Most who know me see me as a planner and someone who is extremely detailed oriented in most areas of my life; however, I never really had a birth plan. My “plan” was simply to go to the hospital and deliver a healthy baby. That, and I knew I’d want some form of pain medication.
Backing up a bit, I still remember in my childbirth class when each pregnant mama had to rate on a scale of 1-10 what she desired for her birth as far as pain management. One being 100% natural birth and 10 being fully medicated (i.e. epidural at the soonest possible opportunity). I think I said an eight. I knew I would be taking that epidural eventually.
However, I was taken aback when every other women said five or less. What?! That might have been my first brush with mom guilt. Was I going about this process all wrong, I wondered? But later in the day the spunky midwife/childbirth educator with the British accent put me at ease:
“Don’t try to be a hero. No matter how you do it, at the end of it all, everyone goes home with a baby.”
Fast forward to my due date. I was taking a couple of vacation days from work, hoping baby would decide to come on schedule. I was laying on my couch reading (remember, before kids, when you could do that peacefully in the middle of the day?!) and got up around 11 a.m. to take a shower. It was then that my water broke…sort of. It wasn’t the obvious water break I had heard about from others. So at first I wasn’t even certain as to what was happening. It wasn’t until after I showered and was still feeling what I imagined feels like losing some bladder control that I told my husband, “I think my water might have broken.” With that, I called the hospital and they told us to come in.
Going into labor ON my due date? This was my best case scenario playing out in front of me. I had been planning around this date for months! We got all checked in and discovered I was already having contractions, but just not feeling them. Awesome, I thought to myself; I’m in labor already and I don’t even feel anything! (I now laugh at my pre-motherhood self regularly.)
At 7 p.m. I was given Pitocin to move things along. I had heard Pitocin makes the contractions worse than natural contractions, but I was not interested in going home, and besides, I was going to get pain medication, remember? With that, things began to progress, and by the time the clock struck midnight, I was miserable. But there was the lingering thought in my mind placed there by those “others”…”The ‘right’ way is to do it without the epidural. I should wait until it’s really, really bad to decide.” Instead, I agreed to take a lesser pain med orally, which didn’t seem to help at all, but was quickly followed by nausea and a huge headache on top of the contractions. In hindsight I would have skipped whatever they gave me and gone straight for the epidural. I would have stuck with what was in my gut from the first time I thought about giving birth.
My epidural came just over an hour later after my nurse pulled the anesthesiologist’s cart into my room before he could tend to any other laboring mamas waiting for an epidural. God bless her, I was (and am) so thankful for that needle in my back. Once it took effect, I could still tell when contractions were happening, but it wasn’t painful–just pressure.
The next few hours were a waiting game. I did not sleep a single minute though, despite my fairly relaxed state. I consider it the beginning of severe sleep deprivation that lasted nearly 6 months. (And I don’t just mean having to wake up multiple times a night–I mean almost no sleep.)
6 a.m. It’s time to push! Let’s do this. So I did…for one hour…then two…then a third. At some point I started freaking out that the baby was not making his move and I remember needing an oxygen mask and the nurse telling my husband, “You need to help her stay calm and breathe.”
Just before the three hour mark of pushing, the doctor said episiotomy. There would be stitches to heal from now, too, but it was better than coming this far only to do a C-section, I guess. At 8:51 a.m., Connor David entered the world. His 8 pound body was placed on my chest and my first thought and observation was, “Oh my gosh, he looks like me!” (A surreal moment for a first-time mom, yet completely ironic because it was a very long time after that before I again noticed any resemblance between us!)
Between the episiotomy and a severely bruised tailbone, I struggled to go from standing to sitting and vice versa for months, but I don’t believe it could have been avoided. And I now know time does heal these childbirth wounds.
I do not regret my epidural. It was the right decision. And as that midwife had reminded me a couple months before, I did indeed leave the hospital with a healthy baby boy. When it was time to birth my second baby two and a half years later, it wasn’t even a question–epidural, please!
As a planner without much of a birth plan, I was and am happy with my birth story. My postpartum story is a little more complicated, but nevertheless hugely instrumental in the mom–the person–I am today. So for that, I am thankful. And now, that baby boy who made me a mama and gave me a major crash course in motherhood heads to kindergarten in the fall! So very worth it!