Before I became a mother, I never considered the act of childbirth. Frankly, it didn’t concern me much. It wasn’t until I found out that I was pregnant that I began to educate myself on the subject. Knowledge is power, right? To me, the thought of bringing a life into this world seemed like a momentous and powerful task. I was up for the challenge.
I had a deadline; only months to ready myself for something that would forever change my life. I needed to be prepared. Not only did my life depend on it, but so did this new life I was now responsible for. Armed with books lent to me by my dear friend, Lauren, I began to immerse myself in the world of birthing babies. I read Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth proved to be a wealth of information on the subject. I muddled through What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Any book I could get my hands on regarding the birth process, I consumed.
During my frenzied research, I started to notice that one thing stood out to me. The facts and statistics regarding an all-natural childbirth versus a medically assisted childbirth were astounding. A common form of pain management during labor, the epidural, has been shown to cause adverse effects on mother and child. Derived from cocaine, the epidural is a local anesthetic injected into the spinal cord of the mother during labor. Epidurals block nerve signals from both the sensory and motor nerves, which provides effective pain relief but immobilizes the lower part of the recipient’s body. Epidurals have many negative side effects. Below I’ve listed a few.
- Increase the length of labor
- Increase the chance of additional medical intervention (Caesarean, forceps, vacuum)
- Decrease the chance of a spontaneous vaginal delivery
- Decrease in fetal heart rate
- Activates stress response in newborns, compromising their young immune system
- Caused back pain issues in women long after childbirth
- Increases the risk of severe perineal tearing
- Can cause paralysis and nerve damage in the mother
The list goes on. I started to wonder why about 75% of American women opted for an epidural during childbirth considering the horrific scientific evidence.
One thing seemed very clear to me: regarding labor, the more medical intervention you allowed, the more you needed to see you through the process. For instance, Pitocin, the popular labor inducing drug, causes faster and irregular contractions and because of this, is said to increase labor pain. Increasing pain can stall labor and usually causes a woman to request something to “take the edge off”. At first, IV drugs such as the narcotic Stadol are administered as a first line of pain management. Now the woman can rest. Eventually, they wear off and the pain returns even stronger. The next step in pain management is the epidural. Due to the numbing effect of the epidural, difficulty in pushing can occur. This causes most doctors to resort to more medical intervention: forceps, vacuum extraction or at worst, a Caesarean Section. Also called a C-Section, a Caesarean is a major surgery used to extract a newborn from the womb. It carries a list of possible complications, including hemorrhaging, infection and maternal death. It also reduces the chance that a woman will have a vaginal birth in later pregnancies.
I believe I was halfway through my pregnancy when I decided I would have my daughter naturally. I could not disregard the facts; natural childbirth was the best method for my baby barring any unforeseen medical complications. I received a lot of negative feedback from friends and family; even the father of my unborn child told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. It would be too painful. My own mother told me I wouldn’t be “able to handle it”. However, those “failure cheerleaders” made me more determined to do what they deemed as impossible. I found strength in their disapproval and in my stubbornness. I found a massive amount of support in my best friend, Lauren and my doula, Nicole; two women who are a wealth of positive and strong female energy.
She was late and my doctor threatened me with Pitocin. I refused. Only 20% of due dates are accurate. If left undisturbed, 50-80% of mothers will gestate beyond 40 weeks.
As expected, the day arrived. I will spare you the details of my spiritual odyssey also known as my birth story. I will say that I went in with an abundance of knowledge regarding the journey my body was about to lead me on. My birth plan was laid out to exclude all medical intervention unless necessary, even an IV. I was equipped with my powerful female force-field; Lauren and Nicole. My mind was calm and clear and I yielded to my body’s natural instincts. I accepted and embraced the pain; medication was not an option to me. I remained focused on the task at hand and rode each contraction like a wave, each one more powerful than the one before it.
On October 10, 2005 and 1:14 am, my beautiful daughter, Anastasia, was born into the world. I named her after a Russian princess. She never ceases to amaze me. I could have been one of the majority and opted for labor drugs, but I was far too determined. I had to do it for her, for me, for the naysayers and my supporters. It was painful, and I hold no judgment against any woman who choose a different route than I did. Because of my daughter, I educated myself and made the decision to forego medication. For my daughter, I blocked out negative external forces and found a focus that gave me strength. Thanks to my daughter, I learned the true power within myself.