“I’m going to have a completely all natural drug free birth. I don’t need an epidural” Famous last words from a woman that was only 5 weeks pregnant.
All through my 20’s anytime I heard someone say they had a drug free birth I wanted to scoff and say, “Well that’s just stupid. There are drugs out there for the very purpose!.” I had basically determined that the only reason women would choose to have a drug free birth is that they wanted the bragging rights. Well, I didn’t want bragging rights! Go ahead and sign me up for all the drugs! Fast forward to my first pregnancy. The minute my husband and I had decided to start trying to get pregnant I started my never-ending research. You might be able to relate. Around the time I found out I was pregnant Netflix put up the documentary “The Business of Being Born.” I watched in fascination the scene where the nurses stand in the hallway looking at the board of all the patients and talk about which women were already on Pitocin and which women would be starting on it soon.
What is Pitocin?
Pitocin is a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that is released in your body which triggers contractions. Pitocin is often used to induce labor or to augment labor if labor isn’t going quickly enough. Now Pitocin is often medically necessary such as in the cases of a medically necessary induction or to jump-start a stalled labor BUT what worried me is how often women seem to be put on Pitocin in a hospital setting. All those women really need extra help? Isn’t labor a natural process? Why are so many women requiring medical interventions? Here was the hitch for me: Pitocin is commonly cited as making contractions more intense and more painful. More intensity AND more pain? Um no, thank you.
Switching from an OBGYN to a Midwife
I now had an absolute fear of medical intervention, specifically Pitocin, and that fear led me to decide to have my baby under the care of midwives at our local birth center. It took a little convincing but I got my husband on board as well and we started our journey confidently moving towards a medication-free delivery. We were continually so pleased with the care we received from the midwives. My appointments with the OB/GYN that were only 10 minutes long morphed into hour-long leisurely appointments with the midwives where we discussed nutrition, exercise, and many other pregnancy and birth related topics. I went to each appointment with so many questions and would leave happy with everything I learned during that appointment. I met other women that had chosen to go the route of the midwives. We would chat about the things that people would say to us about our decision to not have our babies in a hospital. Everyone had a horror story to share. Everyone seemed to think it was important to tell us that if they hadn’t had their baby in the hospital A B C or D would have happened. Everyone’s stories were filled with horror and contained strong warnings about having a non-hospital delivery.
I don’t know what it is about the human condition that makes us so compelled to share the gloom and doom of our life experiences.
Getting Sent to the Hospital for an Induction
My husband and I sailed into the birth center for my 40-week appointment with the midwives expecting them to tell me to make sure to take some long walks, eat some dates, have sex and do all the other little things that can naturally induce labor. Instead, two of the midwives came into the room, sat down, and told me that they had just gotten off the phone with the perinatologist. She (the Perinatologist) wanted me to go straight to the hospital for an immediate induction. “Why?” I remember asking in stunned disbelief. “They have been telling me that everything was fine!” Apparently, there had been a complete lack of communication from the Perinatologist to my midwives. The Perinatologist had wanted to induce me 2 days before my due date. This was news to me. She had also diagnosed my baby with SGA (Small for Gestational Age). I knew from my research exactly what SGA was and all the complications it could entail. How could the Perinatologist have never told me, in my (what felt like hundreds) of appointments that she had diagnosed my baby with SGA? How was that diagnosis never written on any of the reports sent to the midwives from the Perinatologist’s office? And most importantly how could this be happening?
Experiencing the Power of an Epidural
As the epidural did its magic I felt my panic disappear. I was still worried about my baby’s health but a more rational mindset was able to prevail. I knew that no matter what happened my husband and I would be able to handle it. After I received the epidural my labor was able to speed along. I delivered a healthy, 7 lb, 2 oz baby girl after 36 hours of labor. Everything that we had worried about proved to be untrue. The Doctor’s concerns never materialized. The NICU team that had assembled for her birth was promptly dismissed. She was just a normally developed, healthy baby. We were and are lucky and so blessed. I fully believe that getting an epidural is what finally allowed my labor to progress. I was able to let go of some of the fear and enjoy the process that is birth. I was able to connect with my husband, rest, and prepare myself for what was to come. My labor was the complete opposite of the labor I had planned. Do I regret getting an epidural? Hell no. Will I have a hospital birth and an epidural with the next one? Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’m open to all the possibilities.
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