It's Only Natural

Week 33.


I've been reconsidering my decision to opt for an epidural this time around. After my labor experience with Julia, I vowed to never attempt a natural birth again. But suddenly I'm wondering if I'm selling myself short. After all, I made it all the way to ten centimeters and then through two hours of pushing with Julia before the doctor convinced me that an epidural would help relax me just enough so we could avoid any other type of intervention. Julia's beautiful melon of a not-so-little head (yes, her head circumference was in the 99th percentile) was turned sideways and subsequently kind of stuck. It turned out that the epidural did help relax me, but "barely just enough" is the key phrase. I pushed for another hour with not a whole lot of pain relief. Since the epidural was administered so late, it had only a mild effect on the pain.

When I went into labor with Elise, I had no doubt in my mind that I would get the epidural (and pronto). As soon as I felt that first uncomfortable twinge, I hailed the anesthesiologist. I was pleasantly surprised to feel instant relief from the contractions. The nurse left Nelson and me to relax and get some rest for a while. I grabbed the TV remote and remarked to Nelson how wonderful things were going this time around. I couldn't believe that I would be able to kick back and relax during labor! Of course, as soon as I uttered the words I felt pressure and a painful contraction. I squeezed the button that administered more pain medication into the epidural IV. There was no relief. So I squeezed it again—this time like I was using a video game joystick and killing off an army of aliens. But still no relief. I yelled for Nelson to get the nurse. She came and checked me. I was already fully dilated. Even though the pushing lasted just an hour, and even though the pain was much more manageable this time around, I was disappointed that the epidural didn't work better. The doctor tells me, that pain medication doesn't always work perfectly for everyone.

In the end though, like most women I suspect, I haven't dwelled too much on how my labors played out. I've always felt blessed for two complication-free deliveries that resulted in two healthy babies. And for the most part, the memory of all the pain does fade. It must, insists Nelson, otherwise I wouldn't be considering a natural birth once again. Of course, he's recalling my threats of divorce and celibacy for the rest of our lives, but the truth is I really do feel stronger and more capable of handling the pain now that I know what to expect. Don't get me wrong. I don't have plans to squat or sit on a birthing ball all while channeling my inner goddess by visualizing a blossoming lotus flower. That's just not me. I suspect I will cry and swear off sex once again. I'll be moody and temperamental. And I'll most likely consider an epidural at some point. On the other hand, I think there's a chance that I could really succeed in having a natural delivery if I decide that's what I want. In fact, a big part of me believes in my ability to deliver a baby without any medication or intervention. So I'm keeping an open mind. I'm not going to order up that epidural quite so fast this time around. Who knows, maybe the third time really is a charm.