When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, we were excited and clueless. I spent my pregnancy like your typical first time parent: reading every baby book out there, taking classes, and listening to endless advice from friends and family.
My pregnancy went off without a hitch, aside from the occasional bout of morning sickness. As my due date crept closer, I felt ready for childbirth. I talked to my doctor about my requests and planned to have a vaginal birth. If she felt I needed medication or a C-section for the well-being of the baby, I would do so, but otherwise I wanted to have a natural birth.
My contractions started in the middle of the night a little after my expected due date. They were far apart for most of the morning and I tried to stay active until they were close enough together to head up to the hospital. When we got there, I went over my birthing plan with a nurse and let her know I hoped to have a natural birth -- barring any unforeseen complications.
Regardless of me saying this, the nurses came in frequently asking me if I was ready for pain medication and telling me I'd regret it if I didn't take any. Each time I told them no and that I wasn't planning on any medication.
In one instance I got a head shake in return, another an eye roll, and once someone had the audacity to tell me I was making a big mistake. I felt a wave of dread whenever someone approached my room and panic when a nurse entered. Why were they giving me such a hard time for wanting a natural birth?
Yes, I was exhausted and in pain, but that is supposed to happen when a woman gives birth. In my mind, I was doing great. Fifteen hours of contractions, no medication, a good heart rate, progressing nicely. I didn't see what the problem was. Thankfully I had my spouse by my side and tried to focus on walking around, deep breathes, and other relaxation techniques.
At one point my husband left the room and I found myself alone for the first time since I'd arrived. The nurse who had told me what a mistake I was making came in and sat in a chair beside my bed. As I lay on my side breathing through a long, painful contraction she said “Give me three reasons right now why I shouldn't call the anesthesiologist for an epidural.”
I had a number of reasons why I didn't want one, but at the time my mind was totally blank. I was trying to focus on getting through the contraction. I told her breathlessly that I didn't want one. “Three reasons,” she barked.
I shook my head and just said “No.” She told me she was going to call him down to my room and said casually on her way out, “Send him away if you want.”
For over six hours, I'd had nurses telling me I needed medication and that I couldn't manage without any. Not once was I given any supportive comments or told I was doing well from the staff. I had never felt so defeated in my life. Were they right? Was I really not strong enough to do this without medication?
I didn't know what to do, so I didn't do anything at all. The anesthesiologist came to my room shortly after. I was scared and alone. After he put the needle in, I started crying. Why didn't I just say no?
The epidural was a mistake. I knew it before I got it and my beliefs were confirmed after the fact. I had a catheter put in. I couldn't walk around or move anymore. When it was time to push, I felt a little pressure but that was it. At one point during pushing I heard a snip of scissors. It took a second for me to realize my doctor had just performed an episiotomy without telling me, despite me saying I wanted to tear naturally. I hadn't felt a thing and that really freaked me out. I was giving birth and could hardly feel half of my body.
All that fear melted away though as I gave one last big push, heard a loud cry, and saw our baby for the first time. He was a beautiful and healthy little boy.
Holding him for that first time was one of the best moments of my life. I just wish my the hours leading up to his birth hadn't been so difficult. I regret not speaking up for myself and feel ashamed for not having the strength to say no.
With a second child soon on the way, I'm not letting the same mistake happen twice. I have a new doctor who I feel more comfortable with. We discussed my fears and she recommended a doula -- a birth coach to support me through labor. I'll also be delivering at a different hospital.
I learned a lot my first time around and this time I know I'll be strong enough to stand up for myself and not let others bully me over my birthing choices.