Monday, May 18, 2009

My Natural vs. My Epidural Childbirth

I've very purposely titled this post "My" Natural vs. "My" Epidural Childbirth, instead of simply "natural vs. epidural childbirth." Why? Well, I want it to be very clear that my experience may be different than others'. Do I have a preference between the two? Absolutely... but a healthy mom and a healthy baby are the ultimate goals. Whatever needs to happen for that to happen, is perfectly okay in my opinion. That being said, here is a bit about my experiences! ;) I'm going to go back and forth between labors/deliveries to make comparisons. Hopefully it won't be too confusing! Oh... and this will inevitably be a long post. Read as interested!

When I was pregnant with our daughter Hannah, I prepped to have a natural, non-medicated childbirth. I took classes, read books and researched the internet like crazy (as I'm a research geek). Two weeks before she was due, at my regular OB checkup, we learned that my placenta was no longer functioning as needed to support her in the womb. Her and I were both losing weight. My doctor decided an induction was medically necessary and was scheduled the very next day. I was crushed as I'd heard a Pitocin-induced labor was much more difficult than a normal one. The next morning, we arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m. I was led to the bed, all of my vitals were checked, I was connected to both the contraction monitor, and the baby heart rate monitor. A blood pressure cuff was attached, an i.v. inserted and the Pitocin began.

After 6 hours of light contractions, my water broke at only 1cm and I was no longer allowed to get out of the bed. Within 30 minutes, my contractions increased considerably. Roughly, six hours later, I was only 3cm dilated yet was having contractions of duration and strength like those during the transition phase of a normal, active labor. I asked for the i.v. pain killer they had mentioned before (Stadol). Though it didn't kill the pain, it more or less made me feel like I'd had too much to drink and made me temporarily not mind as much. Within an hour, it had worn off and I was back in the same dilemma. Having dilated no further and dealing with immense pain, I broke down and requested the epidural. After receiving it, I fell asleep for three hours in pure exhaustion. When I awoke I was 8cm dilated and delivered Hannah about three hours later. It was approximately an 18hr labor from the start of the Pitocin to delivery. You can read the full details about this labor and delivery from my birth story post.

Fast forward to my pregnancy with Benjamin. About two months before he was due, I started thinking about the possibility of going natural again. I knew for certain if I was induced again, I was not even going to make the attempt. But what if I wasn't? I started questioning my friend Courtney about her experience of going natural with her 3rd child. I asked her if she'd used a doula and she had. That got me to thinking again... maybe... if I had a doula, I'd have the encouragement and support I needed to actually have the natural childbirth. Long story short, the Lord put me in contact with Betsy, a doula and fellow member of my church! We met once before labor to discuss expectations and desires. Afterwards, we kept in contact by email.

After several false "starts" to labor, the real thing finally began around midnight, five days before my due date. You can read all about the details on my recent birth story post to reduce repetition. This labor and delivery was SO different from the last!

One huge difference was that my water did not break until Benjamin's head literally began to crown. Having your bag of waters in tact cushions the contractions. Some people then ask if it hurt? Absolutely! Especially at the end, I felt like I was going to die! ;) Yet, I cannot even imagine how much more it would have hurt without my water in tact!

After my epidural with Hannah, my lower body/legs were numb for around 12hrs. I couldn't get out of the bed or anything by myself. I had to use a bed pan (no fun) and get help to even move my legs in the bed. With Benjamin, I was able to go to the restroom on my own two feet less than an hour after I delivered him!

I went in to the hospital with Hannah after a full night's sleep. Yet after giving birth to her and spending about 45min-1hr with her and friends, I passed out again for about five hours. I was completely wiped out. After giving birth to Benjamin and working only on 3hrs of sleep, I was on a tremendous adrenaline rush. I did not sleep until 10hrs later! Though I felt and worked hard through my labor and delivery with him, I truly felt great afterwards.

Confined to the bed after my water broke with Hannah, I believe was one of the greatest reasons my labor progressed so slowly. Given, the fact that I was induced and it was my first baby were definitely factors, I'm sure. With Benjamin, after being on the monitors for the first 30 minutes and all being well, I was allowed to get out of bed and move around. At the end of my labor with him, when I was finally allowed to get up, about 20 minutes later, my water broke and I delivered! It was much more painful to deal with the contractions laying on my back in that bed. Swaying side to side, leaning over the bed was my favorite position in handling my contractions.

When it came time to push with Hannah, I had to be coached on how to breath and when to push. Because of the epidural, I could feel the contractions but not the pain or pelvic pressure. With Benjamin, they did have to tell me to slow down my breathing. Yet my body literally told me when to push. As a matter of fact, the nurses were having to tell me not to push because the doctors weren't in the room yet. I thought they were crazy because I didn't feel like I could not push. My body was doing a thing of it's own! As he crowned, I felt the "ring of fire" that you may or may not have heard about. That in and of itself gave me reason to get him out! Yet he came so fast, it didn't last long. ;)

After coming home from the hospital with Hannah, I was incredibly sore for several weeks. I had one stitch and a ton of lower pelvic pressure whenever I stood for more than five minutes. The very day I came home from the hospital with Benjamin, we went to a soccer game. :) I barely felt like I'd given birth just two days before! I've felt almost completely normal since! Given, I had no stitches this time and my body may still have been a little more prepared since I'd given birth previously. Yet even my energy level has been way above and beyond that with Hannah.

Overall, my natural childbirth was SO incredibly rewarding. I feel like I climbed an enormous mountain and lived to tell about it! The recovery was way faster than with my epidural childbirth. The cost will be considerably less because I won't have to pay for the anesthesiologist or the epi. It is still an amazing feeling to know that the good Lord made our bodies to be able to give birth. Sometimes people act like it's a foreign concept. If the Lord blesses us with more children (and I pray He does), I will most definitely attempt another natural childbirth with the help of my new friend and doula, Betsy. At the same time, if medical reasons necessitate something else, I will do whatever is best for me and our baby.

I hope this post has been encouraging, informative and helpful - especially to anyone contemplating a natural childbirth! If you've read this far - bless you! ;)

Take care,


Laura said...

Awesome awesome awesome! I mean, you KNOW I'm gonna love this, right? This is why doulas and midwives are SO important!

Girl, I love your birth story and I totally love this comparison. Next time you have a baby, Lord willing, maybe I'll be in doula training!! :)

Bigmammy said...

I am so proud of you, and agree 100 percent with everything you said! I would go natural again in a second even though it hurt really bad :)

popnbottles said...

Hear what dads have to say on the subject.

Anonymous said...

thank you! every woman i've talked to who has had both medicated and unmedicated childbirth has preferred going natural. i have gone without meds for both babies, and hope i can stay strong for my 3rd. i love your story. congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Hi there

Thanks for writing this blog, loved reading it