I was pregnant for the first time, and the thought of giving birth terrified me. I had nine months to think about the process, and boy, did I. I watched television shows with real footage from labor and delivery rooms. I scoured the internet for both medical information and personal experiences of what other moms did. I read several books. I was all but convinced that I probably couldn’t handle the pain of childbirth and that I would need an epidural.
My goal was to make it through the childbirth process with as little intervention as possible. I did not want a cesarean section. I did not want to be induced, because I knew (from the many television shows I watched!) that my chances of having a c section were greatly increased following an induction. As for pain control, I considered narcotics until I realized they did little for pain relief but caused additional risk to the baby. I decided that I would attempt to make it through medication-free, but if it got too unbearable, I’d ask for an epidural.
I arrived at the hospital in active labor. After being admitted, a labor check revealed I was five centimeters dilated. I was doubled over in pain, in the fetal position and panting with each contraction. I immediately asked for the epidural. About a half hour later, the anesthesiologist came in to administer my pain medication. I sat upright on the bed, bending over to flex my spine and allow maximum space for the needle insertion. I was a little scared about that long needle coming so close to my spine, but the pain was so unbearable that it overshadowed my fear. About 15 minutes later, and the pain was gone. Thanks to the epidural, I was in a state of relief and pure comfort; I felt great! I was happy, but also sleepy – after all, it was nearly five o’clock in the morning. All went well and I safely delivered my baby boy to the cheers of my midwife and nurses. I was in a full state of awareness and contentment during childbirth. I felt no pain, but I did notice pressure during contractions. My legs and feet were numb, and that feeling took about 3 hours to totally wear off.
As I write this article nearly sixteen months later, I occasionally feel soreness in my spine near the site of my epidural. When I was first cleared to resume exercise, I couldn’t flex or extend my spine too much or I felt pain. This slowly wore off over a period of months, but there is still a small aching feeling there many times after I workout.
We are planning to try for baby number two later this year, and I am strongly considering skipping the epidural this time and going all-natural. While the feeling of pain relief offered by the drugs was great, it did cause me discomfort that I still feel to this day. Then again, ask me when I’m in active labor, and the first phrase out of my mouth may be “epidural, please!”