28 January 2009

What labor teaches you

In The Business Of Being Born, one of the interviewees invokes the classical rock and hard place to describe that horrible, endless moment in labor we all* know and cry about after our husbands fall asleep beside us. The laboring woman gets to a point where she either has to deliberately head straight into the unfathomable pain of pushing the baby out, or remain forever in the terrible pain she's already suffering. That's a bad place. Twice I thought I would die there, for real. And truly believing you're about to die is a totally rad life experience. lol j/k! Kinda!

Demerol, take me away!

I'm in no way against pain relief during labor. That is too personal a decision to be made or judged by anyone else. I know several women who fought the good fight and, utterly spent by hours of agony, were finally able to deliver after receiving an epidural. But there is value in making it through unassisted if possible. A girl who never gets wedged in good and tight between the monsters misses out on the ineffable mystery of surviving it, which strengthens her trust in God to pilot her safely through the treacherous strait again, should he direct her vessel accordingly.

What labors teaches you is that you actually can do things you think there is seriously no bleeping way you can possibly do. One intended meaning, many applications. ;)

*less a few birthin' machines like my sister.


Sarah D said...

Yea, what is up with your sister! Not fair! Hi Rosie.

Gauntlets said...

Having gone both routes, I support epidural-free whenever it can be managed.

Those OP babies kick some serious tuckus, though . . . :(

Joy said...

It's amazing the things you can do when you have no choice.

Reb. Mary said...

>>"That's a bad place"<< Oh! The deliciously ironic understatement of it all!!

The first time around, I was determined and positive (as only a naive first-timer can be) that I would NOT have an epidural. I didn't (as much because I didn't think I'd be able to hold still long enough for the needle as for any nobler reason; and also naively thinking that such pain surely couldn't last much longer).

The next two times, I informed my husband on the way in that I was reserving my right to holler for drugs and abuse anyone and everyone in my path until and maybe even after they gave me some serious narcotics. I haven't yet, but I like to reserve my rights :)

Also: I've never had to push for any serious length of time. Can't imagine how it must be to push for hours?!?

Starting to hyperventilate here, just thinking about it. Time to go sip some soothing tea...or something.

Melanie said...

I have to chuckle as I think back to preparing for my first birth...I actually had myself convinced that it wouldnt involve pain.

I have one very clear memory around 9 cm where I was staring at the door that leads to the garage in my house. I was trying to figure out how to get myself out of the birthing tub and into the car so that I could be rushed in for an epidural. Once I realized it wasnt possible, I remember thinking, "Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit". Then, I surrendered myself to "Labor land" knowing that if I died it would probably be very soon, if not I would wake up on the other side with a baby...or a whale.

Sarah D said...

I will never forget the look on my OB's face when after delivering my firstborn sans drugs, I yelled, "I did it!".

Lauriinnc said...

Joy, you said it. It IS amazing what you can do when you don't have a choice. AND oh boy rock in a hard place, yessirree. A BAAD place.

My first I was determined to go drug free..until 20 hours later and I was only dilated 3cm..I succumbed to the epidural. I got to sleep and 4 hours later she arrived after three pushes.

The next 6 were au natural. These last two I got drugs BEFORE pain and babies were out in three hours. (I decided I earned the right to treat myself!) That was totally great. This time, I don't know what I'll do. :)

The whole birth-thing is truly amazing..that it can even be done at all..don't you think?

Joy said...

Ha ha! Yeah, it IS amazing. Push this watermelon-sized person through a grape-sized opening, and everyone survives. Nothing short of miraculous!

I went drug-free last time out of sheer curiosity, and now I'm no longer curious. No desire to think I'm seriously going to die again, either. Then again, there was a natural high afterward that lasted several hours, and the thought of a wet tap and spinal headache may be enough to motivate me next time.

Rebekah said...

Lauri, genius! :D

I also had no intention of going med-free again after my first time around, but the rest of them were so fast that I couldn't catch enough breath to ask. I honestly don't know if I could make it through another delivery like my first.

Lutheran Woman said...

Funny to find this post after just moving and reconnecting on to the WWW and after just pushing out my ninth baby 3 weeks ago.

In my experience ...

The first 6 babies were delivered w/o pain meds. My last 3 were delivered using an epidural.

My first baby (17 years ago) was delivered nearly pain free. The more babies I had, the more painful it got. I found that if I was not emotionally stable and healthy then the pain would be intolerable. A woman cannot be upset, cannot be worried, cannot be burdened in the least bit and expected to deal with the pains of labor at the same time. That is just plain destructive and can cause the woman to have a hard time dealing being with being a mother post-delivery.

I want to tell you ladies something I just went through with this last birth ...

This last baby I had (Nathanael) is my smallest baby. He also was my HARDEST to birth. While I did use an epidural, I still felt EVERYTHING. The reason was because he was born sideways. NEVER have I ever had a child born sideways! Thank God that he was only 6lbs 1oz because he may have died due to he way he was coming out. My largest child (my eighth born) was one of the easiest to birth with an epidural, while this little tiny 6 pounder was nearly the death of me. I actually passed out for just over 2 hours due the pain and due the amount of pain meds they gave me. It was a tough one!!!

Lauriinnc said...

LW, you know what? My first babies were the smallest (6 pounders)and harder to get out..now that you mention it! Esp. the 6#1 ouncer! wow. I never noticed that.

I completely agree about the mental state of the mom and ability to manage. With #8 I was a complete basket case and when the dr told me I could have an epidural at this hospital, I was so grateful to God, because I really did not think I could do it. I was in such a state the whole pregnancy that the only thing that was getting me through (truly)was knowing that I would feel so much better emotionally after he was out. By the grace of God, I was 10 days late so they scheduled me to be induced. He was out in three hours and I had no pain. I thought it was God's little gift to me besides the baby, of course.

I love talking birthing babies with you ladies!!!

Marie M said...

It's so interesting to read everyone's stories... if it is God's will, I'll have more than two birth stories in the future!=)

Grace, my first was born after 43 hours of labor. After 40 hours, when I was just short of giving up, we got the epidural (which at the time made me see myself as a failure). One hour later, I was fully dialated... I guess it was just what I needed to relax. I wouldn't let my body dialate on my own. I guess I should be thankful for the epidural, but I mourn the loss of not feeling any of the birth. I pushed (pushed until I broke several blood vessels in my face...) her out without assistance (or as the midwife said, and my dozens of stitches indicated, Grace "plowed" through me), but I seriously doubted my ability to be a good mother and follow my insticts about parenting after birth. Thank the Lord that nursing went well and I was able to gain some sort of maternal instinct that way! But I STILL have this sort of... distance... with my oldest (almost three). Does anyone else have an odd relationship with a child due to a birth-experience?

With my second, several times during the last trimester, I cried myself to sleep, so fearful of the birth process after what I went through the first time. We had a doula this time, and things went much better. Only 12 hours of labor (hey- that's only 1/3 of the time of my first!) Although I did have some Nubain toward the end, I had the... marvelous??? experience of feeling Rose's birth, and the natural high of experiencing them placing her warm silky body on my chest (Grace was rushed off to get the meconium out of her lungs right after birth. After 43 hours in the womb, I'd have pooped, too!)

It's sort of funny sharing such persronal things with people that I've never met... but I know we share so many values, that somehow, there's no other group I'd want to talk about this with.
Besides, you all have so much experience, and among the women in my immediate circle, I'm the expert with the grand total of two!

Rebekah said...

LW, oh my. You are a hero.

Lauri, I've heard from other veterans that mental state makes all the difference.

Thanks to both of you for the reassurance for we who are less experienced that an epidural doesn't make you a bad mother.

Marie, I have a big old chip on my shoulder about the impossibility of getting a straight, non-political answer about virtually anything pertaining to motherhood. It makes us think that if we don't do it the "right" way we've hurt our babies and failed as mothers. Your baby is your baby no matter how much you did or didn't feel when she was born, just ask an adoptive mom. An epidural does not make you a failure, and I'll add you to my list of people who couldn't deliver without one.

Rosie said...

Looks like I missed out on a lot. Maybe next round I'll face the monsters.

Reb. Mary said...

Marie: Lack of local support is one reason I heart this blog ;) About the rest: I remember hearing a childbirth instructor say that birth plans are a good idea, but that most every mom will mourn SOMETHING about each birth experience, even when the blessed outcome is a healthy baby--taking (or not taking) the pain meds, or having to be induced when you really didn't want to, or yelling louder than you thought you would, or ending up with an episiotomy, or not being able to hold the baby right away, or not wanting to hold the baby right away, or, or, or. . .
I think she's right. And what one woman can blow off may be a source of very real struggle for another. It's ok to be sad when everything doesn't go quite like you thought it would. And husbands can learn to be pretty good about reminding us that, although our feelings are valid (hormone-driven or no), we made it through, which impresses them no end, and we're stronger for it :)

Lauriinnc said...

One thing I think it is very important to remember..we live in a fallen world. Our bodies are NOT perfect. In our time, God has graciously provided modern medicine to help us "make life work" whether that is birthing babies, making asthma manageable, or helping our mental inadequacies! Our bodies do wear out! We do what we do to get through the day...with no guilt because that was taken away by Christ. We are FREE from those laws we put on ourselves...because sometimes those Laws feel heavier than God's! :)

Melanie said...

Marie- with my second I had a terribly complicated pregnancy that ended with bedrest for preterm labor at 32 weeks that got me to 5cm and 100% after only 3 hrs of labor.

Well, I made it to 37 weeks with drugs and got to have my out of hospital, drug-free birth. It was terrible. After being in labor for 9 hrs I was only 6. Finally the midwife realized he was stuck with his head cocked backward and twisted. I got upside down for over an hour to let him disengage and then started over. I was so angry and the injuries from that birth so painful, that the first two weeks of mothering him were very difficult. I would have been greatful for an epidural and a controlled delivery. Failure you are not, you are amazing.

Pam said...

Epidurals do not make you a bad mother, any more than a relatively uneventful labor and delivery make you a better mother.

I won't bore ya'll with my experiences, this time. hee hee. Power outage kept me from checking in, so I missed this one. Interesting reading, though! :)