Maybe Unmedicated Childbirth Isn't For Me?



How you have accomplished drug-free births? I have about 7 weeks to go and I'm toying with the idea of no epidural. But I'm scared. So far my birth experiences have been: emergency c-section due to late (i.e. during labor) discovery that baby was breech; scheduled c-section due to general anxiety and fear of vbac; and successful medicated vbac which was the Best Experience of My Life. So . . . I'm working through the fear factors, obviously! And I think the next step is considering no epidural. But I'm not exactly sure.



Dear Kati,

I have to be honest about the fact that the reason I don't do medicated childbirth isn't because I'm not scared of anything. It's because I'm scared of different things. I really, honestly don't like the feeling of narcotics. To me, pain is a preferable sensation to the weird fuzziness of medication. Also, I have a generally dull experience of pain, which I think is more fair to say than that I have a high pain tolerance. It's not that I can handle more pain, it's that my pain doesn't hurt as much as some people's.

So, can you do it? Yes. I think you can. Everyone USED to do it, right? But you don't HAVE to. There is nothing in our faith that requires women to experience the pain of childbirth. WANTING to do it is the most important step in the whole process. If you don't want to do it, then don't.

If you DO, I think the key is to figure out how to be super-committed to natural childbirth, while at the same time understanding that you will of course do whatever is best for you and your baby in that moment. That's my plan each time.

I labor at home as long as possible, which I think was really important with my first couple. They were both born within minutes of getting to the hospital, so I didn't even have a chance to consider medication, and after that I knew I could do it. But with most of them since, I have ended up laboring in the hospital for a while.

So, we have a system. I don't like talking to nurses. I don't like being touched at all while in labor. I like talking with my husband. I like near constant walking until things get really serious. So, my husband tries to intercept nurses and answer things. We don't do any of that back rub stuff. We talk and joke as long as I can handle it. And we fight like the dickens with the labor and delivery nurses for the right to get unhooked from the machines and walk around. Then, we actually duck in to corners and stuff to hide from the nurses to keep them from hooking me up again. It's pretty fun for us. Exasperating for the nurses of course, but, what're ya gonna do? Those are the things that make it do-able for me.

You should try to figure out in advance what are some things that might make it more manageable for you.

During labor, I have a list with me of prayer intentions, that way, I can offer up my pain for something. I'd hate to waste it. I have it pretty easy for the first and second stages of labor. For me, the wheels come off right at the end. I moan, and probably scream. I feel like there is no possible way I could do it. But by that point we're so far gone that everyone around me knows it's almost over and can encourage me. I'll say I can't do it. Jim will say I can. My OB is always telling me how great I'm doing, as if it's not just a ride I'm on. But, it still helps me.

My husband and his attitude are a really integral part of my being able to do a non-medicated birth as well. He was a Marine. He worked at boot camp. He understands the concept of suffering for a goal, and has the stomach to watch it. I'm sure it's still hard to witness, but he has the skill set to handle it, and to encourage me through it.

I love that I can walk again and shower and everything right after giving birth, and that I don't have any lingering pain in an injection spot. But, again, those are only good trade-offs for me because I have a pretty positive experience of the pain of labor. Except that very end part. I do hate that. But then there's a baby at the end.

And no matter how you end up getting there, that's the goal.

My friend E wrote about her experience with a c-section recently, I've been meaning to link to it. It's such a sensitive subject. But I think she has a very honest personal take on it, and I think her reasoning is valid.

It sounds like you want to do an unmedicated birth. It sounds like you think you can do it. It sounds like you are coming from a really good and strong and reasonable place mentally, and that you have the right support system in place. I think you'll be able to do it, I really do.

If you like birth stories, you'll find all of mine here.

Anyway, good luck with it all, and please shoot me any more questions you have. And keep me posted about baby news. I love baby news.


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or a child psychologist or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.