The use of epidurals during labor and delivery is a pretty (and, annoyingly) debated aspect of childbirth. There are staunch defenders of both epidurals and unmedicated labor, while some people prefer to remain open to any and all alternatives. Regardless of which side of the "epidural fence" you end up on, all the research and reading in the world can't necessarily prepare you for the moment you receive one. I know that, personally, there were things I wasn't ready for after I got an epidural; things that would have been nice to at least somewhat familiarize myself with before I was in the thick of medicated labor.
I've had more than a few epidurals and each one provided me with a unique experience, to say the least. My experiences aren't typical of most epidurals, but some aspects (I would argue) are pretty damn universal. I had fully intended to labor without one but, well, you know what they say about those birth plans, right? The first time I labored, after being induced, for hours and hours, then I finally just couldn't go on without some medicated assistance. My second time I wasn't induced, and waited until transition before I begged to be delivered of my agony. Both labors were entirely different, despite the epidurals, and both went in ways I never would've imagined.
I guess that's the thing about birth, though, right? Despite the fact that women (who choose and/or are able to have children, of course) have been giving birth for thousands upon thousands of years, no birth is ever the same and no birth is ever "routine." Surprises arise, things don't always go according to plan, and unforeseen circumstances chance your labor and delivery game. So with that in mind, and because it doesn't hurt to learn about someone else's experiences when preparing for your own, here are a few things about my epidurals that definitely didn't go "according to plan."
You Can Sleep During Labor
After being induced and laboring with no pain medication for upwards of 12 hours, I was so exhausted. In fact, I was so tired that, thanks to the epidural, I actually slept through transition. The nurses had to wake me up to check my progress.
I definitely needed the rest at that point, so I'm glad I had a little respite. Regaining my strength through some sweet, sweet unconsciousness was a welcomed surprise, to say the least.
You Can Enjoy A Conversation Without Screaming
Being able to hold a conversation with my husband or my nurses without taking contractions or screaming or moaning or begging breaks was pretty much the best damn thing ever.
You Can Be In Pain For Weeks After Birth
I didn't realize, though, that my lower back would hurt for a long while afterward I was administered my epidural. And by "a long while," I mean weeks. I mentioned it to my doctor at my first postpartum visit and he said it was normal, but it was still a little unsettling.
Your Epidural Can Fail To Work
Then, of course, there was that one time I ended up having an emergency a c-section. The epidural, to my dismay and surprise, didn't necessarily work. In other words, I felt what was being done to my body in an attempt to bring my baby into the world. Yeah, that was special.
You Can Actually Wait Too Long To Ask For An Epidural
With my younger son, I essentially waited too long to ask for an epidural. In the end, I might as well have just not had one. I still felt absolutely everything as my son was crowning and coming into the world, so the needle in my back was pretty damn pointless.
You Can Feel The Best You've Ever Felt
Before my c-section, I must admit the epidural was actually pretty rad. I was comfortable and able to rest, and I had no idea it could be that calm in a labor and delivery room.
You Can Be Immobile For A Pretty Long Time...
Despite the fact that I was able to feel my surgery, I still couldn't feel my legs when it was all over. I wasn't prepared for it and, in the end, it's pretty damn frustrating to be immobile (especially when you have a brand new baby to take care of).
...And It's A Super Surreal Feeling
I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what it would feel like to be unable to feel about half of my body. Yeah, I didn't. It was completely bizarre and I wasn't expecting it to be that way at all. It's like this tingly, my-foot-is-asleep, but it isn't, but it's not there, but it's really there type feeling. It's just, you know, weird.
You'll Need Someone To Move Your Legs For You
Someone not only lifts your legs for you, but has to hold them in place. I couldn't help but wonder how strong she had to be to support an entire leg for an extended amount of time. She must've been a beast, that's all I can say.
You'll Need A Catheter
Part of me knew to expect a urinary catheter, but another part of me was like,"Whoa! You want to put what, where?!" I guess, considering I had been on full display for quite some time, I shouldn't have felt embarrassed about the whole pee bag thing. Then again, maybe I'm old fashioned, because I could feel my cheeks turning bright red when I was given one.