I gave birth to my daughter Alexandra Kate earlier this month. During my entire pregnancy, I planned on having a completely natural, medication-free delivery. I wanted to be superwoman and to prove to myself that I was stronger than I thought I was.
I did a lot of research and read tons of blog posts full of advice from moms who had natural births. I created music playlists for labor, bought special headphones, brought an oil diffuser to the hospital to use during labor, bought a birthing ball, and created birth affirmation cards.
I had it all planned out. I wasn’t going to lie down during labor. I wanted to walk the halls, or at least labor next to the hospital bed. And when it came time to push, I was going to do that outside of the bed, off my back. It was all perfectly planned out in my mind…until I started having contractions.
I had contractions for twenty hours before going to the hospital. They were very irregular and weren’t “stop you in your tracks” painful like the doctor said they would be if I was in labor. When I finally decided to go into the hospital, I was having pretty painful contractions that were a minute apart but only lasting thirty seconds.
I had to be hooked up to monitors for two hours before they could decide whether to admit me. After the first hour, I was only dilated 1.5cm (I was 1cm at my OBGYN appointment earlier that day). The second hour was extremely painful. By the time they checked me at the end of that second hour, I had thrown up six times and had dilated to 4cm.
During this time, my suitcase full of all of my coping mechanisms was sitting out in our car in the parking lot. Why would I bring in my luggage if they were just going to send me home (or so I thought)?
When the nurse prepared to move me into my own labor room, she asked if I wanted to get prepped for an epidural. Without hesitation I said, “YES!”
In that moment, and really the hours that followed, it never crossed my mind that my entire birth plan was being thrown out the window. All I could think about was how much I wanted the pain to stop. And actually, I expected the pain to last through the night, for several more hours.
I was told during our hospital tour a few months earlier that in order to get an epidural, you have to be hydrated via IV for an hour prior to the epidural being administered. With that in mind, I had planned to get hydrated if I thought I might need one and then hopefully have the strength to back out of administering it. But I never once thought about backing out when I was actually in the moment. I just impatiently waited for the pain to go away.
It sounds kind of stupid, but I completely forgot about the fact that I would be stuck in the bed after getting an epidural and would have to use stirrups and lie on my back to give birth. This is something I did not want. So, I was a little surprised when they pulled out the stirrups as they prepared me to start pushing. But there was no other way at that point.
Before long, Alexandra was born. I got to spend a few minutes with her before they took her aside. They found she was hypoxic and had fluid in her lungs preventing her from breathing well. This was likely due to me having an epidural and being hooked to an IV. She spent the first four hours of her life in the special care nursery rather than with us.
These four hours were supposed to be spent having kangaroo care, nursing within the first hour, and giving her first bath. None of that happened. In fact, I didn’t get a chance to really spend quality skin-to-skin time with her until we got home from the hospital.
I also failed to mention that when I was admitted, it was shortly after midnight, and I gave birth to her at 3:30am. I was in active labor for slightly over three hours. It took an hour for me to be hydrated prior the epidural being administered and then close to an hour for my right side to finally become numb (they had to adjust the positioning of the epidural). If I had known I would progress so quickly and also have so little time “pain-free,” I probably could have held out and had a natural birth.
Oh, and I didn’t mention how badly I tore due to not being able to feel a single thing below my waist while pushing. I don’t remember the medical terms they gave my tears, all I know is they were big, bad, internal, and external. And every time a nurse would brief the nurse taking over during a shift change, they would respond with “Oh honey. You poor thing!” This was super reassuring (not) as I wondered what my recovery would be like once I was released.
It’s easy to beat myself up about “giving in” or “being weak.” Maybe my labor would have gone even faster if I hadn’t gotten an epidural. Maybe I wouldn’t have missed my baby’s first four hours of life. Maybe I wouldn’t have torn so badly. The what-ifs are endless.
If you had a similar experience where you intended to have a completely natural birth but gave in to medications or threw your birth plan out the window, you may be feeling the same way.
It’s important to remember that you are strong. Contractions are no joke and childbirth is no joke. I remember looking over at my husband after a bad contraction and saying “People who get epidurals are NOT weak.”
You have to stop and realize that you brought a human being into the world. That’s insane and definitely not an easy task.
Also, I remind myself that since I didn’t have any pain while I was pushing, I was able to fully focus on what was going on around me. I felt so much relief after the pain was gone and had a whole new wave of energy.
Yes, I had tears, but I was already numb when it was time for my stitches. I also didn’t notice a thing when the midwife delivered my placenta. I felt no pain during my tears and I didn’t have any pain immediately after the birth.
I may never know if my epidural caused my baby to become hypoxic or whether that would have happened regardless. All I can say is, she is here, she is healthy, and that’s all that really matters.
If you’re like me and “failed” at a natural birth, remember you’re strong, you’re not a failure, and having a healthy baby is really all that ultimately matters.
Originally published at convergeblog.com