I Volunteered for the Pain:
Labor and Delivery without an Epidural
by: Becca W.
“How will I know if I’m labor?” I asked a friend.
“Oh, you’ll know,” she replied ominously in a way that made me think she was not-so-secretly glad I was getting ready to experience the most intense pain of my life.
She was right. I was several days past my due date when the pain started. It was Christmas Eve, and my husband, Matt, and I had just gotten home from our traditional festivities—a Christmas Eve service at our church and his mother’s house for a small family celebration. People looked at me like I was a freak show. How many times can you hear, “You look like you’re going to bust!” before you want to inflict serious pain on the giggling spectator? I was patient and kept reminding myself that every moment of elephant ankles and horrible aching from my chest to my feet meant I was that much closer to seeing my baby. I waddled my way through the evening, feeling an unexpected closeness to Mary that night as I heard her story for what seemed to be the millionth yet first time. We got home about 11:00, exhausted and ready to attempt sleep, something which had been elusive for many weeks. As soon as my head hit the pillow at midnight, the contractions came. Since I had experienced a few contractions the night before, I got up and went to the living room to time them. There was no reason for Matt and me to both be awake, right? I timed them for an hour, and they were every three to five minutes the entire time. There was no slowing down. I woke Matt up after an hour.
“Ummm, Babe? I think you should get up. We need to go to the hospital.”
He sighed and rolled over.
“Babe! You need to get up. I am in labor.”
In a groggy haze, he replied, “What? I… you… how do you know?”
“I’ve been timing my contractions for an hour, and they are coming every three to five minutes. That’s when we’re supposed to go. I’m going to finish packing my bag. You should get up.” This went on for a good fifteen minutes before he got up and took a shower. So much for the way this goes down in the movies, huh? There was no rushing around or panicky husband. Nope. I had to convince my husband that I was actually in labor four days after my due date. He was just so tired. Can you feel my sympathy?
I finished packing my bag, carefully following the list I had already tucked inside it. I love making lists, as much for the satisfaction of marking things off as for the knowledge that I won’t forget anything. I had written down everything I had already packed as well as every item I needed to put in when it was time to go to the hospital. I pulled on some enormous maternity sweat pants with flip flops and one of Matt’s t-shirts. Yes, flip flops in the middle of winter… nothing else fit the balloons I was forced to utilize as feet. Much to Matt’s surprise, I also went in to empty the dishwasher and pick up around the house, stopping in my tracks every three to five minutes as pain surged in my abdomen. I might have been in labor, but I did not want to bring my baby home to a messy house or, heaven forbid, a full dishwasher.
We drove to the hospital about 2:00 a.m. full of adrenaline and shock. It’s amazing how shocking labor was even though I’d been anticipating it for almost a year. The nurses weighed me (I didn’t look) and sent me to an observation room as is the typical routine. The first nurse who checked me (an amazingly subtle phrase for having someone stick their fingers up there) panicked and said, “You’re getting ready to have this baby!” Upon checking again, she realized that his head was just extremely low, and he was not actually coming out at that moment. I could have told her his head was low…hence the waddle. People actually told me I looked like I had something between my legs when I walked. “Yes,” I actually replied to some, “that would be his head.” The nurse determined that I was four centimeters and asked what my pain level was. This is the part where you look at the chart on the wall with colors, numbers, and a continuum of faces from happy to very angry. I said I was at maybe a six; I didn’t know. How do you know where you are on a scale of one to ten if you’ve never felt a ten? She looked at the monitor, which showed my contractions peaking off the screen and replied, “You’re going to do just fine.” I took that as a good sign since I was not planning on having an epidural.
I was moved quickly to a labor room and began what would be the most intense pain of my life. The contractions came more quickly and lasted longer each time. The breaks in between contractions were becoming less and less. Matt was the rock I needed him to be, quiet and strong. He would look at the monitor and tell me when the worst was over. That helped, but I always knew that another would be coming by the time I caught my breath. I had a cold washcloth on my forehead, which was great until it started falling in my face when I would change positions. “I…am…done…with…this,” I stated strongly (notice I did not say yelled) to Matt as I handed it to him. I stayed pretty quiet for the most part. I got some Nubane as my body started to shake. I knew I would be worn out by the time I had to push if I was going to shake for the next several hours. The Nubane helped me calm down, but it did nothing for the pain. They offered me an epidural, and I refused. I wasn’t trying to be Super Woman or pump up my pride. I just really wanted to do it naturally. I wanted to feel it all. I wanted to know what it felt like to deliver a child from my body. Well, until about eight centimeters.
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