I 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 didnât mind being confined to a bed. I didnât have something to prove when I opted for a natural birthâI 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 fireâthe agonizing sensation that occurs when your baby stretches your vagina to its capacityâbut there is a difference between the fear of the unknown and the fear of needles.
I opted for the unknown.
My motherâs own birth story probably had something to do with my decision as well. Drugged up on scopolamine, my mother didnât remember giving birth to me in 1971. When she woke up from the drugs, her first words as a new mother were: âDid I have a baby?â
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 sonâs delivery would be a labyrinth, said the doula who lead my birthing class. âSome women even howl like wolves,â she said.
But after my water brokeâit coincided with a contraction that felt like someone whacked my belly with an anvilâI didnât expect to be pummeled with excruciating back. The contractions were so overwhelming that I couldnât speak.
Once we got to the hospital, I dropped to all fours. I howled like a coyote on acid.
âAm I five centimeters yet?â I asked the nurse between contractions. My breath short and shaky, as if I had run five miles.
âI just checked you,â she said. âYou were only three.â
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.
Hereâs 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 babyâs skull, attempted to split my vagina in two in a wild rage of energy.
âI feel his head, oh my God, I feel his head!â I screamed.
My midwife reached down between my legs and confirmed it. âYep. Thatâs his head.â she said, calmly. âDrain the tub.â (That particular hospital wouldnât allow a tub birth.)