Labor Pains: My Natural Birth Made Me Appreciate My Epidural

natural birthI was never against the drugs. Drugs, I thought, were for other people. For people who could tolerate long needles shoved up their spinal cords. For people who didn’t mind being confined to a bed. I didn’t have something to prove when I opted for a natural birth—I was just deeply afraid of doctor intervention. Now, I know this makes little sense when comparing the level of pain one endures during the dreaded ring of fire—the agonizing sensation that occurs when your baby stretches your vagina to its capacity—but there is a difference between the fear of the unknown and the fear of needles.

I opted for the unknown.

My mother’s own birth story probably had something to do with my decision as well. Drugged up on scopolamine, my mother didn’t remember giving birth to me in 1971. When she woke up from the drugs, her first words as a new mother were: “Did I have a baby?”

My au natural decision lead me to a birth plan that included rocking, dancing, panting, a tub, endless midwife attention and music streaming through the room. My son’s delivery would be a labyrinth, said the doula who lead my birthing class. “Some women even howl like wolves,” she said.

But after my water broke—it coincided with a contraction that felt like someone whacked my belly with an anvil—I didn’t expect to be pummeled with excruciating back. The contractions were so overwhelming that I couldn’t speak.

Once we got to the hospital, I dropped to all fours. I howled like a coyote on acid.

“Am I five centimeters yet?” I asked the nurse between contractions. My breath short and shaky, as if I had run five miles.

“I just checked you,” she said. “You were only three.”

I begged her to check again.

Five centimeters meant I could climb in the tub. The tub would magically alleviate all the pain. Like an epidural, it would wash over me. This is what they told me.

Here’s the truth. The tub was lovely. But it did not, I repeat, did not, take away the pain. I rocked myself back and forth in the water while a team of people (midwife, mother, ex-husband) took turns rubbing my back and sprinkling water over my shoulders for about an hour and a half.

And then what can only be described as a cement block, otherwise known as my baby’s skull, attempted to split my vagina in two in a wild rage of energy.

“I feel his head, oh my God, I feel his head!” I screamed.

My midwife reached down between my legs and confirmed it. “Yep. That’s his head.” she said, calmly. “Drain the tub.” (That particular hospital wouldn’t allow a tub birth.)

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  • LinZoo

    Thanks for sharing, but I’m sort of aggravated that Mommyish only asked for negative birth stories. :(

    • Tinyfaeri

      Positive ones apparently aren’t as interesting.


      Hi LinZoo. We didn’t ask for negative stories necessarily, just trying ones. If you’d like to submit one email koa(AT)Mommyish(DOT)com

  • CW

    I had the opposite experience- my unmedicated birth made me wonder why I had gotten epidurals for the previous two deliveries. It was only really painful for the last 3 contractions.

    • Courtney Lynn

      It’s crazy how different we all are.

  • Ellen

    I LOVED my epidural with my first! I was able to rest, chat, nap and read. When birth time came, I felt in total control, pushed when the contractions came, and remember every moment of my son arriving.
    Unfortunately the epi didn’t take on my second child, and it was a totally excruciating labor and delivery, with me on oxygen, and I passed out twice. That birth is a blur, and I wish I had better memories of it, but it was torture. Such a bummer.

    • Ellen (another one)

      It didn’t take? how does that work? (no snark, I’m genuinely curious- it just seems like having a whole bunch of pain medication injected into your spine would be a sure thing,)

    • Ellen

      Not sure. It started to work for a little while, then just stopped, and the booster they gave me didn’t help. They couldn’t explain it. To be fair, I metabolize drugs very strangely anyway.

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  • Catherine Baxter

    what about that ridiculous picture? A female dressed like a dentist..I do not know any doctors or nurses that wear that ridiculous smock…her mouth is covered but not her shaggy messy hair? And the needle…well you can’t give an epidural with that syringe and needle for sure. NEVER MIND accuracy in reporting because we are going to use a stupid and ridiculous picture. I had twins…no epidural…the doctor told me to put my elbows on my knees…I looked like I had swalllowed a buick and puttting my elbows anywhere NEAR my knees was an impossibility. I fell off the bed laughing. Natural birth, not by choice. Hey…it hurt like hell. I could not fathom anyone who would think it would not hurt. The twins have both given me grandchildren by now. the memory of the pain lessens when you hold those babies.

  • C.J.

    My epidural that didn’t work made me appreciate the one that did. For my first child they put it in the wrong spot. It froze me from mid thigh down, yeah, that helped. The pain was so bad the nurses kept giving me top up’s. Couldn’t move my legs at all but felt everything else. I had a 10lb 9 oz baby, back labour, 2 contractions at a time because of her size and an epesiotomy. Plus she had to be turned because she was trying to come out with her head sidways, I don’t even remember this part, my husband told me. My second was only 9lbs 11oz, still had back labour but the epidural made it so much more bearable. Her birth was so much better. I was not as physically exhausted afterwards even though I hemmoraged worse for her. I have more memories of her birth. Even though my first epidural didn’t work I didn’t hesitate to have one the second time. I just prayed it would work!

  • tdeamicis

    I loved my two births and would gladly do them again. One at a birth center, 2 hours from water breaking to the arrival of the baby, home 6 hours later. Second was at home, in water, and was amazing. Within an hour of walking around after my water broke, baby was born quickly in warm water, while I relaxed in the water. It was amazing. We delayed cord clamping for each of them, refused all vaccines (including vitamin k and eyedrops also). They are amazingly smart children who have never been sick in their lives.

  • Minerva

    I had a 48 hour active labor. I got the epi after 12 hours of being stuck at 3 cm with contractions every 6 mins. Lucky to, because I stayed at 3 for another 24 hours. Was it boring, yes. But worth it.

    However, when it came time to push, or about an hour before I started having extremely bad pain (like worst gas pains ever). Felt the ring of fire, everything. So labor was painless but delivery was extreme pain. When I told them my epi wasn’t working anymore they didn’t seem worried and said it will work better for delivery. Yeah, right. (Sarcasm).

  • Minerva

    Sometimes the needle doesn’t go in the proper place, or just doesn’t get absorbed right.

    There are certain risks making you more likely for the epi “not to take” and one is if its your second, third, fourth birth.

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