Let me first say, I have the absolute known consent and permission from Vanessa to share her birth story. I’m a huge stickler on protecting privacy - Hello, I’m a nurse and HIPPA is drilled into my brain! I wouldn’t want anyone to think I violated her privacy.
Epidurals have a bad rap in the alternative, granola-crunchy birth world that doula’s find themselves practicing their birth art in. There are many known side-effects of epidurals during labor. Epidurals can cause labor to slow down, contractions become ineffective or spaced apart, can cause maternal fevers, ineffective pushing for birth, can cause headaches, and the list goes on. You can read more about epidurals here.
What I am going to discuss is, YES.....SOMETIMES A LABORING MAMA NEEDS AN EPIDURAL. And yes, it is OK.
I trust my intuition. My intuition sings to me especially during a labor and birth. I hear the songs, feel the message in my gut, think about it with my scientific brain, and follow the lead. I believe that makes me a good Doula. It will serve me well as a midwife too.
Vanessa hired me to be her birth Doula for her second pregnancy. We discussed her first labor and birth, so I had some comparison to go with. She shared with me that her first labor was entirely in her legs. I nodded my head, asked some more questions and wrote down the information. I had seen labor in women’s upper thighs before. It was nothing unusual. Most times, you can re-position the mother or get her into the shower/tub for relief. The baby descends and all is well. I was confident Vanessa’a second labor would follow a similar course.
Vanessa’s water broke late in the afternoon in March. She called to let me know. (I love those first phone calls in early labor - Mama’s are just so excited!). We discussed logistics and we both agreed when her contractions started in earnest, she would be in touch.
8pm, she says she is contracting and could I please head her way. 8:30pm, I arrive at her house to find her putting on her make-up! Her little man Cole is getting ready for bed with her husband. Vanessa joins them both for a quick good-night book and off to sleep he goes.
We head downstairs to labor and it is immediately evident to me that this labor is not quite right. Within minutes, her contractions become unbearable, strong, back-to-back and ENTIRELY in her legs. From the tops of her thighs down to her ankles. There was no relief. Her belly stays soft with the contractions, but her thighs become rock hard. I have never seen anything like it in my 10 years of Doula work.
All relief and comfort measures that I would provide a laboring Mama, could not be done with Vanessa. Massage was out of the question - her skin was hypersensitive to touch and it pained her. Walking around - forget it - her thigh muscles were convulsing between contractions. She couldn’t walk. The pain for her was torturous.
She needs to go to the hospital and she needs an epidural.
Waiting for an epidural was the longest hour of labor for Vanessa, her husband and myself. The only source of comfort I could provide for her was running my fingers through her hair. Once the epidural was in place, she was able to relax while still feeling some of her contractions. The contractions that told her body it was time to push. Her son Shane, was born an hour later.
Labor and birth is: a challenge, love, trials, jubilation, extremes, emotions, tears and laughter. What is our role as women? Mothering the mother with compassion so she can be the best woman she can be. We should also honoring her birth story, for only she has experienced it and it is her story to share.
What are your feelings about epidural during labor? Please share your experiences below!
Respecting the Mother in Granolaville,