When I sat down, very pregnant and very miserable, to write out my birth-plan, I didn't write down the world "epidural." I decided I wanted a drug-free labor and delivery experience, so I was going to take advantage of my hospital's birthing ball, birthing tub and anything else that would assist me that wasn't a "drug." After ten hours of excrutiating, drug-free labor, that plan changed. I asked for an epidural to be administered as quickly as possible, and thought the things every pregnant woman thinks when she's getting an epidural. I was slightly disappointed, a little scared, but I was mostly incredibly relieved and thankful that I could take advantage of modern medicine, get some much-needed rest, and proceed to birth my baby the way I wanted to: safely.
I know that there some very passionate beliefs and thoughts and feelings concerning labor and delivery, and how a woman is "supposed to" bring another human being into the world. Honestly, you don't have to be a pregnant woman to be subjected to what someone else thinks on the subject. While I have been criticized by others for my decision to use an epidural, I can tell you that not once have I ever felt remorse for changing my birth plan when I knew I needed to. No one knew what was best for me (in that moment) other than me, and while someone may think what I did was "lazy" or "taking the easy way out" or some other judgmental descriptor, I know that there was no way I was going to have the energy to push my baby out of my body if I didn't sleep. An epidural gave me that ability and I will forever be thankful for that.
Still, it doesn't mean that the thoughts ravaging my already exhausted brain while I was trying to sit still and let someone put a needle into my back, were completely positive. I mean, I was in the middle of labor for goodness sakes. I have a feeling that I'm not alone in those thoughts, which, you know, helps. Solidarity FTW, you guys.
"Hurry It Up"
Once I decided I was going to change my birth plan and get that blessed epidural, the anesthesiologist couldn't get to my damn room quick enough. When he did, finally, arrive, he couldn't get ready fast enough. When he was ready, he couldn't do what he needed to do so that the pain could stop, fast enough. I know, I know; it's a little childish to assume things would move at a relatively quick pace (or any pace less than warp speed) but I was desperate and, in those moments, time seemed to stand still.
"Wait, Am I Sure I Want To Do This?"
I don't think every laboring woman who decides to get an epidural doubts her choice. In fact, I'd venture to guess that most are completely and totally sure about that epidural and their choice to get it. However, if you're like me (and you were still hesitant even though you knew you needed relief and the ability to rest) questioning whether or not you wanted someone to stick a needle in your back is pretty normal.
I went back and forth a few times, even after I signed the necessary paperwork, wondering if I really wanted to go back on my brith plan and get the drugs. In the end, I did and, in the end, it was absolutely the best decision for me.
"Yep. I Definitely Want To Do This."
Of course, those moments of hesitation didn't last long, because I got the damn epidural and it was magic. The more I was contracting (every two minutes) and the more intense those contractions were, I realized that if I had a shot of pushing my kid out of my body, I needed to rest. That wasn't going to happen unless I was given an epidural, so an epidural I had.
"How Do You Expect Me NOT To Move When These Contractions Are Happening?"
Every hospital is different, so I know that some won't administer an epidural after a specific point. My hospital, however, assured me that I could have an epidural at almost any time, and short of my child crowning they would attempt to accommodate me when and if I changed my mind. As previously mentioned, I labored for upwards of 10 hours without any medication, before I threw in the towel and demanded an epidural. That means that when I was sitting on the edge of my hospital bed, leaning forward and arching my back so the anesthesiologist could do his job, I was in an immense amount of pain. I was instructed not to move, but telling me to sit still through a contraction is like telling a toddler to sit still for four hours on an airplane: it's not going to freakin' happen, buddy.
It did. I managed to communicate with my anesthesiologist and my nurse and we times my contractions so that I could sit still when the epidural was being administered. Still, it was the freakin' worst and having someone tell me to sit still didn't help.
"Don't Mess Up. Don't Mess Up. Don't Mess Up."
I knew the potential risks an epidural poses. I did my research and I read the paperwork I had to sign, proving that I knew the potential side effects. I get it. Which is why, even though I had full faith and trust in my medical team and the anesthesiologist (that I had met prior to changing my birth plan, just in case), I was still nervous. I can't lie and say I wasn't silently wishing that he would do a great job and not screw up and things would go smoothly. Because, yeah, I was. I was wishing with every spare ounce of energy I had left.
"OK, Really. Like, Hurry It Up Before I Hurt Someone."
I mean, yes: I want you to take your time and do it correctly. This isn't a "rush job." However, if you don't freaking hurry it up and start administering some drugs relatively soon, I am going to break something. Or someone. Honestly, it's a toss up at this point, so do your job as quickly and efficiently as possible, kind sir.
"OMG That's Freezing"
While the nurse and the doctor and the anesthesiologist and the other nurse all warned me that I would be feeling a literal chill down my spine once the epidural was administered, nothing really prepared me for how freezing that medicine was. Like, I was so cold. So. Very. Cold. In a way, it was kind of nice, but it also wasn't just a quick blast of refreshing coolness; it lasted for a while and I ended up taking advantage of those pre-warmed blankets the hospitals (thankfully) make available.
"This Kid Better Be Worth It"
To be fair, I had this thought numerous times and well before someone was putting some necessary medicine into my spine. I thought this throughout my entire first (and well into my second and part of my third) trimester, as I was puking almost every hour on the hour. I thought this when I was constipated, because that was the freakin' worst. I thought this when I couldn't eat my favorite things. I thought this when I was absolutely miserable and done being pregnant and really ready to have full body autonomy again.
So, yeah, I thought the very same thing when I was getting a needle inserted into my back while I was contracting every two minutes. (Spoiler alert: yes, my child was very much worth it.)
"Thank You, Modern Medicine. You're My Absolute Favorite."
I've always been a fan of modern medicine. I mean, I asked for the drugs when I had my wisdom teeth taken out (thank the heavens) and after seven knee surgeries, I can appreciate a great surgeon and a decent morphine drip.
However, there was never a time in my life when I loved and appreciated the advancements in modern medicine, like those beautiful moments after my epidural kicked in and I finally felt some relief from the unbelievably painful contractions I was enduring. In that moment, I wanted to kiss every doctor and scientist and nurse and researcher and whoever else contributed to this medical miracle. You're all MVPs.
"I Am Going To Marry This Anesthesiologist Right Here And Now, So Help Me God"
My partner held my hand through every contraction, drew me a bath and helped me try my hand at laboring in water. He walked the halls with me and he helped me navigate the birthing ball and he held me upright as I swayed through every contraction. He even held my hand and helped me focus while the anesthesiologist was administering the epidural. However, if I was asked to marry someone in that moment, the anesthesiologist would have won out. Hands down. No question. Like, seriously, marry me you fine, fine, drug-pushing gentleman of a man.
"Why Did I Wait So Long To Get This Thing?"
Again, this probably doesn't apply to many (or even most) pregnant women who decide to have an epidural. So many women go in knowing that they're going to have an epidural and, in turn, ask for that epidural as soon as possible. I was not one of those women. When I finally decided to get an epidural and I didn't feel the excrutiating, relentless pain of my contractions anymore, I was left wondering what the hell took me so long. I mean, why? Just, like, what in the world was I thinking? (I mean, I know what I was thinking, but in that moment it didn't feel like waiting was the way to go.)
"Drugs Are Awesome"
Every birth experience for every single pregnant woman is different. For some, not using any medication to assist them in bringing their child into the world is the way to go and that experience was everything they had wanted and hope for. One day, if I get pregnant again, I hope to have that experience.
However, having gone through 10 hours of drug-free labor, and then having an epidural, I can say that I love drugs. Like, they're the best. I won't apologize for using pain medication when I needed it, as my epidural gave me the ability to rest, regain my strength and successfully push my kid into the world. I'm thankful for that ability which means, yes, I am very thankful for my epidural.