Birth Snapshot: The Epidural

Labortrials got an epidural?!  Oh me oh my.  Yes, friends, I consented (begged for, even) to the bleepin’ epidural.  How did this happen, and how do I feel about it now?  Well . . .

I arrived at the hospital worried that something was wrong.  The labor contractions came fast and painful, and I knew that less than 24 hours previously I was not dilated but a smidge.  I also felt as strange ‘pop’ down there and knew it wasn’t my water, so that in conjunction with the scary contractions (tetanic, perhaps) sent me packing to the hospital quickly.

The OB arrived, checked me, and found me to be 2cm dilated, but the baby was high.  According to the monitor, the baby was not handling the contractions well.  (She was having late decelerations.)  The OB restricted me to laboring on my side; the labor nurse told me I had to relax my body in order to dilate.  The contractions really were more than I could handle with the position restriction.  The OB checked me a few hours later, and I was still stuck at 2cm.  I knew that as soon as I could get an epidural that I needed to have it put in.  There was no way I was going to withstand the contractions, restrict my movement, and relax enough to dilate without pain management.

Interesting that this evening on my twitter feed, I saw @RobinPregnancy’s tweet about epidurals:

Did you ever have an #epidural that didn’t work quite as well as you’d hoped? http://ow.ly/6ejKI #pregnancy #About

I had an intrathecal with an epidural placed.  The idea was that the intrathecal could possibly get me through the next several centimeters of dilation more quickly and would wear off.  If and when I wanted the epidural, it would be ready and waiting for me.  The intrathecal improved my quality of life dramatically, and indeed I did progress quickly from 4cm to 8cm dilation.  Then I got stuck at 8cm and for a few hours, so I wanted the epidural.

However, the epidural was slow to work, and when it did, it didn’t provide enough relief.  My labor was not progressing very well, so I was concerned that if the epidural didn’t work and I needed a cesarean, that I’d feel the surgery.  I was terrified, actually.  This caused me to over-react.  The anesthesiologist gave me a bolus of something (yes, it’s horrible that I can’t recall this information), and when that didn’t seem to give me enough pain coverage, I received another bolus of something (nope, can’t remember what that was either).

So, when it came time to push, and thank God I got to that point, I couldn’t feel a darned thing.  I could sense when a contraction was beginning, but that was about it.  I had some sensation in my toes.  I had no idea where my vagina was or how to push.  That was terrible.  My OB was a tremendous labor coach, so he talked me through every contraction . . . every push.

Ideal?  I suppose that depends on how you look at it.  The purist in me says “technically, you had a vaginal birth, but you missed the whole darned thing.”  The practical-ist in me says “honey, if you hadn’t gotten that epidural, who knows if you’d have dilated quick enough for the OB, or if the epidural is what helped calm the baby’s response to the labor contractions (stressed mom can lead to stressed baby), or if you would have outlasted the pain.”  No one made me get an epidural.  I told them on entry that I wasn’t interested, and they left me alone.  I asked for the epidural – it was my request; my choice.

People can be sooooooo judgmental about the use (or refusal) of epidurals.  Read this woman’s story over at Unnecessarean.  Don’t miss the comments which are QUITE polarized.  Given what I’ve been through, you may laugh at my comments.  Would I recommend an epidural to my closest friends and family members?  Yes, with caveats.  Would I recommend my closest friends and family members NOT accept an epidural?  Yes, with caveats.  Would I recommend epidurals for VBACs?  Yes, with caveats.  Is the epidural the beginning of the end in terms of natural childbirth?  Yes and no.  Does the epidural cause a cascade of interventions?  Yes and no.

Yes.

and

No.

Yes, it’s not that simple . . .

5 responses to “Birth Snapshot: The Epidural

  1. I am so glad that you got your vaginal birth. I can completely understand why you got an epidural (I read your story on the ICAN site) There is definitely a time when it is a good choice.

    You made the best choice for you and your baby at the time. That is just what you should have done!!!

  2. What was your primary goal? A VBAC? Because that’s what you got…epidural or not. Don’t let anyone take that away from you because you “gave in” and got some pain relief. You succeeded.

    It’s not fair to compare one woman with another and it seriously bugs me when women judge other women for their choices or compare themselves (i.e., the woman’s story you linked to).

    Good example: One of my very best friends just had her 6th kid. She has never made it through a birth without an epidural. She tries every single time, gets to 8cm and stalls. For hours. Like, 5 hours…in transition. Talk about hell.

    To the other extreme, I went from 2cm-8cm in an hour. I was then in transition for 10 minutes, pushed 3 times, and was done.

    That’s not fair. How come I got out like a bandit? It would be unfair for me to criticize her choice(s) to accept the epidural(s). I am LUCKY my body is the way it is. That’s not something I should get to be smug about.

    Instead of criticizing each other we should fight for prenatal care to include nutrition/exercise education, for VBACS and the choice of water birthing/labor to be standard practice, for safe, legal home births in all 50 states, and for direct entry midwives to not have to hide underground. Then as women we can do our very best to make the right choices for ourselves and our babies. And then we can maybe start affirming women for making appropriate choices rather than criticizing them for not holding the same opinions and standards we have for ourselves.

    So…good blog and you are doing great work. Very admirable. Yay!!! :-)

    • Catherine, I also went super fast from 2-8 and then got stuck there a while. I feel pretty certain the epidural allowed me to relax and dilate. The primary goal . . . well, I suppose when you boil it down, the primary goal was a VBAC. I didn’t ‘just’ give in to pain relief . . . I gave in to a lot of other unsavory interventions as well. It makes me sad at times, and the whole experience still left me feeling like this all happened TO ME.

      Thanks for your comment! :)

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