When you picture going to the hospital to have a baby, all kinds of anxiety-inducing things come to mind: a flurry of doctors and nurses hovering over you in the wake of an emergency, being rushed to surgery, and the fear of the epidural needle, to name a few. No no one seems to think about that damn post-epidural catheter, though, and it's kind of the worst. In fact, I bet there are things every laboring woman thinks when she's getting a catheter, and most of them are of the "hell no" variety. At a time when the whole point is to get something out of your body (the baby), inserting something into your body (the catheter) just doesn't seem right.
I was ill-prepared for the catheter-insertion part of my labor. I already was feeling beyond uncomfortable, even with the epidural having been inserted. I mean, yeah, I felt floaty and drunk from the drugs, but I also was very aware of the fact that from here on out I was a prisoner in my hospital bed. First, the epidural made my legs feel like cement blocks, rendering me unable to walk even if I had been willing. And if by some miracle I had been able to overcome the powerful epidural, and had forgotten about the catheter being attached, boy would I be in for a painful reminder the minute I tried to wander from my hospital bed.
At one very dark hour during my labor, I remember thinking that maybe epidurals and catheters are how hospitals keep pregnant women prisoners so they can do what they will to them. But that was just the crazy pregnant lady on drugs talking. Still, there are a lot of things that run through a woman's mind when she's about to get a catheter. Here are a few of them:
Oh hell no. Sorry. That's not going anywhere near me. Nope. Not a chance. You can go stick that somewhere else. And yes, I can tell you where to stick it if you need some hints.
Sure, you have an epidural and most likely wouldn't feel it if someone sawed off your leg right now, but Jesus Christmas, we live in modern times. Isn't there a much more civil, less invasive way to get urine to exit the body? Can't we just reserve catheters for the menfolk to give them something to talk about when trading war stories? Why must we endure those awful epidural needles and a catheter tube being stuck into our pee holes?
There are so many injustices, both big and small, that can happen during labor and delivery, so why didn't any of our friends tell us about these things in advance? Is it all a conspiracy? Maybe your friends kept these things secret because if they let these tidbits out then no one would ever have babies again, and we would usher in some kind of apocalyptic world where women refuse to bear children.
Now that it has been revealed that the hospital has some surprises in store for you, you can't help but be a teeny bit suspicious. What else is in that hospital birth grab bag o' tricks? At this point you might be looking around the room more closely than when you had first entered it. Previously harmless objects are taking on a more sinister meaning. Like that cup over there. It looks like a drinking cup, but what if that's yet another thing that they intend to blindside you with by saying, "Psych! Now we're going to use this to measure the circumference of your cervix!"
I was abundantly clear in my birth plan (which I made multiple copies of to pass out to the hospital staff) about the order of events that I was willing to endure and what I was expecting to take place. A catheter being inserted into my urethra was not part of the plan.
When I first walked into the labor and delivery room I had my dignity (or what was left of it after my hell-raising 20s.). Then I was asked to put on one of those flimsy hospital gowns that was open to the back, and stopped to have a conversation with a nurse midway between the bathroom and my bed. I turned around and saw a young, good-looking intern taking notes right behind me, my derriere hanging out there for all to see. So when it came time for the catheter to be inserted, I basically had to wave goodbye to any and all modesty.
Once the damn thing was put inside me (I relented) I forced myself to relax into the idea. It was, after all, my (hopefully) one opportunity in life to do one less thing. Having to get up to go to the bathroom takes precious time and energy and, at least for those hours during labor, I was relinquished of the responsibility. My trusty catheter zipped that urine right out of my body in a sanitary and safe way. With the epidural working its magic and the catheter ensuring that I could just sit on my tush not having to do anything but binge on Netflix until it was really Go Time for baby, I gave into the feeling and just let go.