I got an epidural AFTER the baby was born.
Yep. You read that right. It all started when I saw that magical, digital word… “Pregnant.” In that moment, I became a control freak mother. I always imagined that I would get an epidural if I was fortunate enough to have a baby, but a switch flipped when I became pregnant.
I was considering the possibility of having an unmedicated birth.
I was reading midwifery literature, watching water birth documentaries and YouTube videos, and starting to realize my own strength as a woman. The biggest positive aspect of having a baby with no pain medicine that stood out for me personally is that I would be in control of my body. I would be able to move around freely and not have to watch a monitor to tell me when I was or wasn’t having a contraction. I had set my mind to it, and I was going to push through.
I had a conversation with my OBGYN about the kind of birth I wanted, and she was completely honest and told me that I wasn’t going to have the experience I was looking for through her. There would be no access to a tub and that was important for me to help me through labor pain. She recommended I hire midwives, and that’s exactly what I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of checking in with them and how nurtured I felt throughout my pregnancy.
Now there I was, 1 week past due, and so ready to meet my daughter. Active labor finally started and, wow! That pain shifted from really painful menstrual cramps to feeling like I was being whipped by electric eels. Still, though, I had prepared for this and my pain had a purpose. I do think at one point I astral projected because there are vivid memories of seeing myself from above. (I kid, I kid.) After an hour and a half of pushing, my stunning daughter was born in the water. It was peaceful, a huge relief and about 5 minutes shy of me shouting, “I can’t do this anymore, give me all the drugs!!” We cuddled in the water for a few moments, and then she was whisked off in my husband’s arms so that I could deliver my placenta.
I laid there, waiting, and waiting. No one was too alarmed just yet, but I could see that my midwife was starting to tense up a bit. We were trying to coax my placenta out by tugging on the umbilical cord when: pop! It came off. I knew this probably wasn’t a good thing.
The backup doctor was called, and I was braced for some “discomfort.”
I was administered pain meds through a shot, but it didn’t kick in by the time the doctor got there. I’ll spare the details, but I’ll just say for the doctor to have to retrieve my placenta with his hand, the word “discomfort” doesn’t quite cover it. I may have been a little disoriented and traumatized but I was out of the woods and thrilled to be a new mom.
I developed a thyroid condition after having my daughter, which made me high risk for my next pregnancy. This time, I wanted a doctor by my side. They monitored me closely my entire second pregnancy, and I was told that if I didn’t go into labor naturally by my due date, they would need to induce. I couldn’t have access to a tub this time because I would be hooked up to monitors and a Pitocin drip. I still wasn’t entertaining the idea of getting an epidural. I’m nothing if not stubborn! My doctor and I came up with a plan in case my placenta got stuck again. She said if worse comes to worst, I could get an epidural after the baby was born. It seemed unlikely that it would happen again, but she knew I was hell-bent on having the baby unmedicated, and wanted to assure me that she was not going to let what happened the first time happen again.
Well… worse came to worst.
After an induced, unmedicated labor, my son was born. And we waited; and waited… again. In all the years my doctor has delivered babies, this had never happened. I had an adherent placenta after delivering both of my babies but this time, we were prepared. She had the anesthesiologist on standby and in the nick of time, I was hooked up to that glorious pain relief, the placenta was out and my baby boy was in my arms.
I don’t tell this story to scare people. (Although, it is kind of fun to see the looks on their faces.) It is my cautionary tale.
When it comes to labor and delivery, you should expect the unexpected.
The problem is, we can fall into the birth story comparison trap. After delivering my daughter, I remember feeling so defeated seeing pictures of friends walking around immediately after having their babies. Now I realize that I should have been grateful I made it through her birth (pretty much) unscathed because it could have gone horribly wrong. It’s smart to have a firm birth plan in place but if things go awry, we should give ourselves some grace.