Wednesday, January 14, 2015

To Medicate or Not to Medicate? That is the Labor Question.

I've had a few people recently ask me about what kind of labor and deliveries I've had, and when I tell them I've had 3 epidural deliveries and 3 natural births, they want to know if I chose those types of births, and which I preferred.  So this is my story, and mine alone.  Every mother and every baby and every labor story is unique.  Even when we are prepared and pray and hope for a birth to go a certain way, we can't control the outcome.   This is not any sort of parenting advice.  

THIS, however, is parenting advice:



And like a broken bag of water, let's get this party started...

When I was pregnant with my fist baby, I wanted to have a natural drug-free labor with a midwife.  What actually happened is that I was induced 5 weeks early to have my gallbladder taken out immediately after his birth, and ended up in lots of pain from the gallstones and pitocin drip.  I begged for the epidural at transition, received it and was declared 8 cm.  It was a pain-free delivery with a healthy baby, but I still felt let down that I got the epidural.

With the second baby, I again wanted to go drug-free with a midwife, feeling that I didn’t get the birth experience I had hoped for the first time around.  Again, I cried for drugs at transition, got the epidural and was declared 9 cm.  Again, I experienced a feeling of disapointment after delivery, which made me then feel guilty for not being completely thankful and happy that I was holding my son.  Those pregnancy and postpartum hormones are a tricky thing!


Having now two births under my belt where I wasn't able to make it without the epidural, I decided for the third baby that I would just stop fooling myself and planned early on that I would get the epidural.  I had a doctor this time, since I knew I wanted pain meds, and got it at 3 cm.  It was heavenly for a while, but then I had a bad reaction to it (my heart rate dropped, I felt like I was passing out, the baby’s heart rate dropped and the anesthesiologist was frantically called back in to administer drugs to counter the effects.)  It was very very scary, and when it was all over, I really wanted to try not to get the epidural again.  

When I got pregnant with my 4th baby, I started researching different midwives, and discovered our area had a hidden gem of a midwife who passionately believed in unmedicated births and did everything to empower the mother to get through it.  The other midwives I had used where totally okay with giving drugs, and I knew myself…if I had the option of drugs, I would ask for drugs.  I am so vulnerable, weak, and in pain at transition that any kind of relief is requested.  Anyway, with the fresh epidural scare on my mind, I started seeing the midwife who really made me feel like I could do this.  Maybe I could make it through a birth without medication, once and for all.  Choosing to try for a natural birth is more mental than physical.  Obviously our bodies can get through the pain physically…women do it all the time.  It’s mentally accepting the process and being strong and a willing participant that are difficult (for me, anyways).


The time came to deliver the fourth baby, and I was able to have my best labor and delivery ever – she came out super-fast, in the Jacuzzi (whoops!), and I felt on top of the whole world after.  It was such an awesome experience and changed my life after that, I really felt that I could do anything, and eventually trained for my first half-marathon.  I don't want to make any mom feel bad for not wanting to/being able to have a natural birth, but the feelings after accomplishing it are mind-blowing.  

Like, woah.

Once pregnant with the fifth, a medicated labor wasn’t even an option in my mind.  I was determined to try once again for a natural birth.  I was lucky enough to make it happen, though due to the baby’s size, how fast the labor went, and the fact that we were stuck in the hospital for 5 days while he was under the lights made it much more traumatic for me than the first time.  I definitely felt like I never wanted to go through that again after he was born.  I know that’s completely dramatic and ungrateful, but its how I felt.  Again, hormones be stupid.

Wouldn’t you know it, the sixth baby came a few years later, and I was torn during the whole entire pregnancy.  Should I go through a painful but empowering natural birth or a pain-free but possibly scary epidural birth?  I wrestled with my decision, cried a lot to Phil who was super supportive in whatever I decided.  It was a decision that had to be made before the due date because my midwife doesn't allow for epidurals, so if that was the route I chose, I had to switch providers.  I finally decided that since I was due to give birth during Lent that year, I would try to have a natural birth as my Lenten sacrifice.  For some reason, this made sense in my pregnant brain.  I was still very scared to go through the process again, and after having dealt with anxiety in between the births of the 5th and 6th babies, asked my midwife to agree to give me anti-anxiety meds in labor.  She was completely understanding, and agreed to give them if I needed.  

Turns out that I didn’t need them.  The 6th baby was born naturally, and it was much less traumatic than the 5th baby’s labor.  It was more peaceful and didn’t hurt quite as badly.  Maybe it was because of his slightly smaller size, or that I was physically active through the pregnancy, or God's graces, or my worrying for the worst case scenario made the reality less scary.  I don't know, but I was so very thankful after his birth that I was able to go naturally, as I always feel amazing after.  

Plus, maybe this is just in my experience, but it seems that our babies who are born without any pain meds are really easy babies.  That could be a total coincidence, but it held true in our family's experience. 

Drug free  and easy as can be.


If there is ever to be another baby blessed unto us, I think I will lean towards trying for a natural labor again.  Although, the more times you go through it, the more you know what it’s like, and that can be a scary thing!  I’m sure I will struggle with what choice to make, and every labor and every baby is so different that as much as we try and plan, Lord knows how it will actually turn out!  I learned that lesson very early on, and I'm still learning how to be grateful for whatever situation comes my way.  Much like a pregnancy, I'm a work in progress :)  

17 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more with feeling let down after an epidural and amazing after a natural birth. But it is hard to forget how much the natural hurts and how much relief comes from an epidural.

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    1. Hurts soooooo much! I agree :)

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  2. I think this is a great post. Being pregnant with #2 I feel is a lot easier in some regards than being pregnant with your first since you have some experience. With my daughter, I wanted a natural birth, but, well, you really can't plan for everything. She was sunny side up which meant that my back labor was honestly excruciating, and I held out as long as I could, but I only dilated to I think 4 and got an epidural. Once I fully dilated I pushed for 2 hours, when she wouldn't budge they attempted a vacuum and that failed too. So I had an emergency c-section. And I'm okay with that.

    I think some "crunchy" people get so caught up in the feeling that they fail to see that not everything works for every experience. I follow a lot of more natural minded fb pages and so often I feel like they make people with c-sections feel like it was a bad thing. Or for that matter, those that medicate. I feel like you do what you need to do to have a healthy baby and that's okay. Not one birth is better than another. They are all different.

    So now that I'm pregnant with #2, I will try for a VBAC, and attempt natural again, but if it goes similar to last time and my body doesn't rotate the baby properly then I will get an epidural to manage the pain. And if I can't birth vaginally, that's okay too. Too many women beat themselves up over how their birth went. I hope to just go with the flow, and however it's meant to go will be how it will be. God is in charge, definitely not us, especially when in labor.

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    1. Amen and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!

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  3. I had all three of mine without an epidural. I did have very fast deliveries which helped. I'm not sure if the deliveries were fast because I didn't have an epidural or if that's just my body. Plus, who am I kidding? I'm terrified of needles! I'll literally endure any pain to forego the anxiety I have for needles.

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  4. I love this Colleen! I have to discount your theory in that my first was super easy (induced and drugged!) and this little lady of mine... well, she's easy now but in the beginning oh hellllllno she wasn't (and no drugs). ;) I had a lot of regret and sadness after the first because I just couldn't cut it. I really couldn't even think about it for too long without getting weepy (the hormones! they raged!). After the second (almost 30 hours shorter but hurt more than I can imagine) I declared that I would never ever be trying to do that again... but within a couple of days I was starting to think I could do it. And now? Pretty sure I'm swearing off the drugs. Like you, if they're available, I'll ask. Or in the case with my second, they weren't available and I still asked.

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    1. Hahaha, yes, I ask even though they are not available too! We're weak and vulnerable HUMANS :)

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    2. Yes!!! Immediately after I had Peter (our first unmedicated) I was telling Andrew I was planning on epidurals again from now on... But the memory of pain is still fresh and I kind of realize that it's probably just a better idea not to have medication as an option! Truthfully, my recovery after the girls' births and his birth were pretty similar (I'm not counting John Paul, because that was just a ridiculous labor and hard recovery), despite being medicated for their births and not with Peter. I keep meaning to write this up in blog post form buuuut we'll see if that ever happens!

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  5. I had no choice but natural childbirth with my first three. When my fourth came along the pain was incredible different! So I got the epidural with no complications and it was wonderful. Best labor ever. I will definitely get the epidural again if the situation allows it. Every labor is different and as long as there is a healthy baby and mommy at the end of the ordeal then that is always the best situation.

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    1. Agreed, healthy mom and baby. That's why I stopped getting the epidural - it gave me an unhealthy result the third time around. But I know that's rare and I'm not saying I would never get one again...like you said, they are all different!

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  6. Hm...I'd never considered the possible connection between easy baby and unmedicated...I'm trying to think of a birth that I know of that doesn't follow this "rule"...

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    1. It's been true for me...but maybe it's just that it happened on my 4th, 5th, and 6th babies and parenting was a little easier by then!!

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  7. "The more times you go through it, the more you know what it's like." Oh, yes. Let's just agree that the whole "you forget once they're out" is not really true for a lot of us!!!! Worth it? Yeah, I guess. But oh yes, I remember. My current plan is not to think about it and then maybe my head won't get in the way too much. That and a glass of wine once things start getting real.

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    1. I would say don't worry/overthink it, but I did exactly that! The only upside was that it really did make the actual labor seem less scary than I had been envisioning. And maybe replace the wine with two shots of whiskey :)

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  8. With my first I really wanted to do it naturally, but then I had a placental rupture and emergency c-section. With my second, I absolutely didn't care about going au naturel, I just wanted a VBAC, but ended up having to go with a scheduled c-section. I'm hoping to try for another VBAC when the time comes and I will just be thrilled if the baby doesn't have to come out through major abdominal surgery! Although after having two babies without a single contraction, I am probably even more terrified of labor than I was in my first pregnancy :)

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    1. Talk about things not going to plan! My sister ended up having a tumor removed from her Fallopian tube while pregnant with her first baby, then she had an emergency c section for that baby, and two scheduled c sections after that (our hospital doesn't do VBACs). Poor thing finally ended up having a hysterectomy at the age of 31 because she basically bled for a year after the birth of her last child. That's 5 surgeries!! Crazy!! It definitely makes me extremely grateful to have ever gotten the birth outcome I'd hoped for, and I don't take it for granted. I hope you can experience a VBAC one day if that's your desire, Caitlin :)

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