Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thinking Birth

I always imagined that I would want an epidural when it came time to give birth to our kids.  Who wants the pain when you can sit comfortably, maybe even nap some while your body labors, and push when you're told to do so.  But now that giving birth is not just a thought, but something that is inevitably happening in about 5 months (which by the way, is CRAZY that our baby will be ready to greet the world in just 5 months!), I've begun reading and researching and learning more about birth.  And I've realized that there are options out there - lots of options.  And you know what, I like options.

Through that research, I've learned about others experiences.  Those who got an epidural, those who got nothing, those who received some form of pain medicine, those who had c-sections - I've been looking into all of their experiences.  Then, I've been thinking a lot about who I am, what type of person I am when it comes to medical situations, and what is best for me.  On top of that, I've tried thinking about what Ian will handle best, even though I know he'll support any decision I make because he wants me to be as comfortable as possible, both physically and mentally.  Here's what I've learned:

I have had a lot of medical weirdness happen in my life.  I was in intensive care cardiac unit for almost a week when I was 19 years old.  That experience has enabled me to understand my tolerance for pain, and having to play the waiting game.  I've also had 4 ankle surgeries - 2 that involved some pretty crazy stuff like drilling through my bones and growth plates.  Not that I can compare these situations to pushing a melon out my hoo-ha because honestly, I don't think anything can be compared to that, but I'd like to think that I've gone through enough painful experiences to know that sometimes, you just have to work through the pain.

Also, these experiences have taught me that the fewer medical interventions needed, the better I do mentally.  I have major anxiety - about hospitals, germs, etc.  So already going into the hospital to have our baby will likely raise my anxiety.  I've decided the less needles in my body, including IVs, pain medication, and epidural, the more calm I will be.  And being calm is incredibly important to me as we welcome our baby.

I hate feeling out of control.  I've heard stories about women who HATE the way the epidural made them feel - they shook uncontrollably, their legs felt weird, and they didn't like not feeling what was going on with their bodies.  When I heard such stories, it reminded me of myself.  When I went through all of those surgeries and hospitalizations, I refused pain medication except for basic motrin, advil or tylenol.  I don't like the way pain medication makes me feel.  And I can guarantee that if my body shakes, or I don't like the way an epidural makes me feel, that my anxiety will sky rocket.

The fact that I have bad asthma also plays into my decision.  Remaining as calm as possible helps keep my asthma in check.  And the fewer medications in my body, the less likely I'll have an adverse or freak reaction that will cause my asthma to act up.

All of these explanations lead me to say, that at this point, it is our goal to have a completely natural birth, free of unnecessary interventions.  But along with that goal, I have the goal to try to be as comfortable as possible.  I am researching other birthing methods that help with pain management.  We're looking into hiring a doula to help us through the process.  And we're trying to learn as much as possible about the birthing process from a medical perspective.  However, I am fully aware that anything can happen during labor, and that if my health or the baby's health is in jeapordy, I am completely willing to allow the hospital to do whatever necessary to keep us healthy.

This weekend, we are attending a class on cesarean prevention.  It's being hosted by a birthing awareness organization whose primary goal is to educate people about the decisions that may lead to cesareans, and to help people avoid unnecessary c-sections (obviously, a very high goal on my list).  We ordered some books about maternity care and delivery options.  We are most certainly trying to do our research so we can make the best decision for our situation.

Part of that learning process, is hearing about others experiences with giving birth.  Did you have an epidural? Did you do things naturally?  What are your thoughts on the subject?  And for those who haven't had kids yet and are either planning to one day, or are expectant moms-to-be currently, what are you thinking about doing?


  1. Friends of mine have each had very different reasons for deliverying naturally or with an epidural. One couldn't stand the thought of not being in control of her body and knew she had a very high threshold for pain, she was very determined from the start to go natural (which she did). Another toyed with the idea of it, and was thinking she didn't have the determination our other friend did so she wasn't sure how she worked through the pain. She ended up going natural also, but immediately saying "next one will SOOO be an epidural". haha

    I think there is nothing wrong with going in saying "I'm going natural" but that if it's too much to bear or whatever then there is nothing wrong with having to use an epidural. I think the pain of it is different for everyone.

  2. My plans are pretty similar to yours. I'm shooting for a natural water birth, but also realize that sometimes plans go out the window and may not go exactly the way I planned. I'm trying not to have a super long birth plan either so that I'm not entirely disappointed if each check mark doesn't get crossed off. Basically... I want as little intervention as possible. If that doesn't work, then we'll talk about our options as they come. That is really neat you're taking a c-section prevention class, I would be super interested to hear what they say.

  3. YEAH for Doula's! I have been debating doing a doula training myself. I think it is an excellent choice! Education is so nesscarry with such a huge event coming in just 5 short month. I am so proud of you Kate for investigating all this!! You should check out ricki lake's movie she made, it's called the business of being born! xox

  4. Good for you in really taking the time to decide on what's right for you. I also think it's so great that you are keeping your mind open knowing that you can't control everything in this crazy birthing process. I am pro-epidural for myself but really admire those that can manage the pain and do it au naturale! Go you!!

  5. I haven't given it serious thought considering it's a few years away, but I always thought I would want an epidural. Reading your post makes me question that. I too hate pain meds and feeling like I don't have control over my body. When I had ACL surgery I only used advil. I also have a high pain tolerance, so I could probably work through it. When the time comes I'll look into my options. :)

  6. Great thoughts! You definetly have given it some thought. It's good you know what your pain tolerance might be. I'm not sure about mine, and I don't know how being in a hospital will make me feel. I read one bloggers story that leads me to belive I might want to wait to get an epidural until I am very close to the pushing part...but I am still undecided. I think I will probably want an epidural the first time around, and then I can decide the next time if it was for me or not.
    I would love to hear more about what you learn.
    I think a doula would be great-but I know we won't get one. I'm trying to find someone else (mom or nurse friend?) who may be able to help me manage pain and say no to some meds (even if by phone).

  7. I love that you guys are looking into a doula! Even though I'm not pregnant - I've thought a lot about this and have always been intrigued by the idea of a doula and a natural birth.

    I've known some women who have had epidurals and hated not being able to feel anything (and they have vowed never to get another). I had a friend who basically had an epi forced on her (so she could rest) but it had worn off before labor.

    I had another friend who had an epi (to rest) and then needed an emergency c-section WITHOUT any pain meds. Hello scary!


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