Say no to drugs?

EpiduralI have had two uncomplicated pregnancies and delivered two healthy baby boys. The first was born after 40 odd hours of labour and one epidural, and the second was born after nearly 100 hours of labour and NO epidural (no gas & air, no drugs, nothing)!

Two births, and two completely different experiences; the labour was different (obviously) but so was the recovery. I can tell you from experience, that there are pros and cons to both. But what I can’t tell you, is which way I prefer.

The births of both my babies were intended to be lovely, natural home births. I loved the idea of being in the comfort of my own home, having my kitchen with all my favorite foods, the privacy of my own bathroom, the thought of sleeping in my own bed, etc. Unfortunately, however, both my babies were born in the hospital.

The first time, I ‘gave in’ to an epidural after about 32 hours of labour. I was exhausted, I was overwhelmed by the pain, and I was on the verge of collapse. The epidural was a Godsend. It took the terror out of the experience and allowed me to open my eyes and truly be aware of my surroundings. The delivery was lovely — I was aware of the progress, in tune with the pushing, felt his head as he popped out, and was able to pay attention to details: the look on my husband’s face as he saw the baby’s head, the brief moment of panic right before he was born, the smell of a brand new baby, etc.
Sadly, these are details that I can’t remember with the second baby.

My second labour/delivery was wildly frantic, painful as hell, exhausting, long, and overwhelmingly consuming. I remember it being dark, being sweaty, being awful. I don’t remember pushing, I don’t remember my baby boy coming out, I don’t remember where my husband was; it was almost as if I had blocked out the world. What I do remember, however, is the sudden relief of pain the minute the baby was in my arms. To go from that much pain to that much joy in the span of a minute was awesome. I felt like superwoman: proud, strong, and happy. I also felt like a million bucks. I stood right up, walked to the bathroom and washed myself off. And I literally walked home from the hospital 6 hours later and spent the afternoon in the park enjoying a rare sunny day in London! I didn’t tear, I didn’t feel groggy, and despite the LONG labour, I wasn’t tired at all.

Having a baby naturally is something I am so thankful to have experienced. But the true experience of labour is something I probably couldn’t recall if I had not had an epidural the first time. It’s a trade-off.

I suppose it’s quite nice to have had both experiences. And I’m also quite sure that there are loads of different experiences with epidurals,both positive and negative. Does anyone else have any advice/exerpience/stories about drugs during labour?

-Courtney

10 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Esther | March 20, 2008 | Reply

It sounds lovely to be able to gently feel the contractions, smoothly being in tune with the pushing and being really aware of everything around you.
I gave birth without an epidural, and both times I do remember the moment, smell, look on the face of my husband etc.
But it’s rough, it’s earthy, dark and fuzzy.
The moment after is absolute bliss. It’s true, you go from an enormous amount of pain and exhaustion to an enormous emount of joy and energy. Weird and wonderful.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with and without!

2. Carolyn | March 20, 2008 | Reply

When I was pregnant with my son I was determined to have him with no drugs, I read countless articles and spoke to many people who had gone through there labors with no drugs. I imagined going into labor at home and being able to labor at home, walk around, rock in a chair, etc until the contractions were close enough for me to go to the hospital. However, it did not turn out like I wanted it to but at the same time it was more perfect than I could have ever imagined it to be. Since I was a week late and my son was getting big I finally had to be induced. I had not had one contraction that I was aware of the entire time I was pregnant, I get to the hospital that morning and they start me on a drug called pitocin to get things going and before I know it my body is being rocked into pain so intense all I could do was sit on an excerice ball and try to breath while my husband pushed on my lower back as hard as he could (which for me was not hard enough!) The contractions were so quick and intense from the pitocin and I was getting no breaks, they were literally coming every 1-2 minutes and lasting from 45 seconds to a minute. After 5 hours of that and still only being dilated to a 3 I “gave in” and got the epidural. Instant relief, my poor husband looked like he had been in a marathon and I think he was relieved that I had finally agreed to get the drugs though he never swayed me one way or another. I went from a 3 to pushing in less than 2 hours, maybe the drugs really just helped my body relax and do what it was supposed to do.The entire experience was awesome, I could feel the contractions, knew when to push and felt wonderful when they put him on my chest. They had turned off the epidural when I started pushing so about 30 minutes after he was born I was able to walk myself to the shower and clean myself off. The entire experience was not what I planned but still wonderful and memorable. However, I would still love to have that natural birth. Maybe with my second one??

P.S. I would love to see some posts on the husbands role during labor and the differences between countries.

3. Courtney | March 20, 2008 | Reply

Carolyn- I had the same experience with the epidural. I was having contractions every minute lasting a minute. This had been going on for 30 something hours. It was unbearable. And the worst bit was that I was only 1cm dialated. Can you believe it? There is nothing worse than having all those contractions and feeling like they’re not doing anything! After the epidural, I went from 1 cm to 10 cm in just a few hours, and he was born after only 15 minutes of pushing. I think the epidural allowed my body to relax, and therefore progress!
xoxo, Courtney

4. Shawn | March 20, 2008 | Reply

I had an epidural with each of my babies: a British one and an American one. For my first, I was in London and was having excruciating back labor. I asked for the epidural the instant I arrived at the hospital. As soon as it kicked in, I felt my boday relax. I was able to bounce on the yoga ball for awhile in an effort to try and turn my baby around. Although I was up all night and pushed for an hour, I remember everything quite vividly. especially the euphoria when my daughter was born. For my second pregnancy, I was induced due to low amniotic fluid. In London they give you walking epidurals. At Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, they don’t allow walking epidurals due to liability issues (darn this litigious society). The process was different due to the induction, but the epidural was given to me at the point where the pain was starting to become quite uncomfortable. I felt the same sense of joy feeling and seeing my son emerge. Although I needed a bit of assistance getting up from bed with the second, it wasn’t that bad and actually helped post-delivery since I had a detached placenta and the doctor had to manually scrape me out.

5. Sara from Bruxelles | March 22, 2008 | Reply

Wow! All of your stories are helpful and a bit overwhelming! I am almost 22 weeks pregnant and have (well, at least I thought I did) decided to get an epidermal as pain and I do NOT mix. Yes, I’m a wuss. I can admit that. However, I haven’t met with my mid-wife yet and have been reading (thanks to the British store having Pregnancy mags!) that there are several things to do to help the pain when having a natural or water birth. No one has written in about a water birth and that’s what I’m beginning to consider more (they are very common here in Belgium to my knowledge) as the water helps with the pain, etc. Anyway, thank you all for your posts. I’m pretty freaked out but know I’ll get through it. YOU ALL DID!!! :0)

6. Courtney | March 23, 2008 | Reply

Oh yes… waterbirth! I tried having a waterbirth with my first son. I spent hours in that birthing pool! I think it does help to relax your body and make the contractions more tolerable. BUT, for me at least, it slowed the labour down each time I got in the water. This was something i sooo did NOT need as my labours dragged on for days, and days, and days…
But the idea of having a baby born in the water sounds so lovely and natural. Maybe with my third…. :)

7. Babyccino » Esther’s favourite five! | October 27, 2008 | Reply

[…] Courtney’s ‘Say no to drugs?’, because she describes so vividly how it was to have her babies, one with an epidural and the […]

8. Kristin | October 27, 2008 | Reply

At 31 weeks, I am just starting to prepare myself for the many different scenarios that can occur duing the birth. And, hearing other people’s stories is so helpful. My first experience was definitely not what we were anticipating, and not one we care to repeat. But, it was a learning experience. I now look forward to the opportunity to deliver “naturally”, whether with or without drugs. And, I realize I may not be able to choose the exact kind of birth I would like to have. Thanks for sharing and choosing Courtney’s post as a top 5- I couldn’t agree more!

9. Brooke | October 28, 2008 | Reply

Fantastic post. I just had my first baby, and she cameout via c-section because she was tail down. We’re convinced she thought she was being born in Australia. Right direction; wrong hemisphere. Anyway, it was a little disappointing at first after all those NCT classes (and the fit ball which is now stuffed into a drawer) but in the end it didn’t matter and the experience was amazing. Plus, my husband wore blue scrubs and I had my own little Grey’s Anatomy moment. He looked so cute.

10. Jude | October 28, 2008 | Reply

I really think that a woman needs to listen to her body and most importantly go into labour with an open mind. I think Birth plans are a nonsense. I do think we need to go into labour informed and know what the options are and implications of everything, but I believe it is impossible to plan your delivery. Also each baby is different, I have had three, and each birth was a different story. My last daughter I would say was my most enjoyable because although I had gas and air and pethidine with all three, I felt the birth more, in a way that it difficult to explain, except to say that it was a really beautiful memory.

I hope to have another, and if I do, I will not plan I will just be…

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