Playing God

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I was reading Jonniker's birth story (she just had a baby and this photo made me cry instantaneously) and then she started talking epidurals and I began thinking about the boys' deliveries.

I did not want an epidural with Liam because I thought I was a super hardcore street chick and I could power through the pain. Just - no. OMG. I think at one point during a contraction I gripped Chris's hand so tight his bones bent like reeds and I growled through my teeth "I THINK THIS BABY HATES ME." I was in labor for 13 hours, thirteen long hours, and Liam decided midway through labor that he just up and didn't want to come out. Then they put me on pitocin which is Latin for "will blow your lady business off." Chris wisely stopped saying things like "breathe through the pain" because all I wanted to do was punch the pain in the face. As the contractions tore me apart several floating heads revolved around each other in my mind, faces of my grandmother, the old lady at church, and other women who told me I was CRAZY to attempt a birth sans drugs.

And then there was the episiotomy which is also Latin and means CUT, PAIN, BLEED, OMG, SCREAM. I screamed so loud and at such a weird frequency that when you watch the birth video? Which we've only done once? My scream SHAKES THE PICTURE. Not like someone with an unsteady hand would shake it - it oscillated. I was that woman. I felt badly about it, until I realized that not everyone has the same pain and perhaps I could handle another woman's pain whereas she might not be able to manage mine.

I really tried to be cool about the whole pain thing in front of the hospital staff, I really did, I tried my best, but at some point it felt like I was splitting apart like a wishbone and I just could not deal with it. Because of this my labor slowed and Liam was stressed and he accidentally swallowed some meconium. They had to pump his itty bitty belly to get it out before he cried and while they did that Chris watched in horror, his face completely drained of color, as the hospital staff worked to stop my bleeding and stitch me up. I yelled at him to GO, stand by our baby, as I had ceased to care what happened to my body at that point. (They had trouble stopping my bleeding and I lost a lot of blood, commotion, drama, blah, blah, I was too involved in staring at Liam to care.) He screamed until they put him in my arms and then we both were silenced for we were home. 

Afterwards, as I sat on my little hemhorrids pillow and proclaimed Tucks to be the best invention ever, I vowed to never go au naturale again. It works for some. Not for me.

I had an epidural with Ewan as soon as I possibly could and it was the most awesome thing ever in the history of the world. Prior to that, though, the L&D nurse with hands the size of Texas was charged with checking my dilation progress and I felt like a Thanksgiving turkey. I SLEPT through my contractions. Literally. They rolled my hoss figure over and I held Chris's hand and he played with my hair as I slept.
 
They say that babies get still before delivery but not Ewan. He squirmed and fought all the way out. As they paused delivery to suck out his nose he opened his eyes and glared at the hospital staff. He was the crabbiest baby ever, albeit precious and lovable. He didn't cry, he just yelled.

"MWHA!"

They'd weigh him, he'd yell. They'd swaddle him, he'd yell. He yelled at them when they tried to put his little hat on; he yelled at them again when they bathed him, again when they put his hospital bracelet on; finally they put him in my arms and he stared at me and then raised his eyebrows. I laughed, he yelled at me, and then we went to sleep.

I felt like Gumby trying to shake off that epidural and Nurse Texas literally had to prop me up on the loo and it didn't help that I laughed hysterically the entire time. Sure there was pain after the epidural wore off, but I felt better both physically and emotionally. I had actually enjoyed my labor. I didn't try to power through it just to get the pain over with; I actually felt that the absence of pain helped my sense of awareness. I was able to relax between pushes and focus on my baby being born and not the hellfire that was my Unspeakable Region.

I actually looked forward to labor. I once wrote that I disliked being pregnant, at which certain women felt the need to get snippy. What they didn't know was how hard pregnancy was on me, the severe dehydration because I was deathly - as in nearly bedridden - ill nearly the entire duration of my first pregnancy and for the first trimester of the second. The weight loss because I couldn't keep anything down, the severe dark circles under my eyes, my anemia; it was NOT a walk in the park and at times I was so sick I wanted to die. We actually considered not having subsequent children because of it. I did look forward to labor because I knew that in a few hours' time there would be another person on Earth by my doing. It's the closest you get to playing God.

I haven't completely ruled out going through it for a third time.

16 Comments

If our child had been a boy, we would have named him after the anesthesiologist. I can't imagine ever choosing not to have the epidural. Why put yourself through that, ladies? As my husband always says, "That's why God, in his infinite wisdom, invented pharmaceuticals."

Holy Crap! Is that blood on her gown in the photo? WTF is that about? I think I'm officially freaked out about ever getting pregnant, wow.

Dana,

I am due with my first babe in 25 days.

Thank you for scaring the bejeezus out of me. :) I, too, want to go "natural" as long as possible. I will probably be remembering this post as my lady parts are torn in two, thinking, "Why didn't I listen to Dana!?!?!"

Pray for me, please. :)

Until that last paragraph, I thought for SURE this was going to be a big announcement!

Oh, and you can't blame Chris for saying "breathe through the pain," because that's what they tell us to do in the birthing classes!

We're COACHES! Which, of course, gives some credibility to the idea that those who can't do, teach.

I had epidurals with both of my boys (the latter born only 6 weeks ago!) and I have to say that I wouldn't have had it any other way. I watched TV, checked my email on my iPhone, napped -- all through horrid contractions (I was induced both times -- Pitosin is crazy). My reasoning is this: you've already suffered through 9 months of nausea, vomiting, swelling, weight gain, back aches, etc., why suffer through labor as well?

Madame Darla is gazing into her crystal ball...she sees that you will have your third baby within the next two years....a girl.

i had the EXACT same two experiences!!!!!!!!

Great post! We're on our 3rd baby and one of the most important lessons I have learned through Labor and Delivery is that everyone's experiences are vastly different. Some can tolerate pain, some really do need the epidural in order to have a positive memorable birth experience.

One way doesn't trump the other. I have gone au natural and LOVED it and had an epidural and HATED it. (The thought of that needle sinking into my back still makes me want to vomit. BLECH)

It's each person's own preference. As for being chided for pregnancy . . . it's definitely not a walk in the park for some of us.

I love the women who have enjoyable pregnancies because they take the pressure off me so then I am free to bask in my discomfort. The ladies who seem to coast through pregnancy truly should be on billboards so people like me don't scare others from having children.

My mom is an OB/Gyn. Regarding natural childbirth she says "there is nothing natural about going through that sort of pain if you don't have to. I'm scheduling your epidural." *grin* I can't imagine that I'd be one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. I don't really enjoy sharing my bed, I can't imagine that I'd be filled with pleasure at sharing my body. I suspect that I too, would look forward to labor. With drugs.

I wonder sometimes if I would have the balls to have another pregnancy if I experienced the sort of difficult pregnancy that some women have. I've been very lucky this go around. Women like you, who have difficult pregnancies and difficult labors and still go on to do it again?

Are my superheroes.

I'm so glad that I read this post as I'm expecting my first child in August and I've been considering our birth plan. I've always hoped that I could go all natural, but the more blogs I read that mention the "splitting like a wishbone" the more I'm looking at the epidural!

For prospective moms, join the forums at www.mothering.com and check out the birth stories. They are many and varied.

For me, labor was only one day and MUCH easier than 280 days of pregnancy.

I had no epidural, no tears, no episiotomy, no stitches, thanks to a small baby with perfect presentation and birth attendants who knew how to minimize/prevent tears.

My biggest fears were: Pitocin, epidural, and having boobs bigger than my head. The first two didn't happen but I went to bed a 36C and woke up a 40 DD two days after the birth. Ow. I got mastitis and didn't even notice at first because the boobs were hurting so much.

Bottom line - Motherhood ain't for sissies.

I really enjoyed natural childbirth, being able to walk around afterwards, and the birth high I had (that I really beleive the drugs mask).

I don't tisk any mom who has the epi, but I'll take the pain along with the empowered feeling of being in control of my body. Once you're numbed on that bed, you're putty in the dr's hands (literally).

I don't look at it as suffering though... makes me a little sad it's been painted that way.

Dana,

Months after reading this, the brutalization and abuse you were subjected to at your first birth is still bothering me. I bet you were up in a bed laboring without the ability to move freely. I'm here to tell you that I could not have done an unmedicated birth if I were restricted to a bed. Laboring women need to move around at will.

Your episiotomy is another horror story. I would have sued that doctor. Episiotomy is usually just ritual mutilation. And to be subjected to one like you were is simply assault. If you decide on another baby, look for a provider who doesn't do them routinely. They are only done because doctors like to do them - they don't help the mother and baby any, except in extreme cases like breech birth, etc.

You may be one of thos people who needs the epidural--I'm not judging. If you're not a big reader, read Ricki Lake's book and see her film. Also, viewing the documentary "Orgasmic Birth" will give you new perspectives.

But I strongly suggest you do some homework if you're thinking about another pregnancy - I have just started the new blog listed above to provide resources of books, films, and eventually websites so women can choose the providers and settings that will give them a good birth, without the assault and brutalization. Here it is again: http://funbirth.blogspot.com.

You are fierce in defending your kids - time to get fierce in defending yourself against institutionalized brutalization.

Better luck next time!

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