Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thoughts on unmedicated childbirth

My baby is coming up on his first birthday, which has me in a contemplative mood.  What was I doing a year ago?  I was feeling nervous about my plans to have a baby without an epidural, but determined to give it a try, since my first two deliveries were pretty miserable experiences WITH an epidural.

Matt and I took a childbirth class before Mason's birth in 2005, and it included a little bit of lamaze breathing.  I later mentioned to a friend that I didn't think I was very good at using mind-over-matter to relax and convince myself that the pain wasn't all that painful.  She suggested the Bradley method as more of an "embrace the pain and work with it" approach.   This time around, I checked out Husband-Coached Childbirth and read it until I could bear it no more.  I found it to be absurd and insulting, with such gems of wisdom as this: if only women didn't use so much soap when washing their privates, the area would be less dry and therefore less likely to tear.  There is also discussion of how the author grew up on a farm and watched plenty of cows give birth without screaming and wailing.  (If they can do it, ladies, you can too, as long as you practice my method.)  But this diagram was the last straw:
Transition stage can be intense and crazy; it makes some people barf, so I'm with him on that steep mountain climb.  But.  Second stage, or what is shown above as a lovely plateau where you rest and enjoy the view, is also known as the pushing stage, where you expel the baby from the baby hole.  It's the craziest of all the crazy that happens during a child's birth.  Why is the mountain top flat?  It should be a ninety degree sheer clif, with the woman dangling from a pickaxe, holding on for dear life as she claws her way to the top.  The only way this depiction would be accurate is if you flipped the mountain upside down and slammed that plateau onto the pelvis of the little stick figure lady.

Anyway, enough about Bradley.  I don't recommend his method.

In the end, it was a good thing that I'd planned on going drug-free, because this kid came fast, way faster than his siblings.  I started having strong contractions around 10:30, got to the hospital by 11:00 and had my baby by midnight.  My doctor did not happen to be on call at the time, so I got one of her partners who I'll call Dr. Stoneface.  I don't know if it was the late hour or what, but she had little comfort or encouragement or, really, personality to offer me.  As I cried and writhed in pain minutes before starting to push, Dr. Stoneface sat at the end of the bed and asked the nurse next to me "Is this her first baby?"  Oh, I'm sorry, am I complaining too much?  Am I being a wuss?  I'm pretty sure that on my deathbed, I'll look back on this hour as the most physically uncomfortable hour OF MY LIFE; excuse me if I'm being kind of annoying as I pass through it.

There's a Simpsons bit that captures the feeling perfectly, but the clip isn't on youtube.  You'll have to imagine it. Homer is skiing and his legs have spread way too far apart.
Homer: Ow, my leg!  This is the worst pain ever!
And then as he's flying downhill, his crotch bumps into several mounds of snow in rapid succession.
Paging Dr. Bradley.  I think I've found a better illustration for your book.


  1. I kind of loved this post :)

  2. I had my babies so doped up on pain-killer that I couldn't feel my legs, but I still laughed out loud at your post. It also confirmed my decisions. : )

  3. I love this! You are so clever and funny. I've had my six babies med-free. I wouldn't want to do it any other way, but I call pushing the "ring of fire". In retrospect, are you glad you went med-free or do you wish you had gone with an epidural?

  4. Here is the link to the video