Pregnant


Why I Didn’t Want an Epidural

Earlier today, I read something like the following:

Why in the hell would you not have an epidural?

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. I’ve seen questions like this before, sometimes harshly phrased. Do you think you’re going to get a medal for experiencing pain? If you’re going to give birth like they did in the old days before pain meds, are you also going to shit in the woods like they did in the old days?

Well, no. I didn’t think I’d have a medal bestowed on me for dealing with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. No, I don’t shit in the woods (although, full disclosure, I will pee in them if we’re hiking).

These posts always need a disclaimer: I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about whatever choice she makes or whatever birth experience she has or whether things go as planned or are completely different from what she wanted or expected. I was incredibly fortunate to have an awesome pregnancy and the (painful!) birth experience I wanted.

So, all due respect to everybody who has a different opinion on the issue, here are some reasons I didn’t want an epidural.

  • First and most important, I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital, so an epidural wasn’t even an option for me. (You can read more about why I had a home birth here.)
  • The idea of having a needle inserted into my spine freaks me right the hell out.
  • I didn’t want the risk of side effects.
  • I didn’t want to be on monitors and an IV during labor. I wanted freedom to move around.
  • I didn’t want someone telling me when to push.
  • I didn’t want to swell up like a giant balloon and feel like crap after giving birth.
  • I didn’t want to focus on medical procedures that freak me right the hell out instead of on giving birth and my baby.

The main thing is that I wanted to be in control of my labor and delivery experience, to the extent it was safe for the baby and me. I don’t mean that in a micromanagey way at all — like, it’s not that I wanted to exert my iron-fisted control over every aspect of everything that happened. I mean that I wanted to trust myself and my body to do what it needed to do on its own. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like I wanted to be in power, but I wanted my body to be powerful and do what it needed to do with as little interference as possible.

Even though I’m a pretty anxious person by nature, at some point during my pregnancy, I came to completely trust my midwife and myself so I was able to let go of my fear and be ready to do what I need to do to, well, birth a baby in my living room. It was good to learn I’m capable of that (letting go of my fear more than giving birth in my living room, which I suspect is not a skill I’ll frequently need in the future).

It’s funny because during labor, I felt anything but powerful. I felt weak and tired. It hurt. A lot. I mean, I expected labor to hurt because, well, duh, but I had no idea. And it went on for 25 freaking hours. And I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. And it was just as awesome as I could’ve ever imagined it would be.


Why I Had a Home Birth

So, why did I have a home birth, anyway?

The short, easy answer is that I don’t like being told what to do.

I refer to my health insurance company as “Crappy HMO” (I’m thankful I have health insurance but still don’t like the company). Here’s how maternity coverage worked with Crappy HMO:

  • For each prenatal appointment, you see a different provider. There are nurses, physician assistants, and obstetricians. You generally don’t get to choose who you see.
  • You’re ordered around at appointments. They tell you where to go and what tests to have done, sometimes without any explanation. At one appointment, I had a PA take samples for STD tests without telling me what she was doing or explaining why it was necessary.
  • You’re told where you will deliver your baby. There is no choice.
  • When you show up at the hospital while in labor, your doctor will be whoever is there at the moment. It could be someone you’ve never met.

Aside from the practices of Crappy HMO, I don’t like the way prenatal care and labor are typically handled by mainstream medicine. I think a normal process has become too medicalized. I think too many unnecessary interventions happen. I don’t even like the way people talk about this stuff:

  • My doctor won’t let me go past 40 weeks.
  • I had to drink something that tastes like ass so they can see if I have gestational diabetes and when I failed the first test, I had to waste half a day drinking more shit that tastes like ass and starving myself.
  • I have to be induced because according to an ultrasound, my baby might be gigantic.
  • They won’t let me eat during labor.
  • I have to be on monitors while in labor so I can’t walk around.
  • After the baby was born, they took him and gave him a shot and put goop in his eyes.

Listen. I’m a reasonably intelligent, independent adult. Shit like that would piss me right off. I understand that I have a problem with authority, but people don’t get to order me around. If you want me to do some stupid, outdated GD test, you have to explain why and how it benefits the baby. If I want to eat and walk around during labor, I’m going to do it.

The way labor typically goes (at least from what I’ve seen on those awful birth shows on tv, which I’m thankful I never discovered until after I gave birth) totally creeps me out. I didn’t want to be strapped to monitors and hooked up to IVs and whatever else they attach you to, flat on my back in a hospital bed while people hold my legs in a terrible position and tell me when to push. That would make me feel — I don’t know — powerless and weird. Hell, I’ve never been admitted to a hospital. Even the environment — all the bright lights, people in and out of the room — would freak me out.

So, I didn’t get into home birth because I’m a rah-rah, woo-hoo-birth hippie (I mean, I kind of am now, but I wasn’t then). I went into it because Crappy HMO pissed me off and I didn’t want to be ordered around.

I found an awesome midwife and, holy crap, working with a midwife is so different from working with Crappy HMO. She was the only person I saw for appointments — she even came to our house for appointments. Each appointment lasted for about an hour, which is way longer than you spend at a normal prenatal appointment. She never ordered me to do anything. If there were tests I could have or she thought I should have, she discussed them with me, explained the purpose, and gave me time to decide whether to do them.

She treated me like a reasonably intelligent, independent adult, and respected my desires and opinions. It was awesome. And appointments ended with a hug.

I still (almost 15 months later!) have to finish writing my birth story, which isn’t exciting or anything but might be of interest to pregnant women who like to read birth stories or people who might be interested in home birth. You know how “they” always say the birth you want isn’t the birth you’ll get and that things never go the way you plan? It’s not true. I found the whole experience much harder than I thought it would be, but I had the birth I planned for and wanted. It was long and difficult but everything turned out exactly the way I’d hoped — with me giving birth to a healthy, awesome baby in my living room. Rock on.

Feel free to email me if you need a recommendation for a home birth midwife in Denver, or if you have any questions about having a home birth. I love talking about this stuff and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.


Pregnant women don’t want to hear your horror stories.

It’s a universal truth that at some point during her pregnancy, a woman will experience the following, probably several times:

She’ll be having a discussion about something related to pregnancy, babies, or children, and somebody will end up telling her a horror story about something that happened to her or someone she knows. I’ve been referring to this as “horror storying,” and it often is accompanied by unsolicited assvice.

It goes like this:

Asshole: Blah blah blah [insert pregnancy-related issue here].
Pregnant Woman: Oh yeah, I’ve done a lot of research on that issue. I’m going to do X.
Asshole: Oh! I have a friend who did X. [Insert horror story about terrible thing that happened to Friend of Asshole as the result of doing X.] You really should consider doing Y.
Pregnant Woman: ….

(more…)