Why I Didn’t Want an Epidural

Earlier today, I read something like the following:

Why in the hell would you not have an epidural?

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. I’ve seen questions like this before, sometimes harshly phrased. Do you think you’re going to get a medal for experiencing pain? If you’re going to give birth like they did in the old days before pain meds, are you also going to shit in the woods like they did in the old days?

Well, no. I didn’t think I’d have a medal bestowed on me for dealing with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. No, I don’t shit in the woods (although, full disclosure, I will pee in them if we’re hiking).

These posts always need a disclaimer: I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about whatever choice she makes or whatever birth experience she has or whether things go as planned or are completely different from what she wanted or expected. I was incredibly fortunate to have an awesome pregnancy and the (painful!) birth experience I wanted.

So, all due respect to everybody who has a different opinion on the issue, here are some reasons I didn’t want an epidural.

  • First and most important, I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital, so an epidural wasn’t even an option for me. (You can read more about why I had a home birth here.)
  • The idea of having a needle inserted into my spine freaks me right the hell out.
  • I didn’t want the risk of side effects.
  • I didn’t want to be on monitors and an IV during labor. I wanted freedom to move around.
  • I didn’t want someone telling me when to push.
  • I didn’t want to swell up like a giant balloon and feel like crap after giving birth.
  • I didn’t want to focus on medical procedures that freak me right the hell out instead of on giving birth and my baby.
Not my best look, but....

2 days old at Curtis Park

The main thing is that I wanted to be in control of my labor and delivery experience, to the extent it was safe for the baby and me. I don’t mean that in a micromanagey way at all — like, it’s not that I wanted to exert my iron-fisted control over every aspect of everything that happened. I mean that I wanted to trust myself and my body to do what it needed to do on its own. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like I wanted to be in power, but I wanted my body to be powerful and do what it needed to do with as little interference as possible.

Even though I’m a pretty anxious person by nature, at some point during my pregnancy, I came to completely trust my midwife and myself so I was able to let go of my fear and be ready to do what I need to do to, well, birth a baby in my living room. It was good to learn I’m capable of that (letting go of my fear more than giving birth in my living room, which I suspect is not a skill I’ll frequently need in the future).

It’s funny because during labor, I felt anything but powerful. I felt weak and tired. It hurt. A lot. I mean, I expected labor to hurt because, well, duh, but I had no idea. And it went on for 25 freaking hours. And I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. And it was just as awesome as I could’ve ever imagined it would be.

Why I Had a Home Birth

So, why did I have a home birth, anyway?

The short, easy answer is that I don’t like being told what to do.

I refer to my health insurance company as “Crappy HMO” (I’m thankful I have health insurance but still don’t like the company). Here’s how maternity coverage worked with Crappy HMO:

  • For each prenatal appointment, you see a different provider. There are nurses, physician assistants, and obstetricians. You generally don’t get to choose who you see.
  • You’re ordered around at appointments. They tell you where to go and what tests to have done, sometimes without any explanation. At one appointment, I had a PA take samples for STD tests without telling me what she was doing or explaining why it was necessary.
  • You’re told where you will deliver your baby. There is no choice.
  • When you show up at the hospital while in labor, your doctor will be whoever is there at the moment. It could be someone you’ve never met.

Aside from the practices of Crappy HMO, I don’t like the way prenatal care and labor are typically handled by mainstream medicine. I think a normal process has become too medicalized. I think too many unnecessary interventions happen. I don’t even like the way people talk about this stuff:

  • My doctor won’t let me go past 40 weeks.
  • I had to drink something that tastes like ass so they can see if I have gestational diabetes and when I failed the first test, I had to waste half a day drinking more shit that tastes like ass and starving myself.
  • I have to be induced because according to an ultrasound, my baby might be gigantic.
  • They won’t let me eat during labor.
  • I have to be on monitors while in labor so I can’t walk around.
  • After the baby was born, they took him and gave him a shot and put goop in his eyes.

Listen. I’m a reasonably intelligent, independent adult. Shit like that would piss me right off. I understand that I have a problem with authority, but people don’t get to order me around. If you want me to do some stupid, outdated GD test, you have to explain why and how it benefits the baby. If I want to eat and walk around during labor, I’m going to do it.

The way labor typically goes (at least from what I’ve seen on those awful birth shows on tv, which I’m thankful I never discovered until after I gave birth) totally creeps me out. I didn’t want to be strapped to monitors and hooked up to IVs and whatever else they attach you to, flat on my back in a hospital bed while people hold my legs in a terrible position and tell me when to push. That would make me feel — I don’t know — powerless and weird. Hell, I’ve never been admitted to a hospital. Even the environment — all the bright lights, people in and out of the room — would freak me out.

So, I didn’t get into home birth because I’m a rah-rah, woo-hoo-birth hippie (I mean, I kind of am now, but I wasn’t then). I went into it because Crappy HMO pissed me off and I didn’t want to be ordered around.

I found an awesome midwife and, holy crap, working with a midwife is so different from working with Crappy HMO. She was the only person I saw for appointments — she even came to our house for appointments. Each appointment lasted for about an hour, which is way longer than you spend at a normal prenatal appointment. She never ordered me to do anything. If there were tests I could have or she thought I should have, she discussed them with me, explained the purpose, and gave me time to decide whether to do them.

She treated me like a reasonably intelligent, independent adult, and respected my desires and opinions. It was awesome. And appointments ended with a hug.

I still (almost 15 months later!) have to finish writing my birth story, which isn’t exciting or anything but might be of interest to pregnant women who like to read birth stories or people who might be interested in home birth. You know how “they” always say the birth you want isn’t the birth you’ll get and that things never go the way you plan? It’s not true. I found the whole experience much harder than I thought it would be, but I had the birth I planned for and wanted. It was long and difficult but everything turned out exactly the way I’d hoped — with me giving birth to a healthy, awesome baby in my living room. Rock on.

Feel free to email me if you need a recommendation for a home birth midwife in Denver, or if you have any questions about having a home birth. I love talking about this stuff and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

It’s not that easy to say “no” to medical interventions during pregnancy.

When I was pregnant, I read tons of birth stories on the internet. Even though most of the birth stories I read were about hospital births (not home births), I loved reading them. Except for one thing — so many of them involved interventions of some sort. The interventions were pretty much always unwanted by the mother but happened anyway (and nine times out of ten, the mom “ended up with a healthy baby” and didn’t continue to be upset or complain about what happened). I have to admit that, more than once, when reading one of these stories, I thought, “Why didn’t she just say no to that?” What I didn’t realize was that, aside from being a totally judgmental and bitchy response, it’s just not that easy to say “no” to interventions.

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I am in a foul mood today. I blame it on the following, in no particular order:

  • People who don’t use turn signals while driving. Seriously? You’re an inconsiderate asshole. You should get a ticket and be punched in the face.
  • Facebook apps. Every time I see one, I block it. That doesn’t stop them, though. They just keep coming, like bindweed. (If you don’t know about bindweed, it’s this awful weed we get in Colorado with little morning-glory like flowers and vines that will grow and wrap around good, legitimate plants. The worst part is that each individual bindweed is actually connected to all the other bindweed by a gigantic underground root that you will never be able to destroy, so no matter how many of these bastards you pull out they’ll keep coming back until the end of time.) I don’t care which Mad Men character’s underwear you would be while on a boat with one of the Beatles. (For the record, I don’t care for the Beatles and will never watch Mad Men because I’m so sick of people talking about it. I’ve also vowed to never, ever talk about a tv show (outside of TWOP forums) or movie again, except to maybe talk about Lost once in a while in a sheltered, isolated environment with other annoying people discussing Lost. Talking about tv shows and movies is like talking about your dreams or your kid’s poop — at best, it’s interesting to you and tediously boring to everybody else in the world.) If you’re stupid enough to enjoy Facebook apps, could you at least stop posting their shit every five minutes?
  • People who don’t look where they’re going and try to get on the elevator before you get off and then loudly inhale a big giant loogie.
  • Women who are defensive about their epidural use and/or just bitchy and who say something like any of the following: (1) if declining pain relief is so cool, why don’t you have dental work with no anesthesia; (2) let’s do everything like they did in the old days before medical advances, like poop in the woods; (3) you don’t get a prize for experiencing pain and suffering during childbirth! Seriously, choose your choice and all that, but stop acting like it makes you better than anybody who doesn’t do things the same way.
  • People who equate blunt, TMI-style oversharing with honesty and call it a good thing. There’s some shit you should just keep to yourself or people who really want to hear about it — i.e., not the entire internet.
  • My fantasy football team. I swear I almost had negative points this week. Everybody on my bench was awesome and most of my active players sucked.
  • The White Sox. I’ve seen people with uncombed hair, skid-marked shorts, and ice-cream-stained, oversized t-shirts picking cigarette butts off the ground and smoking them who have given up less than you have.
  • The entire healthcare debacle. I can’t even listen to the discussion any more. I guess there are people in this country who know people are dying because they don’t have access to medical care and are okay with that.
  • Bacon. Enough already. It’s so over.
  • Broncos fans who are really proud of their team being 2-0. The first win was mad, crazy luck. The second win — well, my dog (the little one) could beat the Browns. The defense doesn’t suck as much as it did last year, but this is not a good team.
  • Old-fashioned, grandpa/grandma hipster baby names. I just don’t understand.
  • People who use ultrasound pictures as avatars. I think it’s creepy to use your baby as an avatar ever, but it’s especially creepy before the kid is even born. Don’t even get me started on the 3-D ultrasounds. Those things absolutely terrify me. Maybe you think it’s cool that your kid looks like a half-formed alien made of melting candle wax, but would you please spare the rest of us?
  • Animals who pee on the furniture.
  • And finally me, for being this annoyed by totally stupid shit. I’ll go eat some more pumpkin loaf (the most delicious thing in the entire universe) and get the hell over it already.

Weird Pregnancy Stuff

I’ve been too lazy to write a real update, so here is a list of random shit I am enjoying:

  • Fried bananas. I’m serious. Melt a little butter in a pan over medium to low heat and then add a sliced or quartered banana. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cook for a couple minutes until it’s delicious. Dump this over vanilla ice cream and add a little chocolate syrup. The warm bananas make the ice cream a little melty and OMG it is so good.
  • Ice cubes. I could eat all the ice cubes in the entire world right now.
  • Rubber. I’ve always loved the smell of rubber, but now I’m craving it. Our soon-ish-to-be baby’s room currently is housing a newly assembled jogging stroller and sometimes I go in there just to smell the tires. Bliss. According to Google, I’m not the only pregnant person to experience such a craving. I’m not anemic, so I don’t think it’s a big deal.
  • Tea tree oil. I’m not using essential oil because I’m not sure it’s safe during pregnancy, but I have this tea tree oil lip balm (from Desert Essence) and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the most awesome smelling stuff in the entire world.
  • Carrying the min pin around in a baby sling. I got a Maya wrap last week and Sadie fits right in there and seems to enjoy it. I’d like to see more dogwearing in mainstream society.
  • Brightly colored sneakers that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the rest of what you’re wearing. We went to Monolith last night (well, we went Saturday too but only lasted an hour in the crappy-ass weather so I’m not counting it) and I have to admit the whole thing made me feel a little old. It’s not necessarily the best idea in the world to go to a big concert festival thing at Red Rocks while 31+ weeks pregnant, but it ended up being fun and I was bad ass enough to decline the shuttle ride up from the parking lot in favor of walking up the ramp and then climbing the stairs. Anyway, part of the “feeling old” thing came from sitting there realizing that I don’t really understand what Kids These Days are wearing. However, I did approve of most of the sneakers. I’ve always been really into funky sneakers (also, I understand the difference between funky sneakers and functional sneakers, a distinction lost on dorky parent types who wear running shoes to Monolith; you all as my witness, I will not fall into this trap) and now am on the lookout for a new pair, despite the warnings that you shouldn’t buy shoes while pregnant because you’re just going to get monster feet because, at least so far, my feet are still their normal size. For the record, I’m still not on board with brown boots with black pants, bad 80s shit, and fake glasses. What was up with the fake glasses? Not cool, people.
  • Avoiding drunk people. Seriously guys? It’s not fun being the only sober person in a big crowd of wasted-ass people. It’s just not. It’s especially not fun when you really, really like beer and you “can’t” (“can’t” in quotes because technically you can do whatever you want) have a few while at a concert/sporting event/wherever. It’s also not the most fun thing in the world to be around a million people who are all smoking dank shit and would love to share it with you but no. Anyway, I hope to avoid all drunk people for the next 8-ish weeks. It won’t be all fun and games after that, either, but at least breastfeeding is more alcohol-friendly than pregnancy.
  • Looking forward to the Big Beers Festival. Because I’m going to miss the Great American Beer Festival this year, which pains me more than I can express in words, I’m trying to make myself feel better by looking forward to the Big Beers Festival in January. This is a good one — lots of IPAs.
  • My fantasy football team. I should win this week, as long as LT doesn’t score a million points.

Little House

I am very pleased by the fact that we live in a small house — 950 square feet to be exact. It’s not something I really talk about (except for now, of course) because it’s one of those things (like being a vegetarian, cloth diapering, or biking instead of driving a car) that, when you talk about it, kind of makes you sound like a self-satisfied, smug asshole.

That said, indulge me for just a minute. I think many people think they need more space than they really do. It’s something that really bugs me when watching HGTV, which I do quite a bit, especially now that I’m getting into serious nesting territory. I’m always amazed by what people think they “need” when looking for a house. They need way more bedrooms than they have people, a finished basement, a “man cave” (don’t get me started on that bullshit) and/or a scrapbooking room, a master suite, a play room for the kids, 27 bathrooms, and a gigantic kitchen with great room (also, don’t get me started on the still-raging obsession with granite counters and stainless steel appliances, which I think are boring, gross, and one day soon will be looked on with as much disgust as the avocado green of the 70s). Many of these people complain about formal living rooms, saying they never use them. Well, duh! You have so much space in that house, there’s no way you could use all the rooms.

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