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Medicated vs. Unmedicated Labor

April 28, 2011

I think however a woman chooses to labor is totally fine.  It’s her choice and she knows what she needs.  If you want to get an epidural or IV meds, go for it!  I will never preach to a woman why she should go without drugs for her and her baby.

But if you know women who went without any drugs, please don’t say things like, “I think every woman is different and maybe it hurts more for some than others.”  And don’t say, “You don’t get a medal for not getting the epidural.”  I wasn’t going for a medal.  I was concerned about complications arising and desperately wanted to avoid a c-section.  I’ve known other women who were relieved to have c-sections because they were terrified of labor or pushing.

I can see why a 10 pound baby would hurt a lot more than an 8 pound baby, but as a woman who gave birth four times without any pain relief of any kind, I find it annoying when other women imply that labor must not have hurt very much for me. 

I cannot emphasize how excruciatingly painful it was.  I labored for a week with my first son and when the hospital I dealt with finally realized I was in labor for real (duh!!!), they gave me pitocin to make the contractions even stronger and used an internal monitor that measured the strength of them.  They were off the chart and I literally felt like my back was breaking.  For the last two hours of my labor, I had the irresistible urge to push and I wasn’t allowed to yet because I wasn’t dilated enough.  It took all of my will not to push and because the doctor was itching to do a c-section, I didn’t scream.  Another doctor took my husband aside and said, “I have never seen anything like this.  I can’t believe she is on pitocin with no epidural and she’s not screaming.”  Once I was finally allowed to push, my son was born in 5 minutes or less.

After doing some research, I realized that drugs were not for me and I spent months preparing myself for it, visualizing how I would handle it and what I would tell myself when I was in agony.  I just wasn’t giving myself that option.  If I had been open to the idea, I would have accepted the drugs for sure, but it felt like the wrong choice for me.  Women would ask me, “Are you going to get the epidural?”  When I said no, they said, “Oh, you think you won’t, but you will.”  Well if they were so sure I would get it, why did they bother asking?!  Even when I had gone without it twice before, I still had women telling me, “You’ll get the epidural.”  No, I will never have one. 

During my 10 1/2 hour labor with my second son, my doctor asked me, “Why don’t you want the epidural again?” because I was obviously in terrible pain.  Still, the risks weren’t worth it to me.  When he was born, he looked like he had been mugged.  He had cuts above his eyebrows, the whites of his eyes were bloody, his nose was swollen, and his whole face was black and blue, which explained what was ramming against my back repeatedly every time I had a contraction.

It was torture.

During labor with my third son, not only was I vomiting like usual, but it happened still while I was pushing due to the intense pain.  Thank goodness it was only about 5 hours long that time.

I had a cytotec induced labor with my daughter and back labor for the third time.  My husband couldn’t leave my side because I needed him to do some maneuvers to help counteract the back labor and back to back contractions.  He tried to squeeze in a phone call to his parents and I yelled frantically for him to help me.  My sister came into the room and said, “I don’t know how you’re doing this without drugs!”  I was undeniably in severe pain.

When I thought, “I can’t do this!” I would tell myself, “You are doing it!  It’s going to be a memory soon.”  I thought about the centuries that women had no other choice but to endure the pain and in much worse conditions.  I at least had doctors and nurses to intervene if anything went wrong.  I had a warm room and a bed to labor in.  Years ago I saw a video of an African woman walking along with her children.  Suddenly she squats down, gives birth, picks up her baby, and keeps walking.  I was amazed and that was the moment I first considered going without drugs.  It was certainly a lot different than the many movies and TV shows I had seen depicting women in sudden, horrific labor.

I’m not saying I am a better mother because I went natural.  Not at all.  But it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I don’t appreciate it when people minimize the significance of that accomplishment.  My cousin had a 10 pound 13 ounce baby with no drugs, pushed for 3 hours, and there’s no doubt it hurt like heck!  Her midwife said it was also the worst damage she had ever seen.

However we choose to labor, I wish we women would just be supportive of each other.

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