Sunday, August 28, 2005


I've noticed an interesting pattern among friends and acquaintances who are having babies these days. It seems like almost everyone says "yes" to the epidural as soon as the second pink line shows up on the test. Which in itself is perfectly fine - I'm not going to criticize women who choose a medicated birth. It's their body and their choice to make. Everyone needs to do what she feels most comfortable with.

My issue comes in here - almost everyone (at least among those I know) who opts for the epidural ends up with a c-section. Earlier this month two friends of mine each had their first baby within a week of each other. Each opted for an epidural to help her with the pain. Each pushed for an extended length of time, but was unable to push the baby out, and each had to have a c-section in the end.

My (oh-so-scientific) theory goes like this: if you can't feel what or where you are pushing, can the pushing really be as effective as it might otherwise be? You know, when the midwife pokes you in the perineum and says "Push here," how do you know where to push if you can't feel your ass? It seems to me like the ability to sense the baby moving down, and to feel the progress being made with each push can be very helpful for a successful vaginal delivery. Maybe the pain is really there to help you and guide you...

Now, before anyone thinks I'm some sort of saint or martyr, let me just say that I may well be the biggest wimp I've ever met. I cursed, shouted, and pleaded my way through 18 hours of unmedicated labor, and it wasn't even by choice. I was ineligible for an epidural due to a nonexistent platelet count*. So I sucked it up because I had no choice. It wasn't fun, or pretty. But, in the end, I had a successful "normal" delivery. And I'm so grateful that, for whatever reason, I didn't need a c-section.

Maybe these friends of mine didn't mind having surgery. I, myself, however, have a mortal fear of knives and needles, and would have totally panicked if I had to have surgery. It hurts when they cut you open! And you have scars!

The upshot of all this is that, even if I am "allowed" to get an epidural this time, I'm not going to take it. Looking back on it, I actually kind of enjoyed my birth experience. I don't want to risk having a c-section if I don't have to**. Besides, there's something sort of empowering about knowing that you can endure some of the worst pain life can throw at you without cracking. I like knowing that my body, while not manifestly beautiful, is capable of producing miracles.

*Did you know that if you have no platelets, and they stick a needle into your spine, you can bleed out into your spinal column and become paralyzed?

**And who knows... maybe there's no connection whatsoever, and it was just a coincidence. Or I have very unlucky friends.

***This may well be the most poorly organized and written posts I've put up in a while. Sorry - very distracted here. Please ignore.


Julie said...

I'm with you; epidurals are scary. I was very much against having one when the Hobbit was born. The hospital where I delivered actually prefers intra-thecal (sp?) morphine to an epidural, though. I wasn't sure whether I'd want that either, but in the end I took it and it worked out really well.

I guess it wouldn't have been an option for you, since it still involves a needle in your back. For us, it was perfect. I got to rest for a few hours, but I could still feel the contractions and my legs (bonus!). It wore off before I hit transition, so pushing wasn't a problem. It probably wouldn't have been, anyway, since the morphine doesn't numb anything.

The only drawback was that I was sick afterwards.

So, that's my story. As for you, aren't second labors supposed to be faster and easier? You'll be golden! :)

Amy said...

I'm not a good candidate for an epidural either (I have low blood pressure), so it's a good thing I want to stay the heck away from epidurals.

I don't think the epi/csec connection is a coincidence either. I figure that if you're stuck in bed with an epi, it's got to be harder to progress (seeing as how you're not working with gravity by being upright and walking around). Plus, agreeing to an epi is often the first step in agreeing to a whole slew of interventions, which often cause a baby distress, which causes a sudden need for a csection.

I've known people who had three perfect Pit-inductions with epis that were thrilled with their experiences, but it definitely doesn't work that well for a lot of people.

And I'm with Julie on the second labor=fast and easier plan. My mom's first labor was 48 hours and second was 4--I'm hoping to follow those footsteps.

Jane said...

Yay for quick and easy second labors! I'm shooting for 6 hours this time. Last time, it took me 11 hours to get from 1 cm to 2 cm, and then only 7 hours to get from 2 cm to wet sticky baby. So, my goal is 6 hours, start to finish, no epidural. And more time in the jacuzzi this time! I love that thing!