09 May, 2014

Birth: Pain Free vs. Drug Free

Looking back on both of my girls' births, I can't help but compare them. They are drastically different, and that difference really kind of surprises me. 

From the beginning of Millie's pregnancy, I knew I wanted to try for an all-natural (drug free) birth. My doctors induced me with Charlotte because of my gestational diabetes, and also because I had some hypertension. It definitely wasn't what I wanted, but truthfully, I wasn't prepared to fight them on it. I did get them to wait an extra week before inducing, but that was as much fight as I had in me. Most of that I think was that Joe was in WLC, and unable to go with me and help me 'fight' them.

I really did want to try and avoid having an epidural with Charlotte. But with induction comes lots of medications and interventions. Even though I wasn't induced with the ever-feared Pitocin, they were still forcing my body to do something it wasn't ready to do yet. And once I hit transition, I was pretty miserable. I couldn't get out of bed (which still frustrates me), so there wasn't much I could do on my own to help relieve the pain. Eventually, I asked for an epidural. When the anesthesiologist couldn't come in a few minutes, I asked for pain killers. That is something I still wish I hadn't done. The epidural was fantastic, but the pain killers were basically useless. All they did was make me sleepy, which isn't something you need when you're in active labor in the middle of the night!

I ended up pushing for 2 hours, which now I think is mostly because I couldn't feel anything. Sure, I could feel the pressure of her moving, but I couldn't actually feel how/where she was moving. The plus side to that was that my body had time to stretch, and I didn't tear.

I didn't notice it then, but there were plenty of downsides to having a "pain free" birth:

Charlotte was so sleepy. She was pretty alert after her birth, but she was still groggy - too groggy to nurse before they cleaned her up. She was so sleepy that we had to wake her for feedings. I wonder now if that's why she developed jaundice while we were in the hospital.

I was sleepy. Birth itself is tiring, but the medicine made me plain exhausted. I thought that I was just tired from giving birth, but the truth is it isn't that tiring. I felt like a zombie. 

I was smiling, but I was asleep on the inside. Haha:)

I also had a little bit of difficulty walking - even to the bathroom - while we were in the hospital. 

Part of me also wonders if my "baby blues" were fueled by the drugs I had while in labor. I was so incredibly emotional.

Whereas, with Millie...

I went into labor on my own at 39 weeks - a full week longer than I was pregnant with Charlotte. I was in labor much longer, but I felt that the contractions were far less painful.

Taken while I was in labor. Do I look totally miserable to you?! Nope. ;-)

I did have an IV placed (for saline), but I could move around with help from my nurse. Changing positions, having Joe put counter pressure on my lower back, and using the labor/exercise ball helped tremendously.

I pushed 3 times. The actual I'm-doing-this-on-my-own pushes lasted mere minutes. My body did most of the work before the nurse was actually telling me to push. 

I did tear this time, but mostly because I went from 8.5cm to pushing in less than an hour. My body just didn't have time to stretch properly.

Millie nursed for about half an hour, less than an hour after she was born, while we were doing skin-to-skin. She started rooting and bobbing her head, all on her own. She needed very little assistance. 

Taken probably 10 minutes after she was born.

She was also very, very alert. We didn't have to start waking her for feedings until we came home from the hospital. Even then, the times we woke her were few and far between.

The biggest difference: I felt great. I mean, yeah, I hurt pretty badly from tearing and being stitched. Otherwise, I felt great - especially mentally. I was tired, but I wasn't exhausted. I was up and walking after Millie finished her first feeding.

It has taken me longer to heal because of the tear, but in every other way I felt so much better after giving birth. And it makes me wish I had been able to do it this way with Charlotte, too!

The difference in how I've felt this time makes me want this kind of birth for everyone. It's just so much better. It makes far more of a difference in how I feel - and how my baby feels - than I ever imagined. Sure, an epidural would have been nice. Who doesn't want to be pain-free!? But the pain of contractions is completely manageable, especially if you take the time to educate yourself on natural ways to handle it.

Am I totally against drugs during labor? No. It's kind of hard to say that after having them with Charlotte. Do I wish I hadn't had them the first time? Absolutely. Whatever anyone says, babies do get that medication in their system, and it does make them groggy. There are even chances of other things happening, but I'm not into fear-mongering. (All you have to do is Google the risks of having an epidural anyway. The information is out there, you just have to look for it.) 

Barring extreme circumstances, I think everyone is capable of having a drug-free birth. And I encourage it! It's empowering. I thought I felt superwoman after having Charlotte...and I felt even more so after birthing Millie with no drugs! I wish that for every woman, because our bodies can do amazing things!

No comments: