My mom gave birth to four children. Three of those birth’s were natural. No medication. No epidural. Just my mom and her Lamaze training and breathing techniques. I often heard my aunts and mom discussing childbirth growing up. One of my older cousins who just had her first son asked my mom in shock, “but how did you give birth without meds?!”I loved feeling the babies come out” my mom responded calmly, sending the women in the room gasping.
Growing up, “all natural” was common for us. My mom began studying homeopathy after her first was born. She became immersed, reading all she could, practicing, attending seminars, becoming friends with well known Harvard graduate homeopathic doctors, starting a study group in town meeting once a month at the local library. When we were sick, we would ask for a remedy. If my mom couldn’t prescribe us the right one, or if we needed antibiotics my dad would be the one to take us to his friend who was a doctor, knocking on the side door of the building so he could check our throats and ears. My mom would always say she could have found the right remedy, but it was good that we got checked.
When I was pregnant with my first, my mom went in the attic and brought down all of her childbirth books. Most written in the 70’s, I read them and giggled at the pictures. I brushed over them, reading only what interested me, always knowing that I would be able to get an epidural. I didn’t need to study the different birthing positions, or the focal points needed to breathe through a contraction. I was just fine with getting an epidural.
My son, Finn, was eleven days late. I was induced and the induction was long. After 36 hours and complications with my blood platelets being low, I was able to get an epidural with a consent that my husband had to sign that said I could be paralyzed. He signed it, and later told me he went out in the hall and cried. Was this the right thing to do? I was able to sleep, and although I couldn’t feel my legs, my husband reassured me I was moving my feet and that I was fine. I hated the sensation. I was tied down to the bed, and although the pain was gone, I was scared and nervous and uneasy. After almost two days, I pushed for 25 minutes and my son was born. Healthy, strong and much bigger than the nurses expected.
After birth, my mom came in the room and cried. “Check your phone” she said, “I was hiding across the hall in an empty room. I was sending you power text messages the whole time!” Forgetting until I looked at my phone hours later, I saw over 40 messages from my mom. I read them smiling and laughing: “You can do this, Carly! You can do this! You’re pushing. I hear the baby! Never mind, that was a baby down the hall. Keep pushing! He’s here. I love you. You did it.” She was so happy to be a grandmother. Never once did she say she was disappointed I got the epidural, and I truly knew she wasn’t.
Three years later, and I’m pregnant again. The second pregnancy and it’s completely different from the start. Sick, back pain, sciatic pain. We opted out of finding the sex this time. We checked my blood platelets throughout the pregnancy. They were dropping, and I knew if they continued to drop that maybe this time I wouldn’t be able to get the epidural. I didn’t think about it much. I didn’t have time to, chasing around a three year old.
And then one afternoon, while lying in bed with my son trying to get him to nap, I sat up and my water broke. Stunned, I looked over and told him what had happened. “The baby is coming!!!” he screamed and jumped up. After some calls and my mom coming over to be with Finn, we were off to the hospital.
It was confirmed my water broke but my contractions were not consistent. They needed to start me on pitocin to get them to speed up, and to get me further dilated, as I was just two centimeters. We checked my blood platelets, they had actually gone up since the last time. I was clear for the epidural and felt a sense of relief.
“Do you want the epidural right now?” the nurse asked. I declined with the fear of losing feeling in my legs again, I wanted to walk around to start.
The pitocin kicked in quickly as it does. Contractions coming quicker and stronger. They checked me and I was at 4 centimeters. ” I think I need the epidural soon” I said to our nurse who told me the anesthesiologist was in with a c-section patient and that they would come to me next. An hour went by. I was on my hands and knees, I was using the peanut ball they have in the room you place between your knees to help open your pelvis, I was using my husband as a crutch, standing with my hands around him, him holding me up during the strongest point of the contraction.
Another hour passes. Another emergency c-section keeps the anesthesiologist. And then another hour, and another c-section. Three c-sections and no epidural yet. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The feelings, the emotions, waiting, and the pain. “Where are they??” I started screaming at one point. WHERE ARE THEY?! I looked at my husband for help. I thought of the books in my mom’s attic. I thought of my mom who had done this thirty years ago. I thought of the baby I would meet soon. I thought of my three year old sleeping in his bed, waking up in the morning to meet his new brother or sister. I could feel the baby moving down. I could feel everything.
Still no epidural, and all of a sudden, the intense need to push. The doctor on call not even making it to the hospital on time, I found myself with three nurses and my husband surrounding me, and I’m ten centimeters and I’m about to push whether they are ready or not. It was happening. I was giving birth without an epidural and I couldn’t believe I was strong enough. I couldn’t believe I was able. I couldn’t believe that after only five minutes of pushing, after bursting blood vessels in my face and my right eye, after gripping my husband’s shoulders as the nurse said the baby’s head was out and I needed to get the shoulders out, and with one last push, I felt the baby come out just as my mom had. And then I could not believe when the doctor said “she’s here” and I looked and saw my daughter, new and wet and crying. My daughter, yes, there she was. And when they placed her on my chest and that feeling of euphoric bliss and happiness melted through my body in such a way only giving birth can, I didn’t believe it again and asked my husband if I was dreaming.
Later, my mom told me that when my husband sent the last group text out saying it was too late to get an epidural, my mom felt a little sense of pride. She said she knew I was strong enough to go without it. She said she believed I could do it.
Just like I believe now for my own daughter.
She can do anything.
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