Romper

I Thought I'd Love Having An Unmedicated Birth, But I Was Wrong

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

Even before I got pregnant, I read obsessively about birth. I decided that the medical establishment was the patriarchy, suppressing women’s voices and experiences by using fear to control them. I'd read all the hippie earth-mother rhetoric, the really radical stuff about unassisted birth and birth being a natural process that happens on its own, and it made sense to me. If I ever had a baby, I thought, I'd use a midwife, someone who would be truly in touch with what women really needed — and more specifically, what I really wanted. I promised myself I'd have an unmedicated birth and breastfeed, because that’s what God intended. I only lamented that I couldn’t do it under the stars the way some of these women did.

So one night, after a trip to the local bar, I got pregnant. There were some serious ups in my pregnancy — I started to make milk! — and some serious downs — hyperemesis gravidarum, or uncontrollable vomiting, and serious prenatal depression. But we made it, and one afternoon, I looked down and realized I'd lost my mucus plug. No more than three days now, I thought, and I started having contractions about a day later. They were easy contractions. Tiny contractions, just a tightening around the stomach. though I didn’t know it yet. We went to Target. A man told me I looked like I was going to pop any minute. “I’m in labor,” I told him proudly. “You should be in the hospital!” he scolded. “I’m not going to the hospital,” I said smugly, and trotted off.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

The contractions got stronger. I slept that night, then woke up and played the Genesis game Columns, a gem-based Tetris ripoff, through the contractions. I thought about playing it in high school with my best friend, and that made me happy. I ate. And slowly, labor kicked up.

By midnight, I was begging to go to the birth center. The contractions hurt so bad, and I knew I wasn’t anywhere close to having this baby. My midwife seemed to sigh, because she thought I wasn't near ready, and said she’d meet us there. Immediately, I wanted to get into the birth pool. It wasn’t warm like she told me it'd be, and instead it was cold. I had strong contractions in the tub. The midwife and doula told me to get on all fours. Then they told me to get on my knees. I was beginning to moan. The pain was wrapping around my back in what’s called back labor, and it means you don’t get a break between contractions.

They tried to get me to sleep, but how could I sleep in all that pain, all that unrelenting pain? When my midwife offered me aromatherapy to calm down, my husband insisted we transfer to the hospital.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

So I paced the hallways. My husband walked behind me, pressing on my hips and back. At every contraction, I’d stop walking, hunch over, and make a sound, as my husband said, like "a dying wildebeest." I threw up. I threw up over and over and over. We walked for hours. Finally, my midwife offered me organic peanut butter, because she thought I just needed some more energy. I threw up at the sight of it.

Then it kicked all the way in, and I cried, because for the first time in a day, I wasn’t in horrendous pain.

The midwife and doula laid me down on the bed. I was screaming by this point with every contraction. They tried to get me to sleep, but how could I sleep in all that pain, all that unrelenting pain? When my midwife offered me aromatherapy to calm down, my husband insisted we transfer to the hospital. He thought I was in terrible pain, and the midwife wasn't doing anything to address that.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

I remember every contraction on the drive to the hospital. I had three, and they hurt horribly because I was strapped down in a seat. I hunched over and begged my husband to drive faster. Once they got me up to labor and delivery, the nurses discovered I was seriously dehydrated from vomiting — something my midwife hadn’t caught — and would need two bags of fluids before they could start the fluid bag for the epidural. I don’t know how I got through having those contractions on a bed, but I managed it. I was in so much pain that I didn’t even feel the needle go into my spine. As it half-took, I thought, this isn’t bad. I can do this. Then it kicked all the way in, and I cried, because for the first time in a day, I wasn’t in horrendous pain.

My doctor still believed I could do it, so I reached down deep and pushed as hard as I could.

Finally, I slept. My nurses encouraged it. They said I was exhausted from the pacing and the tub and the exertions the midwife had forced on me.

They had to start some Pitocin, but I didn’t mind; I knew I was on my back and that made labor harder. Soon I was at 10 centimeters and ready to push. I pushed for hours. We tried to tug a rope between us, the doctor and me, when I pushed. We tried a birthing bar. We tried in every position the epidural would allow. And just before they wanted to prep me for a c-section, I said, “I’m getting this f*cking baby out.” And I meant it. My doctor still believed I could do it, so I reached down deep and pushed as hard as I could. Something flipped, and suddenly Blaise was on my chest.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

The nurses at the hospital were caring and gentle, unlike my midwife, who mostly ignored my husband and me. My doctor, a resident, was amazing, and I’m lucky now to call her a real friend. She delivered my last son, then brought a meal over for us a few days later. Yes, I’d have rather avoided the Pitocin and the epidural, but my doctor was as pro-woman and pro-birth as you could get. She wanted me to have the birth I wanted with a safe outcome and it meant everything to me to have a doctor like this, and we were just lucky to have her. She was a resident at the time. I’m so grateful for her, and always will be.

I had my next two babies in the hospital. Midwives may work for some people, but for me, I prefer an epidural, a doctor, and the bevy of kind nurses hovering over me. Maybe they tell me not to eat, but I sneak food in anyway. I loved my hospital births, "unnatural" as some might call it (though in my opinion, all birth is natural). And when I have another baby, I’ll have it in the hospital — with drugs — gladly.