Friday, April 27, 2007

On Birth and Birthers

I read someone's blog recently that they did not feel like a parent because they did not experience natural childbirth. Once upon a time, I was completely on the natural childbirth bandwagon. Four years ago I was sporting a belly that was hovering somewhere between "fat girl" and "pregnant woman." I was about 5 months pregnant and I attended a hypnobirthing class where I was told, quite convincingly that women experienced pain in childbirth because there was a mass conspiracy out there that made us BELIEVE that it would be incredibly painful.

Hmmm.... Until I got pregnant, I never really gave birth a second thought. I was supposed to be my sister's birth partner. I bought and read the book. But my niece was delivered via emergency ceasarian about two minutes after my sister went into labor, 12 hours before I arrived in California. I had seen movies of women panting like excited, angry dogs while the doctors screamed PUSH! PUSH!

But the hypnobirthing instructor said if we didn't believe that it would hurt, it would not. At the time, it sounded like good advice and I learned all kinds of relaxation techniques for the natural childbirth that I would have. I spent the next 4 months unconcerned about labor. I would just relax and I would be fine.

This alone made the class worth the money.

But I survived about 45 minutes of active labor before I was begging for the drugs and I spent nearly 24 hours blissed out on nubain, dozing and holding my husband's hand. He was thrilled and managed to watched an entire football game while I slept.

Then after the third dose, the nubain stopped working and I asked for an epidural.

A lot of women might disagree with me on this, but I think epidurals (when they work properly) are the best thing to happen to women's health since the tampon. Your head is clear, and the contractions become a slight pressure in your abdomen. It wore off right when the pushing was to begin. According to my husband, there was much yelling on my part, but I popped out my son in about a half hour. I look back fondly on that experience and it made me a huge advocate of medicated, medicalized births.

Fast forward two and a half years and I went into labor with my daughter on Easter Sunday of 2006. I walked in the door asking for an epidural. This labor was much faster. I think I had the dreaded "back labor" where the baby's face is pointed forwards, instead of backwards. The contractions were 2 minutes apart when I walked in the door of labor and delivery, but the nurses made me wait in triage before they admitted me. About 45 minutes they heard me screaming and crying and came back and the doctor checked me and sure enough, it was the "real" thing and they finally admitted me.

What followed was in roughly a 5 hour window. They were going to give me nubain until the anesthesiologist could get there. But then another anesthesiologist showed up on the floor and I just had to wait a few minutes. Within the next hour the epidural was administered and I felt fine for about 45 minutes and then started paging him to come back and put more drugs in it. Eventually he turned up again and squirted more drugs in, but they didn't work. By then I had hit what they call "transition" which translates to excruciating, horrific pain, like your body is ripping apart from the inside. It's as if the baby was given a tiny chainsaw and told to work her way to the exit.

I. Was. Screaming. I screamed at the doctors, I screamed at the nurses. Ironically I don't think I screamed at my husband, who's hand on my leg was the only thing keeping me from the brink. It was the one spot on my body that I could focus on that got me through it.

The good part was she was out of my body in one and a half pushes. The adrenaline from all the pain kicked in and Rich swears the baby hit the table, she came out so fast. I blew out blood vessels in both of my eyes, turning the whites a solid, blood red that lasted for weeks and made me cry every time I looked in the mirror.

They took the baby to the toaster immediately and wouldn't let me see her because I was hemorrhaging on the table.

Good times.

Good times.

But eventually they handed me a little writhing, screaming bundle with a hat that kept falling off. And then they left the room. And I never wanted to see any of those people again.

So, when I think back on Eric's birth I know I was all there for the good parts. With Kaylee's birth I wish I had had more drugs. She didn't sleep much in the hospital because she was so hungry until my milk came in and it took me months to catch up on the sleep I lost during those 2 days.

I can't even fathom wanting to go through that without drugs once you're in the midst of it. To me, it's like opting for a drug free tonsillectomy. I slept calmly through much of my labor with my son and he was a much calmer baby than the one that heard me screaming in agony for what seemed like hours.

So, in my experience, when it comes to labor, drug it up!