An Epidural Story

I once watched an episode of “The Baby Story” on TLC, in which the woman (a first-time mom) planned on having an unmedicated birth. She took no childbirth classes, had no information prior to going into labor on how to achieve that goal. My sister was like that–just assumed that since women had been having unmedicated births since the dawn of time, that all she would have to do is “just say no to drugs” and it would happen. Little did she know how difficult it would be at the hospital.

Once my sister was admitted to the hospital, she was made to stay in bed. This was supposedly so the umbilical cord wouldn’t prolapse, but the possibility of that happening is extremely small. If the cord doesn’t prolapse when the water breaks, then it almost never does–like one in a million chance, regardless of what the mom does, or what position she is in. My sister was told to lie in bed and be still so the EFM could monitor the baby’s heartbeat. She wasn’t even allowed to get up to go to the bathroom….but they wouldn’t bring her a bedpan when she requested it. So, she unstrapped herself and went to the bathroom, and then the nurse came in and scolded her for taking off the monitor.

In this particular video birth story I saw, the mom is admitted to the hospital, and does everything “by the book.” After a few hours of lying on her back in bed, with a blood pressure cuff on one arm and an IV in the other, she has reached her limit. She so terribly wants an unmedicated birth, but she just doesn’t know how to accomplish it–the contractions are just hurting too badly. Yet, as I watched her, I realized that she did actually know what to do–she just didn’t understand that what she wanted to do was what she needed to do. She thought that she had to follow hospital policy, which included forced bed rest and continuous fetal monitoring. She thought it was best for her baby, safest for her child to stay in bed, unable to move.

Here is what I saw: she was lying in bed resting between contractions, then another contraction would start. She would lie still as long as she could, and then start whimpering and shifting her body around–unable to really move, because of her arms being essentially tied down with machines, and her belly strapped to the monitoring belts. She was valiantly trying to make it through the contraction in that position, which I can say from personal experience is one of the worst positions to be in during a contraction. What I saw was this woman having to force her body to stay in the “proper” position, while her whole being was trying to move into a different position. What she needed was to be off of her back, but she couldn’t do that and do what the hospital wanted. So she chose to be a “good little girl,” and she was in a lot of pain, because she was lying on her back. I was literally yelling at the woman through the TV screen to get off her back. And I could tell that her body was yelling at her to do the same, but she just wouldn’t listen to it. She listened to the “experts”, instead of her body. Now, who do you think was more expert in what she needed for labor–some nurse she didn’t know, or her own body?

After suffering through multiple contractions in that position, she whimpered to her husband, “I…. just…. need………. something.” She didn’t want drugs, remember. She also didn’t ask for “drugs,” in particular. But she needed something to be able to make it through the contractions. This isn’t because contractions are necessarily so horrible that all women need drugs or should take them–it’s because lying on your back during labor is usually about the worse position to be in, and makes the contractions much more painful. The “something” that she needed was sympathy and support from her husband (he was her only labor companion), but even more so, she needed to be in a better position. Her husband, knowing she had wanted to go without drugs, softly asked her if she wanted an epidural. Defeated, she nodded her head and accepted the epidural.


3 Responses

  1. Well put. I teared up, it is so common and heartbreaking. Well put.

  2. This is also a really powerful post! I use the “pain pie” idea as a visual during birth classes and it strikes me how so many women in the hospital have each piece of the pie stripped away from them so that only pain remains (no coping strategies) and the only option becomes, or appears to be, an epidural.


  3. That could have been my first labor – but being needle phobic, I actually felt the whole thing. I come from a family of athlets, and have always wondered how much more I could do than I have ever been able to push myself to do. Apparently, when it comes down to it, I have never been able to push myself even to do half as much as my body is capable of when it is made to! No Iron man could come close to what I endured! Come to find out, years later in a different hosp., the untypical heart tones that kept me in bed with constant fetal monitoring, were easily resolved by drinking a cup of orange juice and waking the baby up! Thankgoodness for some reason trips to the bathroom were deemed safe! I found this strange, as at all other times, they acted as if my baby might suddenly die without the monitor, yet they seemed strangly unconcerned and relaxed with the idea of me taking frequent trips to the bathroom. I found it strange, in my inocence, that the contractions didn’t hurt near as much when I was going to the bathroom!

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