Labor Pains: My Epidural Didn’t Work — Twice
A few short months ago I gave birth to my third child; a healthy and perfect baby girl. Problem was that my epidural failed me horribly, for the second time.
All three of my little ones have been born by vaginal delivery, and all three with an epidural. The first time around, back labor, but my epidural left me blissfully pain-free and even napping a bit before it came time to push. The second, let’s just say not so great. It was back labor once again, only this time around my epidural seemed strangely ineffective as far as my lower extremities were concerned. Instead my chest and arms went numb. I felt every awful thing happening down below, and ended up with lingering nerve damage in my arms, trips to see specialists and these crazy shock tests called nerve conduction studies.
So, with baby number three on her way, I made sure to have a chat with my doctors ahead of time. I let them know what happened three years before and impress upon them my need for that to really, really never happen again. I was given assurances that what I described was most definitely an anomaly, and I should make a point to tell the nurses at the hospital when I went into labor.
I made sure to tell everyone, from the nurses in admitting to the anesthesiologist as he set up my epidural. He promised me a good experience this time around. It was anything but.
As he inserted the needle into the center of my back, I felt it inside my stomach, and the baby kicked me hard. I flinched, which anybody who’s had an epidural knows is what you’re not supposed to do. The nurse scolded me and the doctor said it was fine, just try not to do it again. At that moment I was freaking out, thinking that he somehow poked the baby with that needle.
There was a burning building between my shoulders and neck; I had to fight the urge to straighten up and stretch out the cramps. The pain kept increasing until tears were literally streaming from my eyes, drawing the attention of the nurse. I wailed at her about my back and the searing pain I was feeling, and she alerted the doctor, who grunted something about air-bubbles as he continued stabbing away at my spine and assured me the medicine would be kicking in soon.
I tried my best to relax, watching my husband settle in for a nap on the loveseat, to no avail, my back and shoulders on fire and my contractions increasing in pain and intensity. It really wouldn’t be one of my pregnancies without back labor, again!
While inserting my catheter, the nurse told me that the pain I claimed I was experiencing was probably just pressure, as the epidural was in place. She did offer to see if they would up my dosage. At this point things started moving pretty quickly. I dilated several inches in the span of mere minutes and was soon bearing down and pushing uncontrollably. And the pain, holy jeebus the pain! The term “ring of fire” is so incredibly apt. The nurse came in, shocked at my rapid progression and my doctor ended up delivering the baby right then and there, with barely enough time to put up the stirrups and glove up.
Thankfully I was pushing for less than five minutes, but let me tell you that during those five minutes I felt certain that this was it, and I was dying. While I didn’t die, and ended up with a gorgeous baby girl that I got to take home, I do have nerve issues once again, and a referral to see a chiropractor.
I shouldn’t have tried the epidural this time, but I was assured that it wouldn’t go as badly as it had before and honestly didn’t think I was capable of laboring naturally again. I felt that there was a chance it would work and a chance that it wouldn’t, but I wasn’t willing to be in unbearable pain if there was a possibility of avoiding it. I know now that next time, if there is a next time, I won’t be getting an epidural. For me, they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
This is a reader submission for Labor Pains Week.