5 Things I Definitely Wasn't Ready For When I Had Pitocin During Labor

I never thought I was going to end up having any medication during my labor. Like all big-talking first-time moms-to-be, I was committed to having a completely unmedicated labor and delivery, so it never occurred to me that my body, and my baby, would end up following an entirely different plan. In other words, there were more than a few things I wasn't ready for when I had Pitocin during labor. Turns out, getting the tiny human from the inside of your body to the outside is truly the first of countless moments when being a parent will challenge your (OK, my) massively misguided notion that you can control everything, or in some cases, anything at all.

Among the many parts of my five-page birth plan (LOL, ugh, I was so cute and stupid) that never ended up being relevant, applicable, or realistic when I was actually in labor, no unexpected event during those long 61 hours of active labor (yeah, I have war stories) was more challenging for me to mentally overcome than the prospect of using Pitocin to augment my labor. But long story slightly shorter, I got to the point where it was either lean hard on Pitocin (like, "borderline illegal" hard) or head to the nearest operating room for a C-section. As you'd correctly assume, a C-section was the one thing I wanted less than drugs, so there we were, Pitocin on deck!

I had a lot of ideas about what Pitocin would do to my body, and I was more or less correct about most of them. The contractions were more intense, more frequent, and I didn't particularly enjoy any of that. It also ultimately kicked my cervix into shape and my baby came out. That said, there were some things about Pitocin that I absolutely did not expect, and they ended up defining the experience for me more than anything else possible could:

How Different The Contractions Felt

This is impossible to describe in any way that does it justice, but medically augmented contractions do feel different, which logically makes sense when you think about it. I never had late-stage labor contractions that weren't aided by Pitocin, but I'd had a sh*t ton of more moderate contractions without it, and there was a difference. Not necessarily worse — just a vaguely different sensation.

How Gradually It Was Increased

Yes, by the time I was deep in the childbirth end zone, the Pitocin was turned up criminally high and getting through those contractions is something I literally lack the words to describe. But the worst visions of what I thought to be the Pitocin experience (and trust me, I'd had them frequently throughout my pregnancy while swearing I'd never let the stuff near my veins) involved going from zero to "wow, my body is ripping in half every 30 seconds" immediately.

That's not what happened, though. We started out with super low levels of Pitocin and worked our way up to the completely not OK point we eventually got to. Everyone's body reacts to any drug in its own way, so a few drops of Pitocin are enough to push some people where they need to be. I was definitely not one of those people, but the process of figuring out how much Pitocin I needed — roughly all of it — meant getting to gradually slip into hell, instead of being thrown immediately into it like I'd assumed I would be.

How Amazing Epidurals Are

Let me tell you how violently opposed I was to getting an epidural. Ugh, if anything freaked me out more than the idea of intense, medically induced pain during labor, it was numbness. Hell no. I'd rather feel it all than feel nothing. (Yes, I routinely talk about my control issues with a therapist and it's fine.)

But yeah, like so many other things, this just was the birth hand I was dealt. People say the baby you get is the one you were meant to have — I think the same is true about labor experiences. I ended up having multiple moments where I was tasked with accepting the necessity of doing something that I didn't want to do, and that terrified me, in order to get the outcome I wanted: a vaginal birth and a healthy baby.

But my water had been broken for... I don't even remember how many hours, but more than 12 and more than the number they typically "let" you have a broken water in that hospital before insisting on a C-section to mitigate risk of infection. And my midwife literally said, "If we're having this baby vaginally, I need to do crazy sh*t with this Pitocin, and you need at least an hour of sleep so you have the strength to push your monster baby out of your non-monster vagina. In other words, you need an epidural." (OK, I'm not sure she said "monster" that many times, but it was all along those lines.)

So I did it. I didn't want to. I was scared of having a needle in my spine and I was scared of being numb. Even though we all agreed to turn off the epidural when it was time to push, I was afraid it wouldn't turn off in time (yeah, because I'm a doctor and know these things, apparently?) and I would end up tearing terribly or pushing ineffectively. All around, I wasn't psyched.

UNTIL THEY TURNED THAT SH*T ON. Then I was psyched. Or rather, I was asleep for three blissful hours while the Pitocin did whatever the hell it wanted. And yes, when they turned it off, I almost instantly regained full sensation back — it didn't feel great! — and the pushing went fine. Like most things I'm ever afraid of, my ability to handle it exponentially exceeded how hard it actually was in reality.

How Fast I Can Jump In & Out Of Consciousness

Again, maybe this isn't everyone's experience, but by the time I was hella jacked up on Pitocin, I had been awake and in labor for a few days — I was f*cking tired. So when those contractions were at their most intense, I would really just scream through them and then immediately pass out in between. It was almost funny to see how fast I could go from fully unconscious to wide awake and screaming. It might not be the most effective or pleasant way to get sleep while in labor, but eh, you do what you gotta do.

A Body In Labor Can Pretty Much Endure Anything

I'm sorry if you came here looking for some kind of assurance that Pitocin doesn't actually suck that much. It does. But, I mean, whatever. No, seriously, that's how you end up feeling about it. Yes, it's totally not a fun experience for a body to go through, but I mean, what part of labor is? It's hard! It hurts! This is not shocking information. And you get through it, and it doesn't last forever, and there's a baby at the end. Ultimately, Pitocin, if you end up using it, is just one more hard thing your body does in the name of parenthood. It's not the first, not the last, and not the hardest. But it does suck, so it's very lucky that bodies are profoundly amazing and capable of so much more than we imagine.

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