My Natural Birth Was Easier Than My Medicated Birth


baby in incubatorNothing pits pregnant women against each other like the following question: "Are you planning on a natural childbirth, or are you getting an epidural?" I understand. I have two children, and I've been on both side of the fence, not to mention the middle. And as it turned out, my first instinct was the right one.

Confused? I'll start at the beginning. I was 24 when I got pregnant with my first baby, my daughter, and was as idealistic as my age at the time would imply. Plus, I was raised by total hippies -- long before Whole Foods was a glimmer in the universe's eye, my mother was dragging me to hole-in-the-wall health food stores for wheat germ and carob.

As if I weren't already primed for the crunchiest birth ever, I then bought and became obsessed with a book called Spiritual Midwifery. Admittedly I haven't read through it in years, but in my memory it was basically about this commune type of place where chilled-out women with really long hair painlessly popped out baby after baby. Sold! When it came time to sign up for a childbirth class, I chose The Bradley Method, which definitely did offer some super helpful tips (more on that later) but did not quite prepare me for the vortex of horror in my near future.

Instead of a traditional OB/GYN practice, I went with a team of midwives at a birthing center associated with a nearby hospital (I did like the fact that should anything go horribly awry, a fully-equipped institution of modern medicine was down the street). And so, my ex-husband and I packed a bag with all of the recommended props: Tennis balls (for massaging mom's back while in labor), peaceful music, scented candles. First labors usually took a long time, I was told. Not in my case! My ex and I were eating dinner at a macrobiotic restaurant in the West Village of NYC when my water broke. "Call me back when the contractions start," said my midwife. Nothing happened for about two hours ... and then ... BAM!

No "mild" starter contractions for me. It was 0 to 60; no action to full, active labor in a matter of minutes. By the time we made it to the birthing center, my contractions were one minute apart and I was howling like some kind of demon/wolf/grizzly bear (that was one freaked-out cab driver!). "I just can't get a break!" I panted to my midwife in between one set of contractions. "This is your break, honey," she pointed out in a manner that was supposed to be soothing, I guess, but I swear I almost strangled her on the spot. Then I vaguely remember her coaxing me into the jacuzzi. The warm water provided a slight measure of relief ... until another contraction would hit, and either the midwife or my ex would reach into the tub to rub my back and accidentally hit the button that turned on the bubbles. WHAT KIND OF SICK MEDIEVAL TORTURE DEVICE WAS THIS? (Ask my ex what he remembers most about that experience and he'll probably say "Jacque screaming 'Turn off the mother%&#$ing bubbles!!!!'")

Anyway, my daughter wasn't born in the water -- I'd gotten out of the tub at that point, and was lying in the Bradley-approved "side-lying" position. Two pushes and Tada! My daughter was born. Total labor time: 2 and-a-half hours. (Total amount of pre-packed props put to use: Zero.)

Fast-forward four years. Pregnant with my son, I chose a traditional OB/GYN practice for two reasons: First, the birthing center where my daughter was born had closed; second, though I wasn't sure I'd want drugs this time around, I sure as hell wanted the option! Either way, my son's labor was different from the start. The contractions came on gradually and were tolerable enough for the first couple of hours for me to think maybe I wouldn't actually want an epidural after all ... then, suddenly, oh no! OW!!! I started having flashbacks to Birth #1, and that's when I caved. "I do want the epidural! I do I do I do!"

At first, it was great. I lounged in the hospital bed, comfortably numb, reading US Weekly and People. "Look, you're having a contraction!" the nurse would occasionally announce, nodding towards the fetal monitor. Who knew? But then things seemed to ... slow down. My OB decided to break my water; at that point, she discovered that my son had passed meconium. "Could mean fetal distress, but it's probably nothing," she assured me. Still, I was starting to panic, which is I think what finally jumpstarted the labor -- except that when it was time to push, I couldn't feel anything! "Am I pushing?? How can I tell if I'm pushing?!"

In an ironic twist, the epidural wore off the second my son started crowning. So the big finale was ... well, let's put it this way: Like my daughter, my son was welcomed into the world to the sound of his mother screaming bloody murder. (He was fine, despite the meconium-passing.) Total labor time: 6 hours.

Now, I know both of my childbirth experiences were nothing to complain about, especially considering the hours upon hours of torment some women go through. So I'm not going to even suggest that my second labor was "bad." But looking back, I must say, I think I had it right the first time -- I'm pretty sure my son would've been born even faster if I didn't get the epidural. Given the choice a third time, though, would I be able to refuse the drugs? The spirit is willing, ladies, but the flesh is weak. I'm not making any promises!

Are you planning on getting an epidural or having a natural childbirth?


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SamNS... SamNStefanMommy

I had thw opposite experience. I've had 4 kids and my 3rd one I didn't have an epidural. He was my longest labor at 18 hours. My epidural babies were 8, 4, and 1 1/2 hours.

Lynette Lynette

I would HIGHLY recommend looking into "Hypnobabies" if you have another.  Works better than Bradley.  My oldest I want to go natural but lamaze did not prepare me!  I begged for an EPI and they didn't let me get it till 8cm.  And then it wore off during pushing, it was awful.  Baby number 2 I had an EPI from the word go.  I didn't feel anything. It was surreal and I didn't like it.  With my 3rd I did the home study course from hypnobabies and it was amazing.  I was so calm and in control, never wanted for drugs.  It was amazing.  I even had a home waterbirth with a CPM.  I regret that I missed out on that kind of birth w/ my first 2 children.  And recovery was a breeze.  I had no stitches(didn't tear) and no meds in my body, I felt great! 

Spike... SpikedMango

EPI all the way! I am soooo not into the whole "pain" thing, lol. I'm just not that strong or brave. Though it IS amazing that so many women do. :) I'm definitely impressed by natural birth stories. But it's just not for me. :)

Mama2... Mama2lilGarrett

With my son I begged for an Eli but it was too late. I arrived at 7 and was at 10 in 10 minutes. Then I went natural with my daughter but allowed then to strip my membranes and break my water.. Which cause more harsh contractions.. Again begged for the epi.. Sat up and time to push. Next birth will be at home. I know I can do it. :)

Putri... PutridyCorpse

I had my first and only (so far) naturally at home in the water.  I wouldn't do it any different.
It's all about how well prepared you are.  I wish I had my sleep before my water broke that day lol. 

nonmember avatar laurs

With my first I ended up getting an epi that had halfway worn off when I went to push. My second I wanted an epi, but I arrived at the hospital at 10cm and far too late for one. Honestly, I found the recovery part far easier without an epi, I felt a whole lot better afterwards, less bloated, less medicated, more energy. If we decide to have another I would opt for no epi.

nonmember avatar Kelly

I'm hoping for a natural birth (though I do have to deliver in a hospital). Will do our best to go for it, but I know well enough to know it's not all in my control...sometimes things happen and if our plan has to change midway, I will roll with it. Just want to be as prepared as I can.

Lokis... LokisMama

I had my medicated birth first, and that was what influenced my decision to have a natural home birth with my second.  It went smoother and I was able to be up and moving around within a couple hours of giving birth. 

2teen... 2teens2LOs

my first was about 2 days of agonising pain w/ pitocin! hell! on earth, lol.  Finally got the epidural at 7, which I couldn't even tell I had gotten- but I shot to 10 and was pushing so ?

#2 I got to 8 at home all miserable, but surviving, got to the hospital, got the epi had the baby hours later did well and it gave me time to rest before the big pushing

#3, induction w/ pit... epi at 3cm, rested/relaxed, my body done its own work... epi relaxed me SO much that baby girl worked her way out all by herself, I felt her move down my body and told the nurse- she is coming out, dr. came in 1 little push and out she was.

#4 induction w/ pit, epi at 3cm, EXACTLY as #3, he worked his way out on his own, I felt him move down the side of my body, called the nurse- he is coming and sure enough (he was bigger took a few more pushes) but he was out and all went well. 

I would do #2, 3 or 4 any day again.  I would never go into it refusing meds like I did w/ #1 espeically since I was on Pit with #1 and made it to 7 and it took HOURS! that was just stupid in me.

my advice and what I have learned... stay home and labor yourself naturally (no pit) or be ready to take the epi as soon as they hook up the pit! :)

jagam... jagamama0710

What Lynette said, absolutely!!! Look into Hypnobabies. It's amazing. :) 

I birthed both of my children without drugs, using Hypnobabies. My first was born in a birthing tub in a very natural birth mommy/baby friendly German hospital. My second was born in a military hospital in the US. I labored at home until transition with him. The only moments I seriously considered an epidural was on the drive over (3 sets of railroad tracks....f#*@ those railroad tracks!) and when the nurses had flat on my back to check me (and took their sweet time) before my midwife arrived and I was already a 9. As soon as they were done, I got myself off the bed and I felt so much better. I got in the shower and my son was born 20 minutes later.

I can't speak for the recovery time after a medicated birth since I've never had one but I love the way I've felt and how fast I healed after my natural ones. Pure, unadulterated hormones that are meant to be there for you after childbirth. It's an unbelievable feeling. Personally, the idea of an epidural (and the potential landslide of interventions after getting one) has always frightened me more than just going it drug free. The risks of an epidural far outweigh any benefits to me. Plus, now that I've practiced Hypnobabies, I don't fear childbirth and it's really just intense pressure more than pain for me when I focus on it.

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