When my first son was born back in 1988, I was given an epidural. It did not work, I could still feel the right side of my belly and my leg. The doctor told me I was wrong. He kept pricking a pin into my leg asking if I could feel it. Left leg...no. Right leg...ouch! Yet he still didn't believe me. This didn't really pose a problem, albeit making me feel like I was mad and not taken seriously, until an emergency C-Section was called for as my son went into serious distress with his heart rate failing to pick up between contractions. I can only imagine what would have happened had the scalpel cut through my un-anaesthetized body! Thankfully, the Gods were on my side and the urge to push saw the doctor have one attempt at a forceps delivery, bringing my poor little scrap of a son into the world, blue, unbreathing and in shock. He was resuscitated and is now a strapping 23 year old. Having third degree tears sewn up without any pain relief was horrendous. I was screaming in pain but the consultant just kept saying I'd had an epidural and couldn't feel it. I'm not sure if the pain or the humiliation was worse. These days, epidurals failing is accepted. Epidurals taking on just one side is an acknowledged problem. Back then I was made to feel like an over dramatic liar.
It is no wonder that from that point I was loathe to have any intervention as far as pain relief was concerned. With my second birth, I had high blood pressure and was made to have Pethedine. (The midwife actually threatened me by saying if I refused I'd have to have an epidural instead....nice.) I promptly went green and threw up. I felt so woozy and unwell. Pain would have been a better option!
Gas and Air is something I really hate. I can't use the breathing apparatus, it dries up my mouth and I hate the idea of feeling drunk. I just couldn't co-ordinate my breathing to suck the stuff up and get it to do its thing. Many a helpful student midwife has tried to insert a mouthpiece into my face at the peak of my labouring. They have all been met with the the sort of response that only a woman during transition can give.
For me, I'd rather take the pain than suffer any of the methods of pain relief offered to expectant mums in labour. Consequently, my last three births have been completely drug free. I am not a Zen Master who goes into a zone of tranquility. I don't practice any hypnotherapy, aromatherapy or yogic practices. I don't do any of those breathing exercises taught to you in ante-natal classes. I don't have a particularly high pain threshold. I just let my body do its thing. It knows what to do, even if my conscious mind is not too happy about it. The more you relax and give in to what is happening, the better it is. Concentrating on the end goal and appreciating that each twinge is your body's way of facilitating the impending birth makes it so much more bearable, less frightening and allows you to accept the pain. I have had three babies weighing between 8lb 11 oz and 9lb 10 oz with no pain relief at all.
I joke that I am a hardcore birther...but the reality is that drug-free is simply the best option for me who has tried all the drugs and hates them! I don't think anyone should ever be judged for their decisions in labour. Natural birth, epidural, elective C-Section? As long as mum and baby are healthy and happy at the end of it all, then the choices were well made. I personally prefer the drug free option, maintaining my control and managing pain in my own way. I'm sure it wouldn't suit everyone but it was my choice, and that is what giving birth should be about...choice!