I could feed her and look every little part of her over. And for that, I am grateful to the epidural.
It's every woman's call, and some are staunchly in favor of one path over the other, some with a very organic snobbery that I find off-putting at times. Life gives us a million opportunities to show our moxie, our character, and our gigantic balls of steel. In this case, I chose to enjoy labor and delivery instead of suffering through it. I don't deny anyone their pleasure in their decision, but at times I think it would be far more gracious if the earthy no-drugs mamas out there were able to afford me the same courtesy.