I’m No Superwoman

March 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm 5 comments

I usually don’t do math in public. But since numbers have so cleverly weaseled their way into our pregnancy and birth experiences, they have recently inspired me to write a post called Family Equation. In the post I mentioned giving birth without the sweet relief of an epidural. After receiving a few comments calling me “Superwoman”…“made of steel”…and so on, I attempted to respond. I usually don’t post responses simply because I assume no one will come back to read my crappy little newbie blog twice, so what’s the point? But anyway, the response I attempted got too lengthy and I didn’t have anything else to write about today, so here we are…..an elaboration on my personal birth experience and the real reason I pushed those puppies out without any pain meds….`

THE QUICK EXPLANATION:
When I was 13, I had to have surgery for scoliosis (curvature of the spine). I had a rib and 5 discs removed, they straightened my spine as much as possible, and used two metal rods to support my spine’s new location. Those rods had to be connected to each other by even more metal reaching across the spine all the way down to my tailbone, thus rendering me unable to ever receive an epidural.
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THE LONG EXPLANATION:
I can honestly say that while there are some career related endeavors I would love to explore, all I’ve ever really wanted out of life was to be a mother. I would be perfectly content if this is my only lot in life from here on out. I’ve always known that I would feel that way. I subscribed to Parenting magazine for 3 years before I even attempted to get pregnant and had very definite opinions about how my future children would be raised.

I kept hoping that my desire to become a mother would outweigh my fear of giving birth. But, knowing that an epidural was not an option for me, I was paralyzed with fear of childbirth. And just because it‘s my style, I obsessed relentlessly over it. I couldn’t count the number of Baby Story documentaries I watched on TLC over the years in an attempt to familiarize myself with the childbirth process and somehow stifle my fears.

When I first saw the positive result on our pregnancy test, I was of course full of excitement. Then, naturally, I had an anxiety attack three minutes later. Exclamation points exploded in my mind. “I’m pregnant and there’s nothing I can do about it! One way or another this baby is going to have to come out of me, and either way it’s going to HURT!” Visions of myself writhing in pain clouded all the enthusiasm and joy that I had just been so full of 3 minutes earlier. Thankfully, my husband was there, still bursting with excitement, and was able to talk me off the proverbial ledge as he has had to do many times before and since. We began dreaming and planning….OK, Time to focus. Time to make lists (my favorite way to cope). Time to share the wonderful news with the family…

Seven months later, after a particularly stressful day, I went to bed and attempted to adjust my giant belly into a comfortable sleeping position. Shifting from my right side to the recommended left-side pregnancy sleeping position, I felt a kind of *pop* “down there.” I announced alarmingly to my groggy husband, “My water broke!”

His reply? …”What, are you sure you didn’t just pee?”

I showed him the undeniable evidence and we both panicked. It was too soon, I wasn’t due for another month. There go those exclamation points again….

We pulled ourselves together, prayed, then looked at my most recent list. It had three columns: One titled “Things to take to the hospital,” followed by “Things we have” and “Things we need to buy.” Wow. That “Things we need to buy” column is a lot longer…

We scrambled through the house throwing things into bags and showed up at the hospital with two large totes and a messenger bag packed full of stuff I really didn’t need. The nurse at the registration desk giggled, “You look prepared!” I smirked back “Not really.”

After we got settled in and had been there a few hours, my exhausted hubby fell asleep in the chair next to my bed and began to snore. He snored in perfect rhythm with my lamaze breathing: “SNORREE…hee….SNORE…hee…”

I was progressing slowly but surely, still waiting for the “real” pain to kick in. At this point, the pain still wasn’t any worse than my worst menstrual cramps. That’s actually defining the intensity of my menstrual cramps more than down-playing the intensity of my labor pains. Part of the reason I was so afraid of labor was my excruciating monthly cramps. “If I can’t handle this, then how will I ever handle labor?” I often asked myself.

Anyway, I don’t know if it was because my baby was only 4 ½ lbs or if God just had unbelievable mercy on me, but I was fortunate enough to go through 15 hours of labor and not experience any “real” labor pains. If I could have gotten an epidural I would not have needed it.

                                                            ***

So, How do I know what “real” labor feels like?…..

When I was pregnant with my second son, I made sure I was prepared. I had re-taken lamaze, I knew what I needed and had everything packed efficiently into one sensible bag by the time I reached week 33.

When I went to my 36 week appointment, the doc told me I was 2 cm dilated and 100% effaced. At my 37 week appointment, a different doctor used his skilled fingers to discover I was 3 ½ cm dilated and the baby’s head was low. At my 38 week appointment, yet another doctor in the practice examined me and his eyes literally bulged out of his head in shock as he projected “Oh, my GOODNESS!”

Just what a girl needs when she is on the verge of giving birth and has a man’s hand you-know-where.

“WHAT?!”

“I can’t BELIEVE you haven’t had this baby yet! His head is REALLY low.”

He instructed me to get to the hospital ASAP if I get “a roll of contractions.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but whatever, I just hoped my water would break again so I would KNOW when to go to the hospital.

He told me I could go ahead and make an appointment for the next week, though it would be unlikely that I would make it. He was right.

A few days later, I had random Braxton-Hicks type contractions all day. They weren’t timable and they weren’t painful. By late evening, I asked my sister if she would take Sam overnight, just in case. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to let them check me out just to be sure. We took our time packing last minute essentials, showering, etc and got to the hospital at about 11pm. As we walked across the parking lot, I started spouting off random smug gibberish…

“….just watch, I’m probably 8 cm, and haven’t even had any pain….

….if this is labor, I don’t know what women complain about all the time….

…I should do this professionally!…”

I get changed into my fancy backless gown, and the nurse examines me. “eight, say eight” I will her to inform.

“mmm, a good five”……………What? FIVE? That’s it?

Oh, well, I’m sure it will pick up from here.

The nurse said they will admit me once I start progressing. So I ask if I can walk around to try to get things movin’a bit. A few minutes later, I start having contractions that make me want to drop to my knees. ….Whoa! Where did that come from? I don’t remember that kind of pain. Ever. OK, breathe.

I get back in bed so I can be hooked up to the monitor. Contractions are coming regularly, and more intense. It’s getting harder, but still the lamaze breathing helps. After another hour passes, it’s time to check my cervix again.

I’m sure all that pain must mean something. Maybe I’m at least at seven.

“Five and a half.” sweet nurse sighs in sympathy. “Still not enough to admit you, but I know you’re in labor.”

…A half of a centimeter!! I dialate to five with no pain, and I only get half of a centimeter with pain?! What crap! What will I do if they send me home? I’m in real pain here, I don’t even think I could make it to the car…

So, another hour later I finally reach 6 cm and they admit me. In walks a doctor with a long skinny device in a plastic wrapper. I had watched enough Baby Story documentaries to know what that was. He’s going to try to break my water.

Yeah, right! I’ve also seen enough Baby Story documentaries to know that the pain gets wayyyyyy worse once they break your water. I vowed to never, ever let that happen to me.

After a stressful argument with the doctor…a doctor who I never met, who was on call from another practice nonetheless…..I reluctantly agree to it.

About five minutes later, I regretted it. Between contractions….contractions that breathing no longer helped….I informed my husband that I would under no circumstances let them break my water with the next baby.

He looked petrified watching me in such agony. He only relaxed for a moment, when somewhere out of the deep recesses of my Office mega-fan brain I groan out “It hurts so bad, I just want it out…..That’s what she said!”

The nurse looked so uneasy….apparently not many women attempt natural childbirth these days, go figure. She tried to convince me to at least take some Demoral. I rejected it since I’ve heard too many stories from friends who told me that it really only makes you feel “out of it,” but doesn’t do much for the pain. She left and my poor husband watched sympathetically as I writhed in pain exactly the way I had imagined when I got pregnant with Sam.

The nurse came back in to start setting up all the medical birthing tools across the room when I got that urge. You know the one…the I-gotta-take-a-crap-NOW urge. It had only been 20 minutes or so since the doc broke my water. She checked me, and without a word she ran to the door, poked her head out and yelled “She’s complete!!!!”

My husband and I looked at each other with surprise and excitement.

The nurse rushed back in and began prepping the bed, transforming it to “birthing mode.” Another nurse ran in and stood over me telling me to breath “he, he, he, he,” and not to PUSH. Well, I didn’t push and I tried the breathing, but the baby was making his way out on his own, without any help from me.

His head came out, and the awesome nurse had to hold his head in one hand while she tried to prep the metal table beside her at the same time with the other. She was fantastic. Meanwhile, I plop my head down on the pillow and shout “Oh, that feels SOOO much better!”

A few minutes later the rest of the baby was born and I never felt so relieved about anything in my life.

                                                          ***

Now that the same sweet baby is 8 months old, we are contemplating when we might start trying for another. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have my dream strategy for the next: to get an epidural and then have my water broken after it kicked in. So, you see. I’m a wimp forced into an epidural-free birthing situation. And while I still enjoy the bragging rights, I am most certainly not a Superwoman.

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Entry filed under: Motherhood, pregnancy. Tags: , , , .

Brother Love Convenience

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. faemom  |  March 18, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Wow! That was a great post. You totally captured the moment. I’m also a wimp about pain. I was nervous to get my ears pierced again and I had already had two kids.
    But still you’re a trooper. Here’s to an easy realtively pain-free birth.

    Reply
  • 2. Sandra  |  March 18, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Wow! What a story!

    I had four unmedicated, intervention free natural childbirths. The thought never entered my mind that I was a Superwoman, nor did the thought of letting anyone near me with the drugs ever enter my mind. I didn’t realize, until I started visitng the internet, that drugs were the NORM, not the exception… but that wasn’t going to change my mind. Really, it is much safer for you to let nature take it’s course. There are ways you can ensure a pain-free delivery without dangerous drugs – really there are. Stay at home as long as you can (stay at home for the whole thing and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have a great birth!), don’t let the nurses and docs keep poking and prodding you (they never ever need to do internal checks until you’re ready to push, and that’s optional); squat, stand, or sit to promote gravity, use Hypnobabies or Hypnobirthing to let your mind wander; eat and drink if you have the need; use a hot tub… the list is endless. And all of these are safer than the drug.

    But, really, you ARE a superwoman. Every mom is, regardless of her choices in labor. You had a perfect baby. What a blessing!

    Reply
  • 3. Jenny  |  March 19, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I laughed at the “gotta take a crap now” sensation. I never put it that way, but come to think of it, that’s about how I felt (multiplied many times over, of course, right?). I’m a mom of two and had the luxury of an epidural with my first, coupled with the non-luxuries of pitocin and back labor. With my second, there wasn’t enough time to do an epidural, just as I feared would happen, so I was forced to go with natural childbirth. Terrified does not begin to describe how I felt as I watched the saline drip, drip, dripping so slowly in preparation for the epidural I just knew I wasn’t going to end upu getting if my contractions continued as they did. I don’t know about you, but I feel kind of lucky to have had the epidural option taken away from me. The experience of feeling labor, start to finish, was surprisingly exhilirating when all was said and done. And I did feel kinda superwoman-ish after all. This is not to say that I didn’t think I was dying the whole time it was happening. 🙂

    Reply
  • 4. ck  |  March 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Um…I’m afraid that you only reinforced your point. You’re a superwoman who can WRITE HER ASS OFF.

    Wow.

    Reply
  • 5. KathyB!  |  March 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Yep. Superwoman. That’s all I’m callin’ you from this point forward. Really, you might as well change the name of the blog!

    Reply

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