The debate between natural births and an epidural assisted birth rages on. I am on both sides of the argument. When I had my first daughter in 2001, my plans were to have a natural birth. I was, however, induced 10 days past due date using only pitocin. This was not a good labor. After about 14 hours or so, they cranked the pitocin up to maximum and broke my water. The contractions happened with no break at that point. It was a solid contraction. I heard the nurses saying to turn off the pitocin, and an oxygen mask was slapped on me to bring the baby’s heart rate back up (which it thankfully did immediately). At this point, I asked for an epidural.
A few hours after the baby was born, a nurse took me to the bathroom and watched me pee. Now, despite the fact that i just had myself open for the world to see, I was still modest, and her watching me bothered me. But she said in a threatening tone that if I didn’t pee in front of her, she’d have to put a catheter in me. I peed.
The next day, I was hugely swollen. My legs were enormous. So enormous that my knees were barely visible. I was horrified. I was sure that I was dying, as this could not be a normal effect of birth. THe nurse assured me it was normal, but didn’t explain to me that it was normal because of the copious amounts of fluids they pump into you when you are on an epidural. He told me to drink a lot of fluid and my body would get rid of the extra fluids. I was swollen like this for several days.
My next baby was born in 2004. I had an epidural once and thought I would try to go natural, but if it was too much, I’d have an epidural again. I still didn’t know that my swelling was from the epidural. I thought it was a natural part of birth. Luckily for me, this baby came much faster. Instead of 22 hours, it was only 5. I also had a doula this time. I asked for an epidural, but when I sat up to get it, my water broke and three pushes later, the baby was out. I felt great after this birth. I assumed it was due to the short labor. Three hours after the baby was born, I had to go to the mandatory birth class, and I was the only mom in there that looked energized. I went home the same day and my baby’s first night was spent in my own bed. The next day, I was up and cooking for the family! I felt fantastic.
I found out later talking to a Doula that the swelling was part of the epidural side effects. I hated it so much, that for my third baby in 2005, I was determined to go natural. I hired a Doula again. It was my third induction as well. The second induction was cervidil only, and this third one was cervidil and pitocin. The labor was not short, 17 hours, but I was determined to make it drug free. I did! I was rather proud of myself. I had a lousy Doula, too, but I was determined to avoid the swelling I hated. Again, I felt great after labor and wanted to go home sooner. Unfortunately, the baby was born at noon, so they wouldn’t release her until a pediatrician had checked her after 12 hours, so I had to wait until the next morning before they would release her.
In 2009, I was due to have my fourth baby. This time, a boy. I was in a different region, and hired the best doula I could find. I had gone through two natural childbirths, so this one should be much the same. If you read my previous post on Lucas’s birth, you know how that went. I ended up with the massive swelling after his birth, and again felt like I must be dying to be this swollen. It’s very disturbing.
My conclusion of my four different experiences is that you should try your best to go natural. Try to make it through each contraction, one at a time. If it gets to the point where you can’t take it anymore, you can’t tough out one more contraction, then ask for the epidural. Don’t try to be the hero, but know that if you make it through without one, you will feel like a superhero, and you will feel awesome.