Getting induced was not something I thought about at all during my pregnancy. Everything was progressing fine and my doctor was not an alarmist about anything. Then 40 weeks came and went and I was not the least bit dilated. Then another week came and went. At that point, my doctor said they could use the level of my amniotic fluid, which was at the low end of “normal,” as a reason to get me a bed and get me into labor. Easy, right? Well, there are some things people don’t realize happen during an induction and, until I had one, I was one of those people.
For me, getting induced with my first child was like waking my body up from a deep sleep and forcing it to immediately run a marathon, all the while getting stung internally by a swarm of bees. At first, I was given a vaginal suppository to ripen my cervix. While it felt weird, it wasn't necessarily painful. Fast forward to 12 hours later, and I was started on an IV drip of Pitocin to bring on the contractions, which ramped up more quickly than I was expecting. All of a sudden, I was in labor. Things were getting real. Painfully real.
If you haven’t had one, an induction sounds like a common medical procedure to help your body give birth. That’s true, but there’s more to it. Much more, actually. Here are some things people might not realize happen during an induction, and what I wished I had known before getting one:
You Get Hooked Up To An IV
This is in no way, shape, or form, fun. It limited my mobility, which I thought would actually help speed things along. So then I just had to wait until those contractions started pounding away. Really, really, not fun.
You Will Really Feel Like A Hospital Patient
With the IV, the bed, the hospital gown, and a fetal monitor strapped on to assess the baby’s ability to handle my ever-increasing intensity of contractions, I didn’t feel in control of my labor at all. Nurses checked things. My husband asked if I wanted the TV channel changed. I shut my eyes and powered through contractions. It was not exciting, thinking about bringing my baby into the world. It was discomfort and pain and a real bummer.
Your Contractions Will Start Hitting Harder…
Once that Pitocin kicked in, my contractions felt like volcanic explosions in my pelvic regions.
These weren’t bad versions of menstrual cramps. These were the most painful moments of my life, including when I got stitches and had to have my broken hand re-set.
When you go into labor on your own (and I know this, because it happened with my second baby), contractions start quietly with plenty of recovery time in between. Not the case with an induction.
With my first baby, where I was totally induced, and my second, where I was given Pitocin after my contractions started, to speed things up, the time between these intense contractions shortened drastically. Just when you got through one, the next started. I almost didn’t have time to yell a slew of curse words in between them.
Breathing Through The Contractions Could Be Impossible
Depictions of childbirth in the media sold us on the idea of panting and breathing intensely during labor. The myth of that practice was somewhat debunked in my childbirth class, but the instructor still encouraged breathing in through the nose (mindfully) and breathing out through the mouth (mindfully) to ride the contractions while remaining as grounded as possible. Well, with an induction, mindfulness is replaced by excruciating pain, so excuse me if I go a little off-road with my breathing techniques and just start gasping and crying.
You Might Start Begging For An Epidural
I was always open to the idea of an epidural, but after that Pitocin sped up my labor to the point where the pain was blurring my vision, I was desperate to get numb. I remember saying, “Now. I need the epidural, now.”
Pro tip: be prepared for hospitals to interpret “now” as “at least 45 minutes from now.” Agony.
You Will Become A Truly Nasty Woman
When you’re in that much pain, you don’t give any f*cks. You’ll yell. You’ll use some colorful language. You will level someone with a look when they ask how you’re doing.
I didn’t want anyone to tell me what a trooper was. I didn’t need my confidence built up. I wanted everyone around me to feel my pain. Honestly, I would love for male partners to experience the physical aspects of labor and delivery, just so they could truly understand what it takes to bring babies out of our bodies. That might not solve misogyny, but it could help spread some empathy.
You Will Want To Dropkick Your Doctor For Not Warning You About Effects
He did say that the contractions would come on quickly and get intense, but that was definitely downplaying the effects of the Pitocin. I get it, though, because giving your patient a straightforward idea of what to expect will put her in a panic. If my OB-GYN had said, “Well, it will start feeling kind of intense, and you’ll think you could totally handle it but it will only get worse from there, until you feel like the baby is trying to excavate its way out your uterus with a dull butter knife,” I might have gone into shock.
Actually, You'll Want To Dropkick Everyone
At the point at which you are writhing in pain and barking out obscenities, anyone who crosses your path is The Enemy. They did this. It’s their fault your body is being seized by agony. Of course you're not going to be shy in letting them know that, either.
I did manage to keep it mostly together with everyone in the delivery room, except my husband. But that’s what defines love, right? The ability to to be raw, and act ugly with your partner, without him taking it personally, is groundwork for a beautiful co-parenting experience. (I’m still testing this theory out, actually.)
You Won’t Ever Want To Have One Again...
Why would I put myself through an induction if it only brought pain and more medical intervention? If I were to have more kids, I would totally try to steer clear of being induced again. I am not a glutton for punishment.
...But You Probably Will Agree To Having One Again
Yup, I did it again. The second time, I didn’t need to be induced, but I needed to receive Pitocin to speed up my labor when it appeared to have stalled after about six hours. It was also a holiday weekend, and I knew my OB just wanted to get to his boat for July 4th.
But the real reason why I did it again, as much as I wanted to experience childbirth naturally since I didn’t get to the first time, was that I knew I could do it. I survived the horror show that was induced labor, and I got a perfect baby out of me because of it. So as awful as it was, the endgame was always going to be worth it.