Disclaimer: This post is not meant to judge. I think all choices we make as women are deeply personal, and I understand that all women labor differently. Have your baby at home, in a hospital, in the middle of a cornfield for all I care. I don’t care if you ask for an epidural the first time you feel a contraction, or you do the whole thing without so much as a Tylenol. I really don’t care what you do. This is just my story of deciding what’s right for me.
While I was trying to get pregnant, I never gave a single thought to labor and delivery. Who cares, right? If I get to that point I’ll be so grateful that I won’t care how the baby comes out.
Now, I find that I do care. The decisions I’m making now (and will make in the moments surrounding the birth of my child) are increasingly emotional and laden with signficant baggage other than just having a baby. If only it were that simple.
I considered a natural birth, but decided pretty quickly it wasn’t for me. I kept thinking about my second retrieval and the immense pain I suffered in the ER. I had never known pain like that before, and I’m sure this will be worse. I would have taken any pain medicine anywhere in my body to make that feeling go away.
If I tell myself I can get through this without any pain meds and then end up needing them, I will feel like an immense failure. So, a natural birth plan wasn’t in the cards for me.
I had no “birth plan” written down (seemed too arrogant to me – too much like tempting fate). But if I had written one it would have gone like this: Labor as much as possible at home. Go to the hospital when contractions have been 5 minutes apart for an hour. Labor with birthing ball and position changes until I can’t handle the pain anymore, get IV drugs, labor some more, push, have the baby. I wasn’t planning on an epidural, but I wasn’t opposed to one, either.
I saw it on a scale like this: Natural Childbirth – IV pain meds – epidural. Somewhere in the middle seemed great for me.
Last night, in our second class, we learned all about the different pain management options. That’s when I learned that my hospital stops the IV pain meds at 6cm, so you don’t give birth to a sleepy baby with shallow respiration. The epidural doesn’t affect the baby at all.
So my whole “plan” went out the window – I want the pain meds for the really hard part, the last few centimeters and the pushing. I never wanted them for the early part. So, I kind of gave up on the IV medicine option.
Which left me with natural childbirth (which I had already ruled out) and epidural.
I sat there in mental anguish for about 30 minutes. I thought I didn’t want an epidural. I didn’t want to “give up”, “cop out”, feel numb from the waist down, institutionalize the birthing process, etc, etc.
I was surprised that when the epidural seemed, objectively, like the best option to me, especially since I could decide when I got it, I was so heartbroken by the idea of having one.
What it boiled down to was this: I felt like I would be less of a woman if I got the epidural. Because I should be able to handle the pain for the sake of my baby.
That’s when a lightbulb clicked in my head: I have already handled a lot of pain for the sake of this baby. I had an HSG that made my uterus spasm and I felt like I was being ripped apart. I had a laparoscopy. I had two retrievals. I had OHSS and my body was wracked with pain, combined with a bad reaction to anesthesia that made me alternate between vomiting and fainting.
I was trying to tell myself I could do without the epidural because I’m a strong woman.
But I have already proven to myself that I am a strong woman.
I am a strong woman who is planning to labor for as long as she can without an epidural, and then (most likely) get one.
I am a strong woman who is also flexible, who understands – all too well - that things do not always go as we plan.
I am a strong woman who is also humble: None of my plans trump the baby’s plans. If he’s breech, or too small, or in distress, they will cut him out of me, and I will not let that make me feel like a failure.
I am a strong woman who will be a good mother no matter how my baby is delivered into this world.
And you, all of you who read my blog, whether you have your baby in a cornfield or on a surgical bed with general anesthesia, whether you adopt or use a surrogate or decide not to have children – you are all strong women too. : )