Tragic Sandwich

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On Pain Meds During Labor

IV

 

NOTE: Are you expecting your first child? Please feel free to skip this post. It’s not horrible and it all ends well, but I don’t think it’s typical. So why have it in your head?

Here was my entire birth plan:

1) Avoid pain meds if at all possible.
2) Do not have labor induced.
3) Do not get episiotomy.
4) Do not have c-section.

Long story short? I batted .250.

Long story long? Keep reading.

My doctor sent me home from work four weeks ahead of schedule due to edema. It took me about a week before I realized that he knew what he was doing.

The official (or as I referred to it, “alleged”) due date was April 8, 2010. On Saturday, April 10, my doctor had me come to Labor and Delivery for a non-stress test, which went fine. Afterward, he said, “Well, you have an appointment with me Monday morning. Let’s see how you’re doing then, but if you haven’t gone into active labor, we’ll have you come back to the hospital on Tuesday and we’ll induce.”

At about 3:30 a.m. on Monday, I woke up feeling lousy, in an indeterminate way. I sat on the couch for a while and eventually went back to bed. After I woke up again, I realized that I had been having a four-hour contraction.

Flash-forward through a phone call to the doctor and a hurried closing-up of the house (we had been using a checklist every time we left for a couple of weeks, because we were very aware that if we left, we might not come back for a few days), and I was at the hospital at 10:30. Mid-afternoon, they administered Cervidil, and an hour later I got to eat for the first time since dinner the night before.

At about 9:00, I decided that I had been at Personal Pain Level (henceforth referred to here as PPL) 8-9 for long enough and asked for meds. By 9:50, the Fentanyl had worn off and I was back at PPL9. Then they gave me intramuscular morphine and an Ambien, to cut the pain and help me sleep.

Neither happened.

Some time around 4:30 a.m., after they’d removed the Cervedil and started me on Pitocin, I got an epidural. It worked for a while, and it wore off. I was back at PPL9. The anesthesiologist “topped it off.” No effect. He upped it again. Nothing.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the nurse said, “I’m going to teach you how to push.” I pushed for two hours, and at noon–nearly 33 hours after I’d had my first major contraction–Baguette was born. But to avoid a C-section, we had to use suction, and I had to get an episiotomy.

So most of this did not follow my “birth plan.” But I didn’t have a C-section, and I did–and this is really the point–have a healthy baby. So I’m not complaining.

Since then, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:

1) If I have another baby, I’ll just refuse pain meds. I got no benefit from taking them, and everything worked out fine. I’m not saying other people shouldn’t. This is about me and my body chemistry.
2) Nine months later, I had a kidney stone. Labor was definitely not PPL9. Not even close.

Photo by jonathan percy, via Flickr.

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13 thoughts on “On Pain Meds During Labor

  1. For me, the second time was soooo much easier than the first. So much. No comparison. Hope you find it to be the same when the time comes.

  2. I hear that a lot. And hopefully the time will come.

  3. I hear ya on the kidney stone thing! Add to that list ruptured ovarian cysts. Anytime I started to feel pain during labor, thinking “It’s not as bad as the cyst” got me through it. There are breaks between contractions, at least!

    • Ruptured ovarian cyst? That just sounds nightmarish. And you’re right–there are breaks between contractions, but there weren’t with the kidney stone. It was like an unending contraction during active labor. And at the end, I didn’t have a cuddly baby. I had a decidedly uncuddly kidney stone. Much less cute.

  4. I asked for meds right when I got to the hospital. I’ve also heard cases like yours where the meds didn’t do anything. The only meds I wished I didn’t get was pitocin, not because it was necessarily bad, but it didn’t do much to induce labor (only by breaking my water did the labor finally kick it up a notch).

    And I’ve heard kidney stones are the worst. A woman once said she’s done child labor and passed a kidney stone and by far passing the stone was much worse. Eeks!

    • The stone was definitely worse. I nearly passed out from the pain as I was filling out paperwork in the ER, and labor never even got close to that.

      After I had Baguette, I read an article that said that a study in Finland showed that redheads can be up to 40% more anesthesia-resistant than the general public. I am a redhead. So there you go, I guess. And another anesthesiologist, when I described the experience with the epidural, said, “They didn’t get it in the right place.” So there you also go.

      I wanted to avoid them, but I never took them off the table as an option. As I said, “I hope to do this without medication, but what do I know?” But if I do take them, I’d like them to work. Just saying.

  5. I had an epidural, and it kept on wearing off. The anesthesiologist would come in and top me off, but the stupid button thing never worked. They finally discovered, about fifteen minutes before I had to start pushing, that the pump was broken and they switched it out. So I essentially had a drug-free labor (with occasional, intermittent relief). And I was also induced, and people keep telling me that it’s sooooooooooo much easier when you’re not. I hope that’s the case, because seriously. It sucked.

    • Well, I still consider myself lucky–most of the women I know who had to be induced also wound up having C-sections. So they got to go through a rougher labor and THEN have open abdominal surgery. That’s just piling on.

  6. JewelLaverne on said:

    I highly recommend the c-section. Quick and painless. Healthy baby without pointed head.

    • JewelLaverne on said:

      Oh, and I agree it was much easier the second time, without the labor (which was startlingly similar to the menstrual cramps I haven’t endured without pain meds for about twenty years).

    • Surprisingly enough, Baguette did not have a pointy head. In fact, one of my friends said that she looked like a C-section baby.

      But painless? Even the recovery? Because my appendectomy wasn’t pain-free, once I woke up from general anesthesia.

  7. Chelsea on said:

    I’ve done two drug-free births and one with every drug known to man. Drug free was the way to go. Painful, yes, I felt in control. It helped me to hire a doula for my first birth — it was nine hours long and I needed her encouragement and wisdom (it also helped me not be angry at Kevin for being clueless). Caelyn was induced — big mistake. She required many, many drugs and I was itchy and couldn’t push and had migraines for a week afterward. And David’s labor took all of 45 minutes so there wouldn’t have been time for drugs anyway.

    (BTW, the reason we didn’t have four children was because the doctor told me I would absolutely have to be induced for #4 since I hemorrhaged every single time. I decided I’d had enough uteran trauma and closed up shop.)

    • I don’t doubt my doctor’s decision to induce. Between my rising blood pressure and how long I’d been having random contractions (45 min., 17 min., 5 min., 8 min,. 2 min., 30 min., and so on, for over a week), I was ready to be done one way or another.

      And when I’d been pushing for nearly two hours, he gave me the choice between a C-section then, or the opportunity to push for three more contractions–after which I would need a C-section if the baby hadn’t been delivered. I chose to push, and avoided the C. Because he gave me that choice, when another doctor would simply have wheeled me into surgery, I would trust his decisions on any future C-section needs, should they have occasion to arise.

      But I didn’t get the itchiness or migraines, which I’d heard about. I didn’t get anything. So I figure there isn’t much point for me.

      Now general anesthesia is a different story–I am definitely out for the duration. Which is for the best, I think we can all agree.

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