I always liked the idea of giving birth without pain medication and when I became pregnant with my first baba I decided that I would like to avoid the epidural if possible, but that if I felt I needed it, I would have it. I wanted to avoid the epidural as I have anxiety issues. I get incredibly anxious if I feel trapped or confined. I was already feeling very anxious about being in labour in hospital – the feeling like I couldn’t walk away and leave if I wanted to. That I wouldn’t have fresh air, or privacy; things that often help me when I start panicking. I was worried an epidural would make these feelings worse.
I will put my hands up here now. I did nothing proactive in my pregnancy to help. I attended one hospital ante-natal class but it made me feel really anxious being in a big crowded room. There seemed to be a lot of talk about medications and C-sections, which I wasn’t having (snort!), so didn’t want to hear. I decided not to go back to the classes.
Instead I spent my time trying to get in a good headspace. I did a lot of walking and yoga, along with the usual nesting of a soon to be new mother.
On the morning of my 41 week ante-natal check I woke up feeling crampy. I had breakfast and when I went for the loo I noticed a bit of blood in my knickers. I rang Mik and he came home. Again, first time mum thing, HINDSIGHT is a great thing!
Mik came home and we decided to walk down to hospital. I remember thinking, this labour thing is a BREEZE. All the while getting cramps and having more show.
We went to admissions and they were worried as they didn’t think the baby was moving much. So they decided to monitor the movements for a few hours. I had to press a button any time I felt the baby move, but it was kind of hard to notice with the cramps. A midwife came in and had a look at the print out and asked was I having contractions and felt my bump, which was low and hard. She asked if she could examine me and I agreed. I was 1cm dilated and having lots of show. My contractions were about every 5 minutes apart. They decided that I should stay so I went upstairs to a pre-labour ward.
The pre-labour ward was awful. It was hot, cramped, and I started feeling trapped. I decided to walk the halls. Just meandering really, aimlessly. I then found the loos and they were huge and had a large open window. I decided to stay in there for awhile, the fresh air was amazing.
As the contractions became stronger I started feeling really anxious. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to be here. I can’t do this. I suddenly really wished I stayed for those classes or been proactive in some way. I felt so unprepared. I tried doing deep breathing but just felt so anxious. I found I wasn’t able to breath properly, I was breathing too fast with my anxiety and I ended up panicking more.
I left the loo and found a midwife. I was feeling pretty out of control at this point. She tried to calm me down. Mik tried to get me to focus and calm down but I knew I was beyond control. I decided at that point I needed an epidural. I had a quick exam, I was 3cm, and was brought up to delivery. The midwife got me gas and air but I started to get sick so stopped. The epidural was in within half an hour. I was so worried it would make me worse but in reality, it calmed me down as the pain eased. For me, not being able to climb over the waves of pain made me feel incredibly out of control, like being caged. With the epidural, I was able to close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, keeping my anxiety levels at bay. The midwife was fantastic also – opening the window wide so I could get as much air as possible and keeping chat light. I still felt anxious about being in hospital, but would just pause a few minutes now and again to re-focus and breathe and then would be OK. My waters were broken once I was feeling more calm and my midwife said the plan was to leave me an hour and a half and see where we go from there.
An hour and half later, my midwife re-examined me and she said “I don’t believe it”. I was 10cm! She said the head was still a bit high so she was going to turn down the epi a bit and leave me a hour before I started pushing to give the baby time to move down. She went out and Mik and I were left to rest for a hour with the lights dimmed.
An hour later she came back in. I was ‘feeling’ much more now, which made me feel quite anxious. It wasn’t pain but I could feel a squeeze and pressure of each contraction. It freaked me out. The midwife explained to me that she understood it was a sensation that I wasn’t used to feeling but that it was a positive thing as it would mean that I would be able to know when to push my baby. Mik helped me refocus. I found some bravery somewhere and said “lets do this”
I started pushing on the half hour. The pressure was incredible. I just can’t explain it. It felt like something was bottling up inside me about to “pop”! My midwife instructed that whenever I felt that feelilng to push – I did and it felt better. I was controlling this, and the anxiety would ease. I pushed for 26 minutes and finally we got the “POP” and a little head emerged. Then the strangest thing happened, I felt the little head turn and the body slid out. Our baby boy was born at 11:58pm, 28 minutes of pushing, without any help. He was 8lb 2oz and had a mop of red hair, we called him Tom.
I had a second degree tear so after a bit of a cuddle and birthing the placenta, a doctor was called in. I had the epidural so they didn’t give me anything else and I found the stitches awful. I kept yelling out and he asked me if I could feel anything and would pinch my leg. I couldn’t feel it in terms of pain, but I could feel the pulling of each stitch and it made me feel really anxious and scared, cause I knew what he was doing and where. He was nice about it and kept saying he was sorry but it wasn’t painful, just scary as I’d never had stitches before and it was such a sensitive place that it was upsetting knowing I was getting stitches there and the pulling meant I felt the tug of each stich, which felt like a lot. But that is me and my anxiety, not him. I was happy when it was over!
After the stitches, the midwife gave me a sponge down and I got in my new pjs with her help. She was lovely. Then they dressed Tom and handed him up to me. We went down to the ward and I was home the next day!
I know the epidural has a lot of problems associated with it but it was absolutely the right decision for me in my circumstances. I just gave birth to my second son (will send that in also!) and did not need it this time. Both were equally positive experiences for me.