The Blog of BumRite Diapers


A personal birth story: the Epidural Way

I've done it both ways - so here is my take on an Epidural Birth.  Please remember that every labor is different and this is only a personal opinion/story.   Not a debate.

Labor #1 - Ignorance and Fear

As my belly got bigger and I was nearing my due date, I begged my doctor to schedule a C-Section.  I had no clue how that thing was going to come out of there and being an immortal just 30-something, I would rather undergo major surgery - splitting my abdominal muscles apart and cutting into my uterus -  than deal with the mythical labor that people embellished - and the labor horror stories that came with them.  When my OB refused the C-Section, I joked that I was going to get a t-shirt printed that read: I am in Labor, Call the Anesthesiologist NOW.  

I went to one class about natural labor, stuck a clothes pin on my finger while breathing deeply and felt like an idiot.  I didn't go back.  I was getting an epidural.  Why did I need to know about such techniques?   I also maintained a bit of modesty (lost it after child-birth) and felt silly sitting in a circle of pregnant woman, their partners behind them and pillows surrounding them.   Lights dim.  Enya playing.  Come on, really?

So - did I prepare for labor and childbirth?  Absolutely not.  Did it affect the outcome?  Probably.

After 10 hours of minor contractions (I watched movies all day),  I made dinner with my mom (Thai Basil Beef - not smart) and sat down to a nice, noodle-y meal.  With spice.  Again.  Not prudent.

When the contractions became regular and didn't go away when I lay on my side, and after consulting with my father (retired doc) on the telephone, we headed to the hospital.  My dad and bonus-Mom planned to wake up the next morning and drive to Napa from Phoenix to meet the new baby.

While checking in to labor and delivery, I naively asked, "So how long is this going to last and when will we go home?".  They sent me walking.  45-minutes later, I clawed at the walls of the hospital as the cramping overwhelmed me.  I didn't know how to cope.  WE (husband and self) didn't know what to do - this was all very foreign to us.  Helpless, we crept back to L&D and got a room.

The nurse asked if I wanted to take a shower?  Walk?  Sit on a ball?  How was I planning to cope?  NO CLUE.

I cowered on the bed and begged for an epidural.  I got a shot of Fentanil through my IV.  That was nice.  Then I slept.  My husband slept.  Around 7am,  the pain came back.  2nd shot of Fentanil.  Not as good of result.  My water broke and I writhed in pain.  Wimp.  I wasn't prepared for this.

Epidural, PLEASE.  Now.

24 hours into labor and 6cm dilated, I received my epidural.  Peace.

My friends visited.  My husband ate in front of me.  My dad and Bonus Mom arrived from Phoenix.  La-Ti-Da.  Where is this baby?!

Drugs dripping.  The afternoon was spent like this: Epidural pinching - drip cut off.  Return of Labor pain.  Bolus of some narcotic.  Dead leg.  No pain.  Pinched epidural.  Pain.  Bolus of...?

Baby wasn't doing so well and my water had been broken for a while - so they put a monitor in his head.  So "down there" I now had a Foley to catch my urine, a thermometer thing stuck into my unborn baby's head, an IV, narcotics, a pitocin drip, a Blood Pressure cuff, and....who knows what else?

My husband noticed that while they had been pouring all sorts of IV Fluids, Pitocin and other drugs into my body, my urine bag was almost empty.  He notified the nurse.  She shook the bag and the Foley and out flowed my urine.  IT WAS HOLDING UP THE BABY.

Baby began to descend and an hour later, around 9pm that night, it was time to push.  I had been attached to an IV, blood pressure cuff constantly monitoring and squeezing my arm, dead leg, lying down, not eating, throwing up (remember that Thai Basil Beef Noodles???  Yuck) for 23 hours in the hospital.

I was not an active participant in labor.  This was about me - and not my unborn child.  Do what you want, docs.  Get this over with, please.

They pulled back on the epidural to let me sense where to push.  I pushed for 2, almost 3 hours.  Military style with my mom practically yelling, "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR......"

Looking back, I now realize that I was doing the biggest KEGAL of my life while pushing.  I pushed against myself so forcibly - I popped a blood vessel in my eye that lasted 6 weeks and suffered from sore ribs.

After the vacuum procedure failed and 39-1/2 hours into it - the OB said, "enough".  3 more contractions and we prep for a C-section.

Something clicked in my mind.  Hey now, it's one thing to show up the hospital at 7am and have your baby at 8:12am.  But 40 hours of this?!  No freakin' way.

I grabbed my legs and wrapped myself around my belly and told it to come out now!

They lifted up my gown to expose my belly and lay the baby on me.  I was so relieved.  I stared.  I was completely drenched in sweat.  I didn't even realize it was a BOY for a moment.  Peace had returned.

However.  He was lethargic.  Gray-Blue.  And not really crying.  We did have a moment when we looked at each other for the first time: he, an old soul peering at me with a scowl.  From his newborn perspective, I was a new soul and his task in life was to teach me.  He didn't seem too happy about it.  

<He has always been this way.  He scrutinizes everything.  He sits back in a new environment and takes it all in before he engages.>

They worked on him in the room.  A barrage of Docs and Nurses came in and muttered to each other.  Then they took him away to the NICU.   Everybody followed and I was left with the OB - sewing things up.

What disturbs me now is that I was fine with all of this.  I was relieved that it was over.  That the baby was out.  I wasn't concerned about him.  He was in the NICU for peet's sake!  I asked for food.  And fell asleep.

When they were wheeling me to my room at 1 or 2 in the morning, the nurse had to ask if I wanted to see my baby.  Sure, I replied unenthusiastically.  

He was hooked up to all sorts of devices.  He was in an oxygen box.  An IV in his head.  His heal smudged with blood from where they checked his biliruben.  Breathing rapidly and erratically at the same time.

I went to my room.  Beaten.  Sore.

This birth had worked us both.  We required rest.

An hour later, a nurse woke me up and gave me another bag of pitocin.   My uterus was being "lazy" and flopped over to the side - not clenching back up.  I was still bleeding.  So a nurse began to do Russian-Thai massage on my oh-so-sore belly to convince my uterus to behave.  She said if it didn't, they would have to dilate me again and go in to remove whatever was holding it open.  Lord.

I slept.  I woke up to the Pediatrician telling me that my baby had a heart murmur and would need to most likely go to UCSF for an echo-cardiogram.  He was still in the NICU.  

I didn't even go see my baby until 3-4 pm the next day.  I was tired.  I was mad at my friends for not preparing me for this ordeal.  I felt like a train had run over me.  I couldn't get out of bed without pulling on a bar above my head.

Where was the instant Love?  Where was the Bliss?

Cameron was in the NICU for 5 days.  He was off oxygen after 1 day.  But his pneumonia and biliruben levels remained a concern.  The nurses would call me and ask if I wanted to come to the hospital to nurse him at night.  I was too tired.  Too detached.

We brought him home on the 6th day.  I distinctly remember holding him as a doctor would while examining a baby - I had no clue what to do with him.  My arms hurt.  My entire body hurt.

5 weeks into our life together, we went to UCSF and a pulminary stenosis was confirmed.  i.e. he had a kink in the pipe the left the heart and fed oxygen to the body.  We would have to wait another 5 months to see if it corrected itself.  Or face surgery.

That kind of arrival and subsequent diagnosis did not make for instant bonding.  I didn't know if I should/could love this being: if he were going to need heart surgery or worse, die.  I hid my depression when I went to the OB or Pediatrician for follow ups.  But inside, I was screaming, "WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO!  HELP! AM I NORMAL TO FEEL THIS WAY?!  WHERE IS THE BLISS?!"

I was too scared to get into the car with Cameron.  So I resorted to walking aimlessly around town with him in the stroller.  I didn't know how to cope.  I was exhausted.  He was colicky.  I cried a lot.  My entire identity as kick-ass corporate woman was gone.  Who was I now?  This 9 pound Being was wreaking havoc on my OCD personality.

Driving to San Francisco for his 6 month Echo was the first time we had been in the car together alone.  What a treat!  I got to listen to music and talk on the phone for 1 hour.  Why hadn't I done this earlier?  Even better was the news that Cameron's heart had repaired itself and no surgery would be required.

Our Mother-Son relationship began that day in San Francisco: 6 months after his birth.  We went for sushi.

Writing this now makes me really sad.  How naive.  Short-sighted.  Unloving and selfish I was!

Cameron has made me a better person.  He had challenged me (and continues to) in ways I never imagined possible.   I've lost my modesty and (some of) my selfishness.  I am stronger.  Better.  More mature because of him.  My Old Soul Son. 

I do wonder, though.  Did my getting an epidural, lack of preparation, and fear of labor and delivery (something women have done for thousands of years?!) have anything to do with the outcome of his birth?  With the subsequent 6 months of self-protection and therefore lack of Mother-Son bonding?

I think it did.  Sure - we didn't know about the heart issue.  But maybe I shouldn't have been so carefree about the quantity of drugs I put into my body - HIS body- during the birth ordeal?  Maybe the doctors should not have let it continue for so long knowing about his heart? 

One can't know these things in advance. So here is my prescription for birth:
  • Prepare (read Ina Mayes Guide to Childbirth)
  • Trust and love your body.  Women have been giving birth for years.  We innately know how to do this!  
  • Don't fight it.  Give In. (this is especially hard for athletes and people used to controlling their bodies)
  • Write a birth plan, and expect to alter it, if needed
  • Hire a Doula to support both of you: the Mom and the Dad
  • Learn to meditate
  • Concentrate on the two of you - Mom and Baby - to perform the miracle of birth together
  • Use drugs with caution.  There is a time and place for them.  Don't rule them out.  But don't count on them, either.


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It started with reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 11 years old. I have 20 hand-written diaries locked in a safe in my basement. Now I am taking my musings on-line and semi-scripted to complement my cloth diaper website

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