Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Natural Birth vs. Epidural

In my delicate, hormonal, impregnated condition I'm finding it irresistible to not weigh in on every topic and issue that crosses my path. Obviously, one of the major ones in my realm is whether or not to use medical pain relief during labor.

Labor and delivery with an epidural 
With my first daughter, the labor was relatively normal. The hospital staff administered pitocin to speed up the labor. When I reached eight centimeters dilated I heard someone screaming hysterically in the middle of one of my contractions. As the contraction subsided I realized that I was the one screaming. I was completely detached from the situation. I felt out of control and was shaking uncontrollably and I was terrified like nothing else.

It was at this point that I chose to have the epidural. It took the anesthesiologist longer than normally to insert the catheter in between my vertebrae because my back was so tense. When the epidural was finally administered, the pain was relieved and I was completely dead weight from the waist down. Somehow, I was still able to control my abdominal muscles to push. I was able to focus and be present in the moment, but now I felt out of control in a different way.

Because of complications caused by the nurse, Saylor was rushed to the NICU (she broke the umbilical cord before clamping it, causing Saylor to loose blood quickly). Because I was immobilized by the epidural, I was unable to be with my daughter for two hours after I gave birth to her.

The hospital staff was unable to remove the epidural catheter from my back. It is made of rubbery, balloon like material and if they pulled to hard it could break, leaving part of it still in my back. In this case, it would require surgery to remove the rest of the catheter.  This problem delayed me even longer to be present with my newborn daughter. Eventually, a training anesthesiologist was able to remove the catheter 15 hours after the delivery.

Labor and delivery without an epidural
My labor with my second daughter Syliva, was much different. I labored at home for about two hours and would have labored longer, but my husband made the smart choice to go to the hospital. The contractions were right on top of each other and the pain was significantly more intense then I had remembered. By the time we reached the hospital I was fully dilated and it was too late for any pain relief. Sylvia was already crowning and the nurses were coaching me to try to avoid pushing. The doctor was not at the hospital yet and they wanted to wait for her. I didn't care who was or wasn't there at that point and shot Sylvia out like a cannon. The relief I felt after delivery was incredible. As much pain as I was feeling seconds before was equal to the elation and pleasure I felt after she was born. I felt a flood of adrenaline and natural instincts kicking in. Sylvia needed minor help through message to help stimulate breathing rhythm and then was placed in my arms. Minutes after giving birth she was latched onto my breast and feeding. Unlike, Saylor who struggled for three months to breastfed before being weened to a bottle. My recovery was phenomenal. I felt like I could get up and go immediately after giving birth. Between the recovery and bonding benefits, I would highly recommend all natural birth.

I realize that each woman is different and each situation is unique. If Syliva hadn't come so quickly I don't know if I would have been strong enough to resist the temptation of an epidural. I don't believe that an epidural in itself is harmful to the baby or mother. However, just like with my first experience, little things can go wrong that are less then ideal and can be avoided. I think that we should not label one method right or wrong. This is simply my experience thus far.

There is something so empowering about doing what other women have done for thousands of years. To allow my body to perform to its fullest capacity without any artificial impact. There is simply no other feeling or experience like it. As a Mormon, my thoughts were turned to my pioneer ancestors and the incredible trial that they endured of bearing children in unimaginable conditions. Natural birth gave me a glimpse into the issues they had face. The pain aside, I couldn't imagine the circumstances they had face in order bring their children into the world. Although I felt good enough to get up and walk out of the hospital, I didn't have to. These pioneer women on the other hand did. Because of their faith, the most likely took very little time to rest and recuperate before continuing their journey west. If that's not inspirational, then I don't know what is!

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