Today I’m going to share how my plans for a natural birth with my first baby turned into a very positive epidural delivery.
My husband and I got married when we were both 21 and still in our undergraduate college studies. We decided to start our family right away. Baby #1 was born 11 months later 🙂 She came amidst final exams and long days of nursing clinical.
In the semester before she was born, I took my OB rotation in nursing school. Surrounded by nurse midwives, I decided that I wanted to have a natural birth. The only problem was, I’d only ever seen an epidural delivery and didn’t really know what to expect from a natural childbirth. So, Seth and I took a hypno-style childbirth class to prepare for the big day. It cost us around $250, which I remember felt like a TON of money to us poor college students. I justified the expense by saying that it would be cheaper than an epidural!
In our childbirth class, we learned that if you stay calm and deeply relaxed, you can anticipate a “pain free birth.” Pain free sounded pretty good to me!! (Be sure to read all the way to the end of this blog post where I share my real thoughts about “pain free birth.”) So, Seth read guided imagery scripts to me for the next few months while I practiced relaxing my muscles. I was also able to practice on my own by listening to pre-recorded imagery scripts. When the big day came, I felt confident in my ability to relax into my contractions.
Unfortunately, relaxation was the only coping tool I had learned. As you’re about to read, as labor got more intense, I got to a point where deep relaxation alone was cutting it for me anymore. And I started freaking out! But I won’t give away any more of the story 🙂 You can read it for yourself!
What follows is the raw, unedited birth story that I recorded shortly after the birth for my daughter’s scrapbook. I hope you enjoy it!
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Stripping Membranes
“On Monday, I was starting (ok…continuing…) to get more anxious about having her, since I knew they’d probably induce me on either Wednesday or Thursday. I thought about taking castor oil, but the midwife convinced me to come in and get checked before I did anything. At 1:00 that day, Seth and I went in and they said my cervix was dilated to 3cm and was 80% effaced. At 1:30 we decided to have her strip my membranes.
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Early Labor
“Seth went back to work and I went to go get a massage 🙂 After the massage, I realized how achy my lower back was. I felt throbby, like I was having my period. At around 5pm, I started noticing contractions. I headed home, and mom came over and made us a yummy dinner.
“Seth got back from work at around 6:30. We started listening to our guided imagery, and I was feeling confident and relaxed through the contractions. At 8pm, we started tracking the regularity of my contractions. They were regularly 5 minutes apart! We could hardly believe that we were going into labor!
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Getting Sent Home From the Hospital & Losing Control
“We went to the hospital at 10:30pm, and I was still at 3 cm. An hour later (an hour full of regular contractions that felt strong to me), I was still a 3. Since I wasn’t progressing, the nurse sent us home, saying it was probably irritation from stripping the membrane.
“That’s when it started to get difficult! If all this wasn’t even labor, how could I handle it when it began?! What I was feeling was definitely intense, and this was mere irritation?!
“The car ride home felt so long! By the time we got home, I was a mess. I wasn’t focusing through the contractions; instead I was tightening up and writhing around. Seth was INCREDIBLE! He stayed right by me and talked to me slowly. He was the only stable thing in that moment. I have never felt so desperate and helpless in my entire life. Listening to him was the only thing that made me feel secure.
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Returning to the Hospital
“Seth started calling the shots! He said we needed to go back to the hospital, so he quickly got me dressed (I had been in the bath) and put me in the car. We drove to the hospital, and they admitted me right away.
“There’s a time that I don’t know the details of everything that happened. I know that Mom and Jen got there, and Seth tried t0 encourage me to try a few labor positions. Part of me wishes that I had been more focused and less freaking out so that I could have tried a few of the options he was giving me. However, I don’t really regret anything — it was a great experience.
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Choosing an Epidural
“At this point, Seth and I discussed the epidural. My cervix was STILL at 3 cm. It felt impossible to imagine enduring hours and hours more of this! I didn’t want to regret the use of medication, but at that point I felt so out of control, I knew it was the best decision. So, I swallowed my pride!
“After the epidural kicked in, labor was LOVELY! I was relaxed, could talk to people and enjoy their company, and best of all — after an hour I had changed from 4 cm to complete!
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: Rest & Descend, Pushing, and Birth
“The midwife decided we should “rest and descend,” and I began to feel the urge to push. I waited another 20 minutes or so. When the midwife came back, our little baby girl was ready to come into the world!!
“Seth and mom helped hold my legs, and I only pushed about 12 times and she was out! WHAT A MIRACLE! They handed her to me, all warm and slimy, and I held her close as they cleaned her off. I couldn’t believe that I was holding our little baby, my baby forever. It was complete joy! What a miracle human life is. I can’t comprehend that my body knew how to make her!
Planned Natural Birth to Epidural Delivery: My Thoughts in Hindsight
1. Pain Free Birth
I became a childbirth educator about 5 years after Baby #1 was born. In my own classes, I do NOT promote the idea of pain free birth. A woman who experiences no physical discomfort in childbirth is exceedingly rare. I do believe that it can happen, but it’s certainly the exception and not the rule. I have worked with hundreds of women who have had positive natural births. But this doesn’t mean they were pain free. The vast majority describe the experience as hard, physically demanding work…and among their most rewarding and empowering life experiences.
I personally think that telling a woman her birth should be pain free sets her up to feel that she’s doing something wrong (i.e. not relaxing properly) if she feels pain. Not true, in my experience!
Instead, I think it’s more productive to focus on the difference between pain and suffering. You can feel pain with a contraction in labor, but through the use of coping tools (relaxation, guided imagery, breathing techniques, positioning, massage, etc.) you can avoid the mental anguish of suffering.
2. Discouragement of Being Sent Home From the Hospital
In my childbirth classes, I tell women never to feel badly if they get sent home from the hospital. It’s really a blessing in disguise because it gives you more time to labor at home in your own comfortable environment, unobserved by hospital staff and free from fetal monitors.
However, when it was me getting sent home all those years ago, I felt pretty darn discouraged. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know how to gauge what was going on in my own body. I felt defeated. My confidence in my ability to cope with contractions was replaced by fear that what I was feeling wasn’t even labor…just irritation from getting my membranes stripped.
For me, this was the start of the emotional spiral downward. Ladies, I hope you’ll learn from the older and wiser me. Don’t get discouraged if you get sent home from the hospital.
3. Feeling Guilty About Choosing an Epidural
As I mentioned, we were pretty poor at this point in our married life. So after spending $250 and psyching myself up for a natural birth for so many months, I had a moment where I felt pretty guilty about wanting to choose an epidural delivery.
My husband was the game-changer for me at this point. He assured me that I was making the best choice for me and the baby, given our current circumstances. I felt so vulnerable that his reassurance was all I needed to feel confident in my choice.
At the end of the day, before the epidural, I was freaking out. I was frightened and felt out of control. The epidural enabled me to calm down enough so that I could enjoy the birth of my baby. Overall, I had a positive, safe experience with the epidural and minimal side-effects. I feel like it was the right choice for me at that time.
Kopa Birth’s online childbirth classes allow you to prepare for a natural childbirth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for a natural hospital birth.