Photo courtesy of belly2bbaby.com
Before having children, I had only vaguely heard of doulas through a few acquaintances and I didn’t have much interest in finding out more about them. Pregnant with my first child, I was working two jobs and couldn’t even fit prenatal classes into my schedule, much less educate myself about optimal birthing. I did however want to be as prepared as possible, so I read a few books about the benefits of natural childbirth, free of drugs and other interventions.
I learned the epidural often slows or stops the contractions completely, leading to further interventions such as the administration of Pitocin (the synthetic version of oxytocin, the hormone that triggers contractions), and failing this, a cesarean section. Not to mention that the drugs affect the baby too, making him/her less alert and able to bond with mom after birth. For these reasons, I decided that I too wanted to attempt a natural childbirth.
Unfortunately, I was a little too arrogant and believed that I could do it without any preparation apart from tips I had gathered from my own research. I thought, if all of the women from generations past could do it, why couldn’t I?
When I got to the hospital around five hours into labour, I was four centimeters dilated and the contractions were coming on strong. The mother in the next room clearly had the same intentions as me as she was screaming exhortations to her god. This did nothing to calm my nerves and for the first time, I realized there was no way I could do this. Four hours later, I felt like my hips were being smashed with a sledgehammer and nothing I did (going into the bath, going down on all fours, pacing the halls) could make the pain manageable. When I turned to my husband, who is usually so strong and capable, for support, he looked lost and terrified – and his face was actually green (I always thought this was just an expression!).
Photo courtesy of http://www.thefertilechickonline.com
At this point, I gave up and begged for the epidural. By this time, the contractions were coming so fast there was almost no break in between and I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath before another wave of indescribable pain hit me. With the epidural came almost instantaneous relief – the pain subsided completely – but then my contractions also stopped completely. After hours without progress, I was forced to take the Pitocin and after twelve more hours, I was told that if the baby didn’t come soon, I would have to consider a C-section. Fortunately, a short while later, my son Ethan was born vaginally. Unfortunately, I had a fever most likely caused by the epidural, but just in case an infection was to blame, Ethan was given a four-day course of antibiotics. To get the antibiotics going via IV, he was taken from me 15 minutes after he was born and spent nearly an hour alone in the ICU.
Eighteen months later, I found out I was pregnant again. I knew wholeheartedly that I did not want to have another epidural, but I also could not fathom enduring that kind of pain again. I had learned the hard way that I needed support and way more preparation this time around….
Click here for Part II: An Amazing Lesson