From conception, to pregnancy, to labour, to giving birth, these are all very personal and individual experiences. One of the big questions many women ponder during pregnancy is whether “to have an epidural or not?”
I just thought it might be fun to share with you my two different experiences and my pros and cons for each. For both of my children, I had pretty straight forward pregnancies, nothing complex or out of the ordinary.
Just your usual silly things, like morning sickness, pelvic instability, seriously bad heartburn, a big waddle by the end, water retention, etc, etc. I also managed to have two very straight forward vaginal births for both.
The only major difference between the two was for Harper, I had no epidural, and for Paxton, I did have an epidural. If you ask me what I would do next time (if there is a next time) I have no clue! So here is what went down.
Harper – No epidural.
I went into my labour with Harper with a totally open mind. I had never done it before and I had no idea what to expect. I was ready and I was SO excited to meet my baby. I had absolutely no birth plan.
I knew going into it, that I didn’t like the idea of not knowing what affects the different drugs would have on me. But I was also open to the drugs if I needed them as I had no clue what the pain would feel like and how I would cope with it.
I went into labour with Harper at about 4 pm on a Saturday. By about 5 am we went into the hospital, but like many first time mums I ended up getting sent home as my contractions slowed right down after we arrived. We got home and things sped up fast. So, we were back in the hospital by about 9/10am.
Once I got in, my obstetrician came and checked me out and I was already 7cm dilated. We spoke about the pain management options and he was so encouraging, he told me that I had done the hardest part and I’d come so far. He was so sure I could do it without an epidural, that he really encouraged me to go without it. I used the gas for most of the time until it started making me incredibly nauseous.
My husband Jase had to coach me through every contraction. I needed him by my side always, no joke, he had to ask my permission to go to the toilet. As I got closer and closer to needing to push, I started cursing my obstetrician for telling me it wouldn’t get more painful, LIAR!
It was so painful at this point I thought I couldn’t physically do it anymore. About 15 mins before Harper was born, I got up to go to the toilet to wee, Jase by my side, and my waters broke. THE PAIN!
It was excruciating but also so funny. It was like out of the movies, the sound, the gush! It was crazy! My poor hubby got to see it all. I jumped back into the bed on my back, as that was the only way I felt comfortable, and then I really felt like I was about to die. I think that’s the best way I can explain the way I was feeling at that point.
Lucky my obstetrician wasn’t in the room at that time because I was really cursing him now. That point, just before you need to push is by far the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. But as soon as the pushing started, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was about to meet this baby that I had wanted for so long.
With just a few quick pushes, she was out! Our gorgeous baby girl, Harper, was born at about 2 pm weighing in at a healthy 3.4kg.
Paxton – Epidural.
People had always told me that you forget the pain after your first. But I didn’t. Round two, it was all still SO fresh in my mind. My two kids were only born 18 months apart, so that feeling of pain, like I physically couldn’t do it anymore, had not been forgotten.
I decided to go into this labour again, with an open mind. Often second time round, things can happen quicker. So maybe I could deal with the pain if it was faster.
I woke up at about 5 am on a Saturday morning with contractions. It happened to be the morning my fifth-year wedding anniversary. It was a long weekend so I knew my obstetrician was going away too.
We went into hospital this time at about lunchtime and by the time we got there, my obstetrician was gone. We’d spoken to him throughout the morning, he had a good friend on duty as he had to catch a plane and just couldn’t wait for us. I was pretty upset as I loved my obstetrician.
But we met his friend, and he was just as great. So I felt good again. We had a big chat about my options. He checked me out and once I hit 7cm dilated, I panicked. I remembered that pain all too well and was petrified.
I decided that I would prefer the unknown of the drugs and the needle than having to go through that pain again of feeling like I was going to die. So, we got all setup and I had the epidural. He also broke my waters for me this time to try and speed up the process as often an epidural can slow it all down. It was all super cruise-y from then on.
I could tell when I was having a contraction but nothing hurt. We chilled, watched TV, and waited it out. Jase felt so useless this time, but I really didn’t need the same support as I did the first time. Just before 6pm, I felt a little pressure and started pushing, about 3-4 pushes, and my baby boy was out.
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I helped pull him out which was amazing. Our gorgeous baby boy, Paxton, was born at about 6pm weighing in at 3.6kg.
If you’re reading this because you’re about to have your first baby and you’re looking for some answers, my advice is, go in with an open mind.
We are all different. You don’t know how you will feel or how your body will manage the pain. Trust your doctor. Trust your body. Ultimately, you just want a safe and healthy baby at the end of it. Good luck!
Mel Ritterman is a mum, dog trainer and runs the website Cooper and Kids. You can read more of her work here.