I Did It My Way … Both Times!
My journey into parenthood began over a plate of rice and beans. I know that some women say that they feel like their journey began when they saw the pink stick, but pregnancy brought out a part of me I did not always care for, so I like to say my real journey into mommyville started when the contractions got stronger over the fried ice cream. My husband and I were eating out at a Mexican restaurant when labor started, so we finished dinner and went home to see if they would quiet down. But it was my son’s due date, so I was relieved that he had decided to be punctual. We went home, rolled on the exercise ball for a while, called the soon-to-be-grandparents to let them know, and watched some Friends episodes to take my mind off of the pain. As if that could really help.
Like any couple new to this, we went into the hospital when I thought it was getting pretty rough, only to be told I was only at three centimeters and it was going to take awhile. We swayed, rolled, crouched, sat in the tub, and then my little guy decided he was going to move, and not in a good way. Now if you have had back labor, you know what I am about to say, and if you haven’t, count your blessings. Back labor is stabbing pain in your lower back that doesn’t really let up; back labor is having your 200 pound husband practically stand on your lower back to counteract the contractions without much relief; back labor is when you, or at least when I, called for the epidural. This really surprised me. My entire pregnancy, I was the epitome of organic. I tried to eat only organic, grass fed, free range everything. So naturally I was going to have this baby au naturale. Plus, being a survivor in my earlier years of some pretty serious IBS stomach issues, I really wondered if labor was as bad as people said. What was my threshold of pain? I have to say that before the back labor started, the contractions hurt, but they weren’t killing me. The back labor put the nail in the coffin and I asked for the drugs. In the moment, my husband, my wonderful and reasonable husband, said it’s okay to take the drugs. You aren’t a bad mother. So I said yes.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, epidurals are the most common pain relief during pregnancy, with more than 50% of women in labor using them. Statistics say that the numbers vary by hospital but some hospitals use epidurals in more then 75% to 90% of births. So I am certainly not alone in my decision. In fact, plenty of women arrive at the hospital and ask for epidurals to begin with, before any pain has even started. And after the 45 minute wait for Mr. Anesthesiologist, which, with back labor is too long, everything went numb. Six hours later, I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
Now fast-forward to child number two. It was the end of June, hot, and I’m larger than I have ever been. This pregnancy once again did not bring out the best in me. But at 4:00 p.m. one afternoon, a contraction hit, and I thought it was a false alarm. She couldn’t be early; I couldn’t be that lucky. So, we called the hospital and they said we should come in just in case we were wrong. Fifty minutes later, we found out I was five centimeters dilated and not likely to go home. Now this caused a bit of a problem because we had thought it was a false alarm, and we didn’t have anything with us. No clothes, no music, nothing planned for where the two year old was going to go. So in the middle of the 6:00 p.m. news, my husband rushed to feed the cat, take care of our son, and get back to me before it got too bad. So I watched some TV and was sort of amazed at how different this time around was from that last time. The contractions were about five minutes apart and they hurt, but not to the point where I couldn’t stand it. 7:00 p.m. rolled around and that’s when my daughter decided to make her entrance. The contractions were two minutes apart, then one minute apart, and I said, “Can I have drugs?” Now here is where my husband got the Best Husband EVER award (as if he didn’t have it already). He said, “Are you sure you don’t want to try the tub?” So I just followed his lead. They filled the tub, I sank in, and the contractions got worse. And I swear to you, I wasn’t in the warm tub for three minutes when I needed to push. That’s three centimeters in three minutes. I somehow crawled up on the bed, pushed for twenty minutes, survived the ring of fire my friend warned me about, and was holding my baby girl in my arms.
Afterwards, when we were reliving the night, my husband said how proud he was of me for doing it without drugs. He said he knew how disappointed I was with my first that I relied on the drugs, and he knew I could do it naturally and really wanted to help me achieve that. What a guy, eh?
Sometime later that week, while sitting with a friend, she asked me, so if you had to do it again, which would you choose? Drugs or not? And I really couldn’t answer her. And five months later I still can’t. The overall end result was two beautiful healthy kids, but if I had to choose how to do it again, I’m still stumped. On one hand, I was relaxed, numb, and somewhat rested with the epidural; but it did take longer. On the other hand, experiencing all of the primal pain of giving birth drug free is one experience I won’t soon forget. And I am proud that I did it free of anything that would make that experience anything other than original. I guess if we have another I will make that decision when the time comes, and I think that is my biggest lesson. It’s important to leave yourself open to other possibilities. If you had asked me with my son if I was going to get drugs, I would have said, “No way.” But in the moment, all I previously thought changed, and I am proud to say that I was flexible enough in my thinking that I could change my mind when it needed changing. And with my daughter, instead of trying to recreate the only experience I had known, a labor with drugs, I was flexible enough to wait just long enough for the end of labor to start, which made my decision for me. Overall, my birth experiences, like everyone’s, were unique and exciting no matter what decisions were made. In the end, I did it my way both times, and that’s all that matters.
Both of my beautiful children were born at Luther Hospital in Eau Claire. Gordon will be 3 in March 2011 and Quinn is 6 months old already.