shot or not?

A few nights ago I had one of those remarkably vivid and utterly bizarre pregnancy dreams. I dreamt that I had my baby, that I did so now as in 16-ish weeks pregnant, that it happened in a public place, that the baby was totally normal in size and 100% healthy, and that it didn’t hurt at all. From what I can recall of the dream I was basically sitting there and then it was time to give birth and then I did, in a matter of minutes and with zero discomfort. And then there was some weird breastfeeding moment where my nipples were rather alien like and the baby was not really interested in them, all of which I attribute to my still lingering guilt and anxiety over the breastfeeding struggles I experienced with Norah, but that’s beside the point. The point is the ease with which I spewed forth this new life form.

SO what does that mean and why did I dream about this? I mean clearly dreaming about having a baby while you’re pregnant makes sense, but I do happen to know exactly why I had this particular dream at this particular time and that’s because I recently read this article: The Truth About Epidurals. A good friend posted it to Facebook and of course I’m apt to read anything pregnancy or birth related that crosses my path these days. It was a good article – fairly well written, insightful, informative  – but what I liked most and what inspired me to post about it was the last paragraph:

“Women shouldn’t cave to pressure from either side. They should make informed decisions based on their goals and priorities. I aspired to have a comfortable birth even if it meant being surrounded by nurses and doctors and tubes and incessant beeps; other women may trade pain for a more intimate birthing experience. Each choice comes with its own benefits and unpleasantries. My unnatural childbirth left me with a memory that does not involve intolerable pain, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

Amen, sister.

If you’ve been hanging around Elderland for awhile you surely know Norah’s birth story, but in case not, a quick summary: I aspired to do things “naturally;” I got a morphine IV after several hours of kill-me-now-pain; i finally asked for an epidural after a couple more hours; they had the shot ready at my back and then checked me one last time to find that I was fully dilated and needed to push; no shot, pushed and screamed, 15 min later, baby out. So in the end I didn’t go completely drug free, but I did experience labor and delivery sans epi. The morphine really didn’t change the level of pain I was experiencing during the contractions, it simply made it easier for me to rest between them (for 30-60 seconds). In the following weeks, heck months or even year, if anyone had asked I would have emphatically declared that I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to line up the shot for number two. Today, 17 weeks into my second pregnancy, I’m honestly not sure what I’ll do.

Let me attempt to explain why I aspired to do things naturally the first time around. The honest answer is simply that I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I viewed getting an epidural as the easy route and going shotless as a challenge. Being my typical competitive, stubborn, perfectionist self there was never a question in my mind as to what my plan would be: bring that baby into the world without getting that needle in my back. That said, I was also well aware that having never experienced labor before I might just change my mind, and fully prepared for the fact that things can and often do go awry, so I welcomed the possibility of my plan being discarded. But minus any complications, it was my personal belief that if I could successfully give birth to Norah without an epi I would have achieved some feat and be proud of myself. I’m sure a lot of people would read that and think it utterly absurd, but hey, that’s me.

An aside…I started writing this post yesterday morning and then put it on hold for other weekend activities one of which was an outing with my coworkers and their significant others. After some fierce rollerskating we went to Tyler’s for grubbage and during chow time my coworker’s girlfriend told me about her pregnant friend in England. Apparently because she is super healthy and not expected to have any complications she must begin her labor on the floor of the hospital (I forget what it’s called) where they simply don’t administer epidurals. Period. Doesn’t matter what you want. You’re in top shape, so suck it up. Even for crazy me who was all about suffering in the name of self-pride that sounded completely asinine. I Googled around a bit in the hopes of finding some sort of official policy and the best I could unearth were forum posts about the National Health Service (NHS) lacking the proper funds to give epis willy nilly and so often witholding them unless necessary. So nothing official, but enough of the same from various websites that I’m convinced it’s true. There’s no such thing as a perfect health care system, eh? An aside to this aside, on the homepage for the NHS there’s a link toward the top that says “How to complain about the NHS.” What a delightfully ballsy alternative to the American “Tell us What you Think” or simply “Contact Us.”

Now back to number two. What will I do? Who knows. I’d like to try again to forgo the epi, but I’m almost certain that if labor progresses slowly and the contractions are as hellish as they were with Norah, I’ll be rolling over in no time. Shot or not, what I hope for above all else is to have a complication free delivery and a healthy baby.

I’ll end with this: if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant or even just thinking about trying to get pregnant, and your mind has wandered into the complicated and confusing land of labor and delivery, and you really don’t know what you want, do some thinking and reading and talking until you figure it out for yourself. Educate yourself on the various options, talk to your friends and family and medical providers about their experiences, get your partner’s thoughts and feelings, and then make a decision or plan knowing that when it comes down to it, you may have to throw the entire thing out the window. Because until it happens no one will ever know what “it” is going to be. And finally, don’t ever, ever, ever let your fear of being judged or your worry of what others will think dictate what your birth experience is going to be. This is your baby. Plan it your way.

Elderland out. XO.


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