I did not have an epidural with Rooney's birth. A lot of women ask me about it (especially the pregnant ones), and after lots of discussion I think having a quick birth is one of the best ways to avoid an epidural (if that's your goal). Of course, a quick labor is not something you can always control.
I promise I'm not a jerk about avoiding pain meds. It was something I've wanted to do since my cousin told me about her water birth like eight years ago. I thought it sounded like the coolest thing! I've also never liked taking medication (I rarely take pain medication when I have a headache) so it just seemed like that would be my story.
Why I Think I Was Successful
- I did most of my laboring at home. Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Because I was comfortable and distracted, and being relaxed does wonders for speeding up labor. I think if I had been in a hospital, the stale-ness and starkness of it all would have intimidated me and gotten in my head. But laying on our king-size bed, watching Modern Family and eating Mr. Freeze's made it feel like just another night with Eric. I was able to labor at home for about 11 hours before my water broke. (I labored at work for the first five hours.)
- I was rested. I had about four hours of sleep before my water broke (that was actually a "good night's sleep" toward the end of my pregnancy). Had my water broke at 11:00 pm, I'm not sure I would have had the stamina, especially since I'd been feeling contractions since 11:00 am.
- My labor went very quickly. I never really thought of fatigue as being a reason why women get epidurals (I just thought it was driven by pain), but labor is exhausting - mentally, physically and emotionally. From the time my water broke until I pushed her out, only 4.5 hours had passed. I think that is pretty quick for a first-time mother. The pain was strong but I could tell I was progressing quickly and that was motivating to me. By the way things were going and the way my midwife and nurse reacted to my progress, I was pretty sure it would be a fast event and there was really no downtime to even discuss an epidural. I was 5.5 cm dilated when we got to the hospital and after she checked me she said she made me 6 cm (which I didn't even know was possible). That was very encouraging (although at the time I had wished I was 8 cm dilated).
- We had prepared. We watched a DVD birth class called The Best Birth that is geared toward med-free labor. It showed us different labor techniques and how to use gravity to allow the baby to move down. I also read as many birth stories online as I could get my hands on, and even watched some natural births on Youtube.
- No complications. I wasn't sick (feverish or nauseous, as some women are), and Rooney was handling labor great as well (her high pain tolerance now makes perfect sense to me). So, I was allowed to walk around, unmonitored and labor however I wished. I tried sitting backwards on the toilet. I tried (and loved) the birthing ball. I tried (and hated) the whirlpool. I was educated on using gravity to help me and was given permission in the hospital to do so.
- I felt strongly that I wanted to avoid an epidural. I've heard it said that if you go to the hospital unsure if you want an epidural, then you will get one. I felt pretty strongly against an epidural, although I didn't want to publicly express it too much in case labor was much worse than I expected. I watched The Business of Being Born documentary right after I got pregnant and it was definitely influential in my choice for avoiding an epidural.
- I have a high pain tolerance mixed with confidence, determination and stubbornness. I have a high pain tolerance, but LABOR HURTS. It feels like your uterus is mad and wants to shed whatever is inside (the worst menstrual cramps you have ever experienced). I didn't enjoy my labor (which may be sad to some of you) and I kept thinking that I was going to title my birth story "I Got an Epidural and I Liked It." I thought that would be OK because it was a funny title. Maybe it would have gone viral. I had no question that I would enjoy an epidural, but I'm stubborn and really wanted to say I did it without drugs. I'm also a positive person and totally channeled a "can-do" attitude the whole time. I was determined.
- My husband was a rock star. You should all get a husband as great as mine. I may have yelled at him one time and really hurt his feelings, but he stuck with me and basically gave me a four-hour back massage and helped me get into my pushing position when contractions came, which was a major help. (My sister was also there, on my other side, and was great emotional support!)
Some of these reasons were in my control and some were out. I feel lucky, and hope I can do it again some day (just give me a couple more years to work up the courage).
Do you have any stories or info on what helped you have a drug-free birth?
P.P.S. I didn't read any books about childbirth, but I've heard great things about Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Birthing From Within and Hypnobabies.