Okay. I’ve been through pregnancy and labour twice now, and birthed two beautiful boys. Each labour and birth had their differences, but essentially the same outcome. As a first-time mum-to-be, I had my heart set on having the most beautiful and graceful birth. I imagined myself birthing my baby in a pool and having pretty much no pain relief. Little did I know that I had a very low pain threshold…
I found out that birthing a baby is hard. Contractions and dilation can last for hours, if not days, and I was not prepared in the slightest. During my first birth, I laboured for 24 hours. From lunchtime one day, to lunchtime the next. I used the pool for pain relief as soon as I was in established labour, but the warmth of the pool slowed down my contractions and the dilation. After 2-3 hours in the pool, I had dilated only another half a centimetre. What a waste of time. I still didn’t want to use pain relief if I could help it, but the entenox was not cutting the mustard. Pethidine and diamorphine were my next options and I took them – not wanting an epidural.
I was still in agony but eventually birthed a 9lb 12oz baby boy, following two hours of pushing, a hefty episiotomy and forceps delivery. Wow. My inability to realise my pain threshold astounded me. The experience was so traumatic for me that I swore I would never have any more children. That was in August 2011.
It took until June 2015 for me to convince myself (with the help of others) that no two births are the same and that I could do it again. I didn’t want O to be brought up an only child and he so desperately wanted a sibling. So we decided to go for it again. Under consultant care, I was induced at 39 weeks pregnant.
Before an induction, the healthcare team must ensure that you are aware of the risks associated with an induced labour. I agreed to it all and discussed pain relief with one of the midwives. After my first experience, I knew how painful it was going to be. Should I opt for an epidural from the get-go? I was in two minds… I wrote in my birth story that the pain of my contractions dramatically increased from a level of 2 to 8 quite suddenly. Upon examination, I was found to be no further on despite having induced contractions for over 24 hours. I threw caution to the wind and opted for an epidural.
I don’t regret taking the epidural in the slightest. Once the pain was taken away, I was able to relax and therefore dilate so much quicker. Quicker dilation means baby arrives sooner, and that’s got to be a bonus!
We hear so often of the wonderful stories of mums giving birth with no pain relief, doing it by themselves. Of course, they should be applauded. But should I feel inadequate for taking pain relief? No, of course not. I think there’s a lot of pressure on mums to give birth in the most natural way. But, in my experience, ‘pressure’ is an unpleasant psychological state, in reaction to a perceived threat concerning the performance of a task. It is pressure that we put onto ourselves, in our own minds. Once I let go of the unrealistic hope that I could deliver a baby without pain relief, I felt liberated and proud that I had just birthed my second baby in almost no pain at all.
How did you fair with the pains during labour and birth? Did you use pain relief? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.