Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Labor is Hard. Duh, Right?

When I was pregnant with Little Guy two years ago, I remember being meticulous in my preparation for bringing a baby into the world. I read all about what to eat and what not to eat, I prepared my nursery, I researched the pros and cons of circumcisions, I ensured that I had my car seat installed by a certified technician, I took my prenatal vitamins everyday, and I had every last thing on my baby-buying checklist bought and at the ready (including the wipe warmer I never used).

And yet, somehow, in the midst of all this planning, I had forgotten - no I had disregarded - the most important piece to planning for my baby's birth. The actual birth part.

Yes, I had taken my hospital's birth preparation class, but I had not given more than a few hours of thought as to whether or not I was mentally, physically or emotionally ready for the process of giving birth to another human. I had not practiced any breathing techniques. I had not read any books on birthing.

I really thought that I would just wing it. I knew the baby was going to come out somehow - that was a given - so I didn't really think to prepare much. In retrospect, I think I was in denial.

I was in denial that an 8-pound living being was somehow going to have to come out of my body and that I would be more than a passive actor in that process. I thought that as soon as I got to the hospital, I would be "taken care of" by the nurses and doctors and that if things got too painful I would get an epidural, read a magazine until it was time to push, and then pop out the baby.

Like I said, I was in denial.

What actually happened was both wonderful and traumatic. Wonderful because at the end of the experience, I had a healthy baby, but traumatic because the birth process was, for me, just short of a horrific ordeal.

And let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I am speaking of how I felt personally and not in comparison to others' experiences. I know that I didn't have the most difficult labor of any woman who ever lived, but it was traumatic for me nonetheless.

During the middle of my labor, I remember thinking to myself that I would never have another child. That we would have to adopt. I think this thought crosses the mind of many women in labor at some point.

Why? Because it FUCKING HURTS, that's why.

I was not prepared for the pain. I was not prepared for my epidural to fail and leave me unmedicated during the majority of my labor. I was not prepared for the out-of-control feeling I had during the worst of my seven-minute long pitocin-induced contractions. I was not prepared to be tethered to my bed by IVs, writhing and groaning with no real mobility.

And I had certainly underestimated the need I would have for other people to support me through the process.

I felt desperate to be free of the pain, confused about what was happening, and worst of all, alone.

My mother had told me she didn't want to be present during the labor. She didn't think she could be much help to me, she had said, because she doesn't "do well" around people in pain. I had no friends I wanted in the room. I have no sisters. I really just wanted my husband there. We were going to do it. Just him and I.

But just as I was unprepared for what was happening, he too was unprepared. Bless his heart and I don't fault him for this, but he was not able to provide me the support I needed.

He didn't know what to do. So he did nothing. Other than watch the machines that monitored my contractions, he spent most of my labor reading magazines. This while I was going through very painful, very long contractions for hours. At one point, I remember telling him I couldn't do it anymore. He looked at the clock and said, "Well, you better not tire out yet, you still have a long way to go." I had already been in active labor for many hours at that point and it was the worst possible thing he could say (especially since he had no idea how much longer my labor would go). To this day, I have no idea what possessed him to say that. I think it was because he didn't know how to comfort me and he just stuck his foot in his mouth.

At another point, I turned to him and cried out "help me." It was pathetic. I was so scared and in so much pain. And all he could say was "I don't know what you want me to do."

That's when I knew I was alone.

He didn't have a clue and neither did I. It was horrible.

In the end, I just endured it until it was over. I was very close to a c-section because I was stalled for so long, but at the last minute, I progressed to 10 cm and birthed the baby vaginally. It wasn't the longest labor on record (26 hours), but it felt like an eternity to me.

I have since decided that I could do it again (obviously, right? since I'm currently pregnant). But this time I want to be more prepared. And my husband wants to be more prepared. (After all, he knows I would literally kill (yes, kill) him if he were to ever again tell me during labor to suck it up and then go back to reading his magazine.)

The reality is that labor is hard. Duh, right? So it's not a bad idea to go into it prepared.

So, now at 28 weeks of pregnancy, I am beginning to blog about this stuff because I feel that writing about my feelings will help me put my last birth experience behind me and focus in a more positive way on my next birth.

And I am actually (kinda sorta) looking forward to my next birth. More on that in another post.

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Anonymous chelle said...

I totally felt the same way you did the first time around. It was horrible and my husband was as ill prepared as I was (I did the whole OMFG Make it Stop! He was so freaked out!)

This time it was magical. We knew what to expect, we went in together as a team and rocked! At one point when it did get rough he was so there for me. It was a truly magical day.

You guys can do it!

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

I really do understand what you mean.

You know so much more the second time around...thankfully! My second delivery, a VBAC, was 100% better despite being stuck in labor for 24+ hours because I felt more in control and knew what to expect.

And remember, the second time, labor is supposed to be much shorter and easier! You'll do great :)

5:50 AM  
Blogger dodo said...

i think you're very brave after that to have another baby. I had several failed epidurals alongside that horrible tethered immobility you described. plus horrible bullying midwives. It completely put me off sex. Just the slim possibility that I might get pregnant (especially since P was unplanned)squashed my libido for ever.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Kyla said...

BubTar took 14 hours to make his way into the world. KayTar took 4. Her birth was so much easier for me, and I hope your next birth experience is much more pleasant. Not that pushing a watermelon out your yoohoo is ever pleasant, but you know what I mean.

After BubTar was born, we were at dinner with his family and he said, "I think labor was just as hard on me as it was Kyla." His mom and sisters almost killed him on the spot.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Smiling Mom said...

We had a doula. It was the best thing I ever, ever did. My husband said, "you better call Heidi and tell her you are pregnant again. She has to be there at the birth!"

He was a skeptic before the first birth but was sold by the time I was done with labor with BC. :-)

9:07 AM  
Anonymous andi said...

Well said. My husband and I went into the first labor thinking we would "see how it goes" and his assertion that "women had been having babies for millions of years" made me (crazily) think that I could do it without an epidural.

Thankfully, by drug-free hour #7, he was in tears and begging me to get the epidural. And thank God for me it actually worked (you must have been absolutely terrified!) Since #2 is due tomorrow, I am getting hooked up to the epidural as soon as the pain sets in.

Best of luck preparing for the next birth. I don't know what's worse - knowing what to expect or not knowing...

9:52 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Everyone: thanks for your comments! It sounds like second time labors usually go more smoothly. Yay!

Smiling Moms: we recently hired a doula which is one of the things I'm excited about!

Andi: you are due tomorrow? Wow! Good luck!

10:53 AM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Egads! The second time is a piece of cake compared to the first because (I'll say what everyone said) you know what to expect.

Now me, I wouldn't know labor if it bit me in the butt. But my birth experience was also scary as hell with nurses running & doctors running & an emergency c-section. I'd taken all the classes, but they only spend about 5 minutes on c-sections. It had never occurred to me that I might have one. The second, planned c-section was so much less scary.

26 hours of labor to me sounds terrifying. Especially with no drugs and no support. The second time can only be better, right?

2:30 PM  
Blogger Pumpkin said...

Okay, firstly, my husband has just found this blog...literally minutes ago, and I just had to log onto the other computer having had him read 2 of your posts to me.
Now, the birth thing, you are spot on, it sucks first time especially without pain medication (you poor lass)and you have my FULL sympathy and deepest admiration!
I only have my 3 yr old, with NO plans for a repeat performance (he was 10lbs...a tad big), so I can't offer any helpfull advice, however, being brave enough to do it a second time, and having a heads-up on how things work...I am sure you and hubby will cope fantastically! As I plan to visit your site every day from now on, I'll be there to cheer you on as the time comes.
Ps,You are a damn fine writer lass!!!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Pumpkin: thank you for the encouraging words and for the nice comment! Nice to meet you :)

4:34 PM  
Blogger ffbgirl said...

I just found out I am pregnant and this is my first time... Yikes is about all I have to say. Have you found any books about the actual birth part?? I am a long way away from that, but I am all about reading and learning as much as I can as soon as I can!

8:18 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Oh my gosh - I had no idea it was that horrible for you (I'm not sure you ever described it quite like that). I am sorry. Neither of mine were even close to that bad (sorry, I am not meaning to rub it in). I am just trying to say that it doesn't *have* to be that bad.

I hope this time is better. I am so glad you are preparing yourselves.

Love ya,

10:12 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Did that last comment just sound horrible? I just re-read it. No... I mean... that isn't what I meant to say. Just that there is hope (lots, I think) that the second time around will be better.

10:16 PM  
Blogger ffbgirl said...

Thank you for sending me the book info! You didn't freak me out any more than watching discovery channel or baby story does on a daily basis--haha! One question, do any of these books talk about positive birth and an epidural? Some of the midwife stuff I have read seems to vote against epidurals... Your thoughts?

I am just excited to start building a network here in blog-land where I can ask questions and hear stories!!

5:16 AM  
Blogger Mama's Moon said...

Yup, I know just what you're talking about. I believe my 'labor-awareness' was what actually made the 2nd time around for me much easier and more enjoyable (despite everybody else just chalking it up to the 2nd one being easier naturally).

Good luck with it all & best wishes!!!

10:22 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

During my first labor (in 1989!) I got up off the bed and said I was going home because I was tired. Then they gave me demerol. It went right to my head and I couldn't concentrate on pushing. They finally had to vacuum her out. Poor child.

Labor 2 (New Year's Eve, 1993)- it took four hours. No time for drugs, and it was the best labor experience I'd had. Not only did I know what was coming, even though it hurt like a mutha - I was wide awake afterward and was able to interact with my daughter.

Labor 3 - 1999 - I was induced and it took 11 hours before it kicked in. That sucked. But as my labor progressed, the nurses kept asking if I wanted anything and I said no. Finally, I told them the demerol story and they gave me a half dose of Stadol, which was like having that one last margarita - it took the edge off, but I could still function.

Since I had such a bad experience with the demerol, I'm an advocate of "the less drugs the better," but I can't speak for everyone. You know your body better than anyone else, so whatever helps you and your baby is what you should do.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous dana said...

I'm such an idiot. I didn't even know you were expecting. Congrats.

I don't really remember my labor. I just remember it hurt, I was scared and I just wanted it to be over, so I could see my baby!

12:21 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Wow, your epidural failed?! Shudder. Unimaginable. I hope it goes 100% better for you this second time! And your husband will also know how to be more supportive.

I was unprepared for my labor, too. I tried Hypbirth, but when it didn't work, I had nothing to fall back on, no Plan B. I think I may have actually had post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth!

11:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Having just gone through a vaginal birth, I can agree it hurts like hell! (although still better than a c-section, in my opinion)

I'm glad you have a doula - mine was absolutely wonderful and worth every single cent. Even though I did get an epidural (which wore off 3 times), she and my husband were both great support during that long 21 hours.

Now about the pain afterwards - could they keep the epidural going until everything down there has healed? That's what I didn't expect - the crazy pain and disfigurement of my nether-regions.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Karianna said...

I absolutely could have written this. Except, I DID go through all the copious-note-taking in class, practicing breathing exercises and what-not. Preparation didn't matter and in some ways may have contributed to my "out of control" feeling when labor arrived because I practiced but was "failing".

I had a half-dead epidural and a bunch of other complications, including a husband who tried to be there but didn't know how. Like you, I realized I was ALONE.

The fantastic news? My second birth was simple. Really. Sure, it hurt, but I was in control. I "owned" the birth, and ended up having a very positive experience, surrounded by people with smiles on their faces instead of grim pronouncements of "maternal exhaustion" and "she's not pushing right."

Just by knowing how hard it can be, you are prepared. Your next labor will be different than your first, I am certain.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Fidget said...

my 1st birth was horrific, not just short - it just WAS horrific. Guess what? It got better and since my epidural failed the first time (after i was forced to get one) I just went without the second time and i felt POWERFUL after i pushed that kid out.

There is hope, my first I was in labor for 20 something hours. My second child was induced when I showed very little signs of cervical ripeness and she shot out in about 5 hours med free. I attribute that to prenatal massage and chiropractics and sheer determination to have things go better. My third birth was similar to my second except he made the decision to come before they could evict him.

You'll do awesome. Just make sure that you, your husband and your doctor are all on the same page so when you are in the moment and not exactly rational, people know your wishes and will guide you appropriately.

9:50 PM  

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