A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a birth for a first time mom at the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
The hospital where she chose to have her baby was following all the COVID-19 rules, so things were a bit strict, but had yet to restrict doulas.
My client had ideas of wanting to labor unmedicated, have hydrotherapy, and labor quickly… boy was she surprised when her water broke before her due date and she began the early stages of labor and continued in early labor for over 12 hours. Her OB was extremely supportive and as long as she was doing well at home her OB allowed her to stay at home until her contractions were 3/4 mins apart.
My client called me at 4am and told me her water had broken but that she was going to rest and labor at home and let me know mid afternoon her plan going forward. Mid afternoon she decided she would benefit from me coming to her house and helping her progress. I arrived and worked with her until around 8pm (mostly distraction, walking, birthing ball, and hubby cuddles) when her contractions were between 3 and 4 mins apart.
When we got into triage at the hospital we were honestly disappointed to be told that the mother to be was only dilated to 4cm. We had worked HARD and were so hopeful that baby was almost here.
Because mommy was laboring at home for so long she was dehydrated (as most unmedicated labors can be… you’re working hard and you don’t want to drink water!) and that was causing baby to be a little unhappy. The nurses and on-call OB decided to keep my client on continuous monitoring. That is pretty difficult when trying to labor unmedicated, that means you have to stay connected to a 2ft monitor cord and are unable to walk around. The best we could do was sit in the bed or in the chair beside the bed and when we did we seemed to knock the monitors off. But our morale was high!
Though in great spirits (seriously unmatched mentally she was so amazing) with every contraction she was clenching and holding tight her body and no amount of vocal, physical massage, or any type of in-the-hospital-bed relaxation that I could think of was benefiting her. She was not in active labor so the nitrous gas was unavailable to her and she was against having an epidural at that time.
At 4am the next morning I asked her a simple question: Are you suffering? Or are you having a baby? Her answer: I am suffering. I then was able to advise her of the pros and cons of getting an epidural at this time in her labor and she was ready to make that decision. She received her epidural, was able to rest briefly but because her body was so ready to have her baby, by 6am she was pushing and her baby boy was born by 7!
Her birth plan didn’t go as expected, and some parts weren’t pleasant for her or her husband, but the end reward made the suffering worth those long hours. She was also able to birth the warrior within her as she had never experienced that personal mental and physical strength before.
When following up with my client postpartum she said she wished she would have received an epidural before the “last minute” and was thankful for the opportunity to follow her beliefs and desires and was so grateful for the wisdom and grace to receive the epidural.
I think that an epidural can be a great thing and believe we should encourage the choice to choose what a mother wants when she wants it. No one in the hospital offered her an epidural at any time, as the nurses believe that it is the mother’s decision and so many mothers try not to have one, there is almost a fear in offering pain relief.
If you desire an epidural I encourage a time limit– when you reach a certain time in your labor I believe you should question if you are ready for an epidural and I believe no one should bat an eye at that decision.
Just be the mama and choose to do what will bring you joy when looking back on your birth story.