I Apologized To My Midwife For Requesting An Epidural

I felt like I was letting myself, my baby, and everyone else down.

“You have to knock me out. JUST HIT ME!”

My plans for a drug-free childbirth with my second son were not going well. The birth of my first child was long and complicated, resulting in a cascade of interventions, including an epidural. I was determined my second birth would be epidural and intervention-free.

My baby and my body had other plans. In stark contrast to the days-long labour of baby #1, baby #2 came in like a wrecking ball. At 10 pm, I was complaining how boring this episode of Private Practice was. At midnight, my water broke (while I was sitting on the toilet because I am just that talented). By 3 am, I was 7 cm dilated, and being admitted.

Short labours sound great. At the time, if you had given me the option of trading my 34-hour labour for a five-hour one, I would have jumped on it. What they don’t tell you is that when you have a shorter labour, everything gets condensed, and you are left with what I like to call “concentrated pain.” Thirty-four hours worth of discomfort in one convenient five-hour package.

And so, by the time 8 cm hit, walking, hot showers, all the typical tricks, were no longer cutting it. Instead, I tore off all my clothes and begged my husband to punch me in the head until I passed out. This seemed like the only rational thing to do at the time. My husband refused to knock me out, and I was legitimately angry with him.

Something needed to happen. My body felt out of my control, and it scared me. I was panicking, and I was missing out on the birth of my child because I was too overwhelmed.

I cried when I asked my midwife for the epidural. She gave me a bit of a funny look, which I perceived to be judgement, and I apologized for not staying with the drug-free plan. She told me not to be sorry, but I was.

While the midwife paged the anesthesiologist, I leaned with my arms on the edge of the bed, stark naked and crying, and apologized to my husband for requesting the epidural. He reassured me there was nothing to apologize for. I felt like I was letting myself, my baby, and everyone else down. I’d failed at the natural childbirth thing again, with no one to blame but myself this time.

Then, everything changed. The epidural in place, I became completely relaxed. I sat up in my bed, joking and belly laughing with my husband and midwife. The pain was gone, but also absent was the anxiety and disconnect. I was completely present in this birth, and focusing on nothing but the impending arrival of my baby. It was blissful. There’s just no other way to describe it.

About an hour and a half later, I began to shiver like crazy. It was time. I was fully dilated, but he was turned face up. My midwife was not worried at all. She simply told me to relax, and let himself turn on his own with each contraction.

The second midwife arrived, got caught up, and went to grab a bagel while my baby essentially birthed himself. I could feel him move down with each contraction, but I was in no pain and felt no anxiety, only elated anticipation. Without the distraction of pain, I was completely aware of my baby and his impending debut.

When my stubborn boy had finally turned on his own, and it was time to push, I was so relaxed, I had a song stuck in my head (Ring of Fire, for obvious reasons). I was pushing a human out of my body, and I had an earworm!

He was born, immediately started nursing, and we all sat around discussing how beautiful he was. I didn’t even notice he had 11 fingers until they told me! My midwife remarked that she was glad I was able to get the epidural before he arrived, she had worried he was coming too fast for them to do it in time. That was the reason for her funny look. I had projected my own insecurities onto her.

I have not for a single second regretted that epidural since the moment it entered my back. It allowed me to bring my child into a calm, peaceful environment, full of laughter and love. The moment he was born, I got to enjoy the elation of meeting my son for the first time, without it being mitigated by sheer relief that it was over.

I was so exhausted after the birth of my first son that I passed out and slept for three hours, causing me to wake up in a panic looking for my baby. It was different this time around. I felt energized. I ate a sandwich one-handed and walked out of the hospital mere hours later as if nothing had happened. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of his birth after receiving the epidural, something I know I would not be able to say if I had decided to just push through the pain.

If I ever have a third child, I will be planning for an epidural, not considering it a last resort. I know that it can carry risk, which is something I weighed carefully, even while in such pain, but I am glad that I considered the benefits as well.

I am not an epidural advocate, but rather a cheerleader for birthing how you feel most comfortable. Choose what will give you and your baby the best first meeting possible, be that drug-free, or numb from the waist down. My second birth was magical, and I wish everyone the same experience.

Well, maybe minus the begging for head injuries.

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