The last thing I expected my childbirth class to freak me out about was pain management. I thought it would be more like, the education on just how much PAIN would be involved would make me run for the hills. The thing is, I knew already that this is going to hurt. A lot. Beyond a lot. But I think I was a little in the dark about just how much intervention could be involved once I get that epidural placed.
For one, they would show us all these positions we can get into while laboring, to push more effectively and move the baby past your tailbone, etc. But then they’d say, “Having an epidural significantly limits your options here.”
Then they started passing around the various intervention tools: vacuum, internal fetal heartrate monitor, internal contraction monitor, water breaker… and I started to picture all these tubes and wires running in and out of me while I’m birthing my child, and I got REALLY nervous. After the instructor described each one, she’d say, “These might be used in an unmedicated birth, but you increase your odds of them being used in a medicated birth.”
Image via Kentec Medical. You’re going to stick what inside of me?
Then all the talk about what an epidural can do, like slow down your contractions or make it harder for you to push. I kind of pictured it like a runaway train, where I would get an epidural to manage my pain and all of a sudden have 50 million things stuck in me, require Pitocin from slowed-down labor, and eventually need a c-section because I couldn’t push.
Now, I’m well aware that every experience is different. I’ve heard women say they received an epidural and went from 5 to 10 cm in an hour and a half whereas they’d been slowed down for hours before the meds arrived. I’ve heard others say that they really regret receiving an epidural and want to try for a natural birth next time. I have a friend who has had two c-sections and pretty much berates me every time I bring up my fears and hesitations about getting an epidural, telling me not to be a martyr and exclaiming that she has no idea why anybody would ever consider an unmedicated birth. I have others comment that they don’t understand why, in this day and age with all the research and information available, anybody would consider a medicated birth.
I also know that I have no idea what my labor pain will be like once I’m in it. I’ve gone through two medical issues that are frequently compared to labor-level pain by other women who have done both — a kidney stone, and a Bartholin’s abscess (I’m not going to link you, Google it if you’re really curious, but you have my warning: You might regret it). I’ve even had the Bartholin’s twice. The second time I had it, I was prescribed pain medication because of what was done to relieve the issue. I was adamant that I wouldn’t take a narcotic, until the anesthesia wore off and I was begging poor Mister Mister to run to the pharmacy — no really, RUN — and just grab the closest narcotic off the shelf.
Seriously, my pain tolerance is ridiculous. My kidney stone made me puke. I stub my toe and it’s World War III. A paper cut makes me despondent for days. So why do I think I can do this without medication?
I’ll be talking with my OB about his thoughts on delaying the epidural as long as possible. I know the hospital where we’re delivering is open to alternatives and options, and I’m hoping they can show me some effective pushing positions in the event that I do need an epidural OMGRIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE. My current plan is to wait as long as possible before requesting one, but I know that could very well be before I’ve even dilated at all. I’m trying to withhold judgment and planning of my birth experience and just let it happen.
Which, for a judger and a planner, is not very easy at all.