Epidurals and Caesarians, oh my!

Something tells me he'd still be crying even if he wasn't born in a sterile, clinical, operating room 😉

With every passing week my Gmail account becomes inundated with pregnancy mail [‘The Daily Kick,’  ‘Ages & Stages,’  ‘What To Expect- Week X,’ etc.] and I always enjoy reading these frequent messages.  It reminds me how excited I am to be a mother again.  Bonus points for giving me knowledge and reminders about parenting.  Today one of the pieces centered around the following article:  “Au Natural:  Nine Ways to Manage Labor Without Drugs.” 

Let me preface this by saying I wholeheartedly support every woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health.  I respect their unique choices in issues such as the birthing process, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping.  A woman should be entitled follow the course of action most suitable for her and her child without judgement and interference from the rest of us.  All I can do is share my opinions and the things that work for me…with a hearty dose of humor.

Understanding that you have options with your labor and delivery is crucial.  The article discusses home births, alternatives to pain medication, and many other important factors to consider.  I appreciate the information they provide as it is important to know that “there are many alternatives to the flat-on-your-back hospital scene.”  Most OB/GYN’s focus on a medical approach to pregnancy culminating with a hospital birth so some women may not be fully aware that other methods exist.

The Setting

Apologies in advance for anyone I may offend with this statement:  I think it is foolish and risky to give birth anywhere but a hospital.  I certainly understand the reasons for wanting to be surrounded by the familiar comfort and intimacy associated with your own home….but I’m not willing to compromise my child’s health by delivering outside of a medical setting.  It’s impossible to foresee complications.  You don’t want your birthing team frantically scrambling to call an ambulance or wasting precious time determining the best place to transport you.  God forbid, if things were to take a turn for the worse, could mother and baby’s health suffer because of something that would have been manageable in the appropriate setting?

It is because of the miracles of modern medicine that I'm able to enjoy this time with my son after a major surgical procedure.

Never in a million years did I think I’d have anything but a complication-free labor.  I was twenty two years old and as healthy as a horse.  While I had a gut feeling that Adam would arrive via C-section, my reasoning for this was the innate knowledge that I would not be able to dilate sufficiently.  However, I did not view that as a complication.  Instead I figured that the doctor would realize labor just wasn’t happening and we’d move to Plan B.  Lo and behold I had barely progressed more 20 hours into labor– yet when my blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels– that’s when I was whisked away to the operating room.

Thank you, Baptist Women’s Hospital!  While I cannot imagine a nobler sacrifice than making your grand exit so your child can make their grand entrance….isn’t it better all around if both parties live to tell about it?

I’m seriously at a loss as to how we maintained a sustainable population prior to hospital births becoming the acceptable norm– and especially before epidurals skyrocketed in the 1980’s.  How anyone survived childbirth is beyond me.  The very fact that women weren’t dropping like flies is enough proof that miracles do exist.

The delivery method

Few things irk me more than a woman touting ‘natural’ birth– as if you’re doing something abnormal and artificial if you have a C-section.  Certainly the advantages of a vaginal birth are many.  Doctors consider this sort of delivery as the optimal outcome and with good reason.  However, neither method is without risk and the possibility of complication[s].  No matter how it happens….it’s dangerous being born!  Most in the ‘natural’ school are overwhelmingly sympathetic once they realize a legitimate medical emergency served as the catalyst for my C-section with Adam and the fact that my doctor strongly advised against a VBAC with Tatum.  Yet a few still express their dismay that we missed out on precious ‘bonding time’ as I recovered from being gutted like a fish.  Really?  As agonizing as it would be, I’d go a month without holding my son if I knew that doing so would keep him healthy and safe.  And, uh, in terms of my health….had I kicked the bucket prior to meeting him [which very well could have happened had I not been taken into surgery], I doubt I’d be bonding with anyone except JC, so I can handle the fact that I wasn’t the first person to hold him outside of the operating room.

Adam's first snow....he seems to have recovered nicely from all that birthing business.

The epidural

Unless you are some sort of Amazonian who thrives on ungodly amounts of pain, I’m assuming that most women who skip the epidural do so because of potential side effects for the baby.  You should always do your research and be cognizant of the fact that what you do while pregnant can very much affect your child.  I consulted with multiple doctors, looked on the internet, spoke with other parents….and decided that an epidural was indeed safe to use.

According to American Pregnancy’s article on Epidural Anesthesia, here’s how the epidural can effect the baby:  “As stated above, research on the effects of epidurals on newborn health is somewhat ambiguous and many factors may be contributing to newborn health at the time of birth. How much of an effect these medications will have is difficult to judge and could vary based on dosage, how long labor continues and individual babies. Dosages and medications vary, so concrete information from research is lacking. Studies reveal that some babies may initially have trouble “latching on” among other difficulties with breastfeeding. While in utero, they may become lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery. These medications have been known to cause respiratory depression, and decreased fetal heart rate in newborns. Though the medication may not harm the baby, the baby may experience subtle effects like those mentioned above. “

I will never regret my decision to have an epidural.  In fact, the prospect of my second birth is infinitely easier because of it.  Of course I know what to expect because I’ve done it once before– but I also know that just when I cannot take another second of the agonizing pain it will subside– and I will be both coherent and out of my misery.  Although there is a definite pain relief component to the epidural I wasn’t so out of sorts that I was talking about a moon colony or anything drastic like that.

The use of additional pain relief

Suggestions in the ‘Au Natural’ article for pain relief alternatives include acupuncture, yoga, Lamaze, and hypnotizing yourself.  That’s fantastic…..if you’ve twisted your ankle.  Perhaps I comprise a tiny minority here, but am I the only one who was in excruciating pain once I started having contractions?

I remember we were talking about babies right before I made this picture because we'd read 'Baby Faces.' =)

Removing my wisdom teeth.  Not good.  Averaging a thrice yearly serious injury to the gimpy knee?  Bad.  The infamous kidney infection in ’05 from drinking contaminated water in the British Virgin Islands?  Very bad.  Never in my life have I broken a bone, had a serious injury, gotten a deep wound, been through surgery, etc.  With the exception of gimpy I’ve been very blessed in the sense that life hasn’t been physically painful for me.  Which is probably for the best….I already zero pain tolerance as is.  People are bowled over when they realize that girl who is practically in tears because she stubbed her toe has had thousands of tiny needles stab her repeatedly for her tattoos.  Yes tattoos plural.

So when those first waves of contractions hit me….four letter words were flying out of my mouth.  I’m surprised there was even room in my mouth because it was so bloody from my gums– in my agony I’d been grinding my teeth.  !@#$%^&*()-.  That’s a euphemism.  The worst agony of my life.  Unbearable.  No words.

Yet I always knew one day there would be a round two.  😉

I never expected giving birth to be pleasant or devoid of pain.  That’s completely unrealistic.  I can’t speak as to how it feels to push a baby out of an impossibly narrow birthing canal– though I can’t imagine that’s a walk in the park either– but a C-section is a major surgery.  You have no idea how much you use those core muscles in your lower abdomen until they are paralyzed.  What they don’t tell you about a C-section is the impossibly slow recovery.  Oh, I knew I’d be ‘recovering’ for 4-6 weeks but I thought that meant ‘take it easy.’  As in I won’t resume my rugby career anytime in the immediate future.  I could barely even hold Adam [and when that happened he had to be handed to me in a way that I didn’t have to move my arms or shoulders], much less get up and run to him if he fussed.  Luckily I had assistance in the form of Will and my parents but the recovery was grueling.

Don’t take prescription narcotics if you don’t need them.  But don’t be ashamed if you do need them, because for many [myself included] that pill can be the difference between lying in bed moaning and actively caring for your newborn without relying on a third party to fetch you this or that.  However, it is imperative that you consult with your doctor about breastfeeding plans before you take any sort of medication.

With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,



About Cocktails With Hemingway

I'm blunt and opinionated. Virtually everything I say or do is a contradiction but I'm not a hypocrite. I never hesitate to speak my mind and never fail to leave an impression wherever I go. You love me, you hate me, but you'll never forget me.
This entry was posted in Adam, Feminism, Pregnancy, Sloane, The Wee One, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Epidurals and Caesarians, oh my!

  1. GiGi says:

    I am prejudice… and am so for personal reasons…My oldest sister, Sandra, died from birth canal trauma…beautiful and perfect in all ways, she was pronounced dead at birth…she was placed in the family baby dress and pictured…many years later I still look at her beautiful angel picture…her perfect sweet face deserved to be remembered…three close friends have lost their babies in similar ways…
    I honestly feel that babies should be gently removed from the womb via c-section circumventing any trauma at all that occurs in the birth canal … I think one day, it will be the norm….because, it is safest for the baby; and that is what counts.

  2. There are definitely risks associated with a C-section but I’m inclined to agree with you. I cannot even imagine how heartbreaking Sandra’s loss must have been for MeMae and Grandfather Lowe.

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