months years leading up to having my son, I decided I wanted to try a natural birth. I thought, ‘What is the worst that could happen? I’m unable to do it, they drug me up, or cut me open,’ right? So why not try! But the more I researched how to go about planning for a med-free, unassisted, all-natural birth, the more convinced I became that it was the only option for me, and not for the reasons I expected. My biggest reasons…
That sounds a little backwards, I’m sure. Most first time moms are scared of natural labor; I was scared of the idea of an epidural. I am not squeamish at needles or injections but I do not like the idea of being numb. I cannot stand when my foot falls asleep. I get a little panicked and frantically do anything to get feeling back into the dead limb. When I had shoulder surgery, I said “No, thank you” to a nerve block because when I came to, I did not want any numbness. I wanted to feel my body and know I was in control of it. I was more afraid of that loss-of-control-feeling than the pain the doctors promised I would have. So when the time came, I decided on no epidural for childbirth. The thought of not being able to feel my lower half or get up and walk or being out of control petrified me. Actually, being out of control in any situation makes me queasy. Call me a control freak, I call myself the boss. I have heard some moms say that they were still able to feel their legs and move around a fair amount with an epidural and that it just dulled the pain into pressure. I cannot say for sure what it would have been like for me, but my fear of worst-case pushed me to med-free.
A year before getting pregnant, I began to take pride in my body. I ate healthy and exercised regularly, as I’ve said before in The Skinny. This healthy journey taught me to trust my body. It got me more in tune with my abilities and my limitations and taught me to push those limitations to the point of changing them. Natural birth presented itself just like any physical challenge and I wanted to master it. I know, “You do not get a trophy” and all that, but they do not give out trophies for climbing Mt. Everest either and yet, people still do it. I did it to show the world I could. I did it to prove to myself that I was strong enough. I did it to force myself to trust my body to the greatest extent. I did not get a trophy but I got some pretty sick bragging rights! Every nurse who came into my room after the birth of my son knew I had gone med-free and they congratulated me and told me how impressed they were. They told me I was strong and brave. This made my competitive-athlete side so proud. I had climbed my Mt. Everest. And actually, my trophy was wrapped in a receiving blanket in my arms.
I was legitimately worried about what the drugs would do to me or my newborn boy. I know they are deemed safe by medical professionals and are highly recommended but I read too much. I read about the possibility of feeling foggy, out-of it, and distant – all the things I did not want to feel when I met my son for the first time. I also worried about what an epidural might lead to. Again with the reading too much, but so many stories start with an epidural and end in emergencies C-sections. Epidurals cause muscles to relax and not feel, this includes uterine muscles which are working hard to push out that tiny creature. They relax and labor slows or stops. The medical professional administers Pitocin to restart and strengthen the contraction but this leads to more pain and more epidural drugs and thus more relaxing. Suddenly mom’s body is caught in a viscous cycles of trying to rest but also working hard (I imagine it would feel like having taken Nyquil while at a dance party. You just want to pass out, but you can’t!) and she cannot feel it, but baby can. His heart rate is effected every time the muscles contract against him but mom is not able to work with the contractions that she cannot feel to move baby along. This cycle goes on and on until doctors label the baby “in distress” or tell mom it has been going on too long and nothing is progressing, (you know, because her muscles just want to relax, thanks to the drugs) and she is rushed off to be sectioned. Yes, her end result is most often the same as mine – a healthy baby, a sore body, and congratulations all around. But that experience was everything I wanted to avoid. This was my worry – ridiculous or not.
Would I choose it again?
Absolutely! I do not actually remember the pain as vividly as I thought I would but I do remember what I said. Someone asked me the next day how it was and I remember saying something along the lines of, “It hurt like holy hell. If someone could have assured me the exact same outcome and experience just without the pain, I’d definitely take it! This was stupid!” And I meant it. I would like to meet the mama ready to go again only 24 hour after a med-free birth, or any birth for that matter! But now, over a year later, I would definitely trust myself to do it again.