When I found out I was pregnant the first time, the one that resulted in the twenty-month-old ball of energy currently zipping around our home, I figured I’d ride out labor pumped with whatever drugs they’d give me. My instinctual philosophy went something like Pain: Bad. Drugs: Good. What kind nut job wouldn’t readily accept any and all available help in making what by all accounts is an excruciating experience more tolerable?
I am a researcher. I tend to spend a lot of time reading up and polling friends to ensure I’m prepared for purchases and experiences, for example, especially those that build up slowly and uncomfortably over the course of nine months and are 100 percent guaranteed to change my life forever. I read and Googled like it was my job, then watched “The Business of Being Born” with Clint. When it ended, I looked over at him, sighed, and said, “Oh, shit. Natural childbirth it is.”
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To help me reach my new goal, I employed an intricate two-step program.
Step #1: Hire a doula. The nurses would know what was going on. Clint would be 100 percent on my side. Seemed it could only help to have someone in the delivery room that was a combination of both. I knew there was the potential to want to strangle a highly involved near-stranger at some point during such a painful and personal process, especially if she had some sort of cheese ball Earth Mother catchphrase or broke out flute music or, say, touched me, so I interviewed three doulas. We chose the one who said the right things and instilled the greatest amount of confidence, which is to say the one that we could most easily picture hanging out with as I screamed obscenities and pooped myself. Even then, I was only halfway sure I wouldn’t abruptly ban her from the room mid-event.
Step #2: There was no step #2. Big mistake. It should have involved researching breathing techniques or meditation or some type of natural pain management. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breathing through contractions did not come naturally to me, as I assumed it would. I fought the contractions so hard that eventually, doing so became the point. When Roy finally arrived, after thirty-some hours of labor nonsense, I was all, “Ha! Contractions, gone! I won!” and then, “Wait, why is there an inconsolable bird in the room?”
I never asked for an epidural because I am too stubborn. I did, however, ask for “anything that would make this god awful pain stop because I can’t take even one more contraction I’m not kidding give me something now it must end.” Horse tranquilizers? Bourbon? Yes thank you and hurry it up. My doula and the nurses conferred, which resulted in an offer of Nubain, a fast-acting narcotic that I was told I could take just once. They couldn’t deliver it quickly enough. It lasted all of 30 damn minutes. It didn’t take away the pain, either, but it did allow me to sleep soundly between contractions. That rest came in handy because little did I know I was about to embark upon four solid hours of pushing.
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So, technically, not natural. But pretty darn close. And despite what I vowed at the top of my lungs during those final four hours—my doctor called it “the most acrobatic birth he’d ever attended”—I’m going to again try and go natural when I deliver this January. (We’re taking hypnobirthing classes this time.) I don’t feel like outlining the whys. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I believe that however a mama can make it through childbirth and end up with a healthy baby is perfect, for her. My choice wasn’t The Right One. It was the right one for me. So I’m making it again.
Because apparently, I am that kind of nut job.
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