Unmedicated Child Birth and Other Extreme Sports

One of the most asked questions I get asked when people hear about our decision to use a midwife for this pregnancy is “Can you still get an epidural?”  The answer to this question is no, you can’t.  The response to that varies between “boy are you brave/out of your mind” and “what if you change your mind?” or “why would you go through that if you don’t have to?” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  I have my own reasons for desiring an unmedicated birth.  Some of those reasons are due to anecdotal evidence regarding medical intervention in a process that maybe didn’t need to be intervened in.  Some of those reasons are because I had what I feel to be a less than desirable birth process with Kitten.  But mostly, I think, it has a lot more to do with extreme sports. 

You see, no one needs to run a marathon.  No one must climb Mt. Everest.  No one is forced to participate in many of the other sports or thrill type pursuits that people enjoy doing.  I mean, a person can enjoy running for a mile and then get in a car for an additional 25 miles.  A person can climb the hill at the base of a mountain, then ride a horse/donkey/whatever up the rest of the way.  A person could ride the kiddy rollercoaster instead of taking the loop-de-loop.   People do these things for the thrill of it, for the accomplishment, for the emotional pay off that comes from finishing something that they think is insurmountable – for hitting the “wall” and being able to scale it and say “I did that!” 

I’m not likely to ever run a marathon.  I won’t ever climb Mt. Everest.  I may never ride that loop-de-loop rollercoaster.  But I am purposely chosing to have this baby without drugs because I feel like it’s my Mt. Everest – my Boston Marathon.  I fully understand that it hurts.  I get that completely.  I know that I’m going to cry, and that I’ll probably beg for an epidural, and I know I’ll hit a place where I think that I’d rather be pregnant forever than go through any more pain and effort.  And I also know that once I stare down my Wall, once I decide that I am the only one who can birth this baby, once I complete the task at hand that the emotional payoff will be worth it.  That I will have my baby in my arms and be able to say “I did it, even though I wasn’t sure that I could.”  I believe there will be a sense of accomplishment that accompanies my efforts that will make it all seem worth it in the end.  Not unlike the satisfaction of crossing the finish line or reaching the peak of the mountain.  This is why I know I am not going to change my mind mid process, and why I am ok with the option of the epidural not being open to me.


22 thoughts on “Unmedicated Child Birth and Other Extreme Sports

  1. In BC you can get an epi and any other drug you may desire while in child birth when you have a midwife during a hospital birth.
    Everyone has heir own personal pain threshold and depending on the length of labour and other circumstances some midwives will recommend an epidural (a friend in Nelson finally took one after more than 28 hours of labour, was able to sleep for a few hours and then pushed her baby out within 45 min of waking up… but without the epi they were considering a c-section because of how long it had been since her waters broke)

    • It’s my understanding that here, you have very little support from hospital staff during a midwife attended birth (remember, midwives have only been in hospital for less than a year). I suppose that were I in the hospital and demanded help from a doctor or nurse, they would be obliged to help me, but I’m not positive that they would be able to order anything for me. I would have to discuss this further with my midwife 🙂

      I agree that there are times when a woman would require or even just desire an epidural. I had a posterior birth with Kitten – even the crunchy granola doula that I’ve talked to recommends and epidural for posterior labours! 🙂 It’s my intention to do everything in my power to have this baby face the proper way, which should lessen the pain (comparatively). I also know that for several of my friends, their labours didn’t progress until they had their epis, and in their situations, I think it was definitely beneficial for them.

      Drawing back to relating it to running a marathon, it’s true that sometimes you just can’t finish the race. I understand that may happen to me, and it would suck if it does, but at this point, I am running the race with the intent to finish and that’s the goal I must focus on. Determined people don’t look at their goals and say “it would be nice to do that”, they strive and focus and mentally prepare to reach that goal. 🙂

  2. This is a good way of looking at it, and I hope it goes well for you.

    I did do the epidural, but at the same time, I have other Mt. Everest-type activities that I’ve successfully completed.

    I knew I would try to go as long as I could without. And with labor beginning one day and not progressing until they broke the water the next day, I was already exhausted and hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours. The epi allowed me to catch a nap and be in good spirits to push through later.

    • Yes, you do things like jumping out of windows and saving lives and stuff. 🙂

      It’s my sincere hope that my labour won’t start in the middle of the night, or cause me to miss a full night’s sleep. I know, good luck. Ha ha.

  3. I’ve had two epidural free births, not by choice but by circumstance. I can honestly say if i could go back and get the drugs? I would take them. Then again, it wasn’t MY choice not to have them and that probably makes a huge difference.

    However, one upside to a non-drug birth? It hurts so much that you will do almost anything to get it over with. Which in my case meant a three push delivery both times. Quicker is better. 🙂

    • Yeah, I can see a forced unmedicated child birth being something VERY different than one that’s planned. I think you go in with a different expectation and that can make a huge difference. I don’t begrudge anyone their epidural – heaven knows I’m not sure what I would have done with Kitten had I not had the option.

      I’m hoping to get inspired during labour by the whole “if you get the baby out it doesn’t hurt as much” thing. Heh.

  4. In order to have hospital priveledges they pretty much have to be able to order anything that a doctor would be able to order… and the hospital can;t deny you epi/drugs just because you have a midwife… you are in their hospital… it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen to say that because you have chosen not to use a doctor you are not allowed to have a), b) or c). in Cranbrook my friend was planning on having a midwife attended birth at 38 weeks was told that because her baby was pregnant she had to have a c-section…. THAT day, like in an hour… the midwife was in the OR for the c-section, did the well baby check and so all of the non-surgical care after baby Z was born.

    By giving a midwife hospital priviledges the hospital is saying that they trust them, their training and their decision making abilities… otherwise they would “make them stay home”

    • Yeah, I will be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about admitting privileges for midwives in Alberta. I do know that they’re only able to order/prescribe very specific drugs (ie. I had to go to my GP to get a prescription for Zantac for heartburn). I also know that if you are in the hospital that their staff HAVE to do everything they can to help you otherwise it is a lawsuit waiting to happen, like you said.

      Your friend had a pregnant baby? Wow! 😀 Did you mean breech? I’m sure that the OB who did the c/s was more than happy to give your friend back to the midwife for her follow up care. Remember, though, that BC has accepted midwives as care providers for many years, vs. Alberta, where they have JUST been accepted into our health care system. Even still, a lot of doctors (like my GP) look askance at you when you say you have a midwife.

      To be honest, I’m not too bent out of shape in regards to what the midwife is able to do in the hospital only because if I’m at the hospital, it means that I’ve transferred for an emergency situation, or it’s been declared that I’m too high risk to be any where else. It’s really NOT my intention to have this baby in the hospital. 🙂

      • yeah Footling breech to be exact with some weird placenta attachment location and because the babies’ toes were all down in her business she was 3 cm dilated but you have hemorrhaged if she had delivered naturally not to mention the :almost” impossibleness of delivering a footling breech (see the Ina May book if you don;t already have it… the woman is crazy fantastic!)

        The Zantac makes sense since while it is a symptom of some pregnancies it’s considered a general health thing… like if you have the flu you see your GP not your midwife because while it might affect the baby it’s not caused by the baby. I think my friend had to get her anti-nausea drugs from her GP or maybe the OB (same girl with the footling breech (aka pregnant baby) she was so violently ill that she was hospitalized 4 times and was prescribed anti-nausea drugs meant for cancer patients and intense gravol as well as the regular kind of drugs for anti-nausea for the days that she still couldn’t keep anything down – she puked so much she was getting stomach ulcers and so she also had to take crazy anti-ulcer-stop-throwing-up-so-much-damn-blood-already drugs! And she STILL wants more babies after all she went through!!)

        • Yeah, no one I’ve read/talked to would deliver a footling breech baby. I can totally understand that. I would be nervous delivering a bum-breech baby, and the midwives assure me that it’s perfectly safe!

          Ina May is on my to-be-read list, that’s for sure!

          Wow, sounds like your friend had a super tough pregnancy. I’m amazed that she wants more! Hopefully her subsequent pregnancies won’t be as hard on her!!

  5. that said I did it all natural all the way and never even thought to ask for the laughing gas even though my midwife told me that I could have it (I was too far dilated for an epi, not that I wanted it)

    Midwives who attend homebirths in BC bring pitocin with them,… for the same reasons that doctors use it in hospitlas they just use it as a last resort… and also I was given a shot of it right after Micah delivered in order to speed up the placenta delivery

    • I tried laughing gas with Kitten, but I was too nervous to really use it well. I was worried about “getting high” and losing control, or puking all over the place (I’m not sure why I thought that would be the obvious outcome… but it was the only thing I could think of). I think I also disliked the tube I had to suck on – I think I would have preferred a mask type set up. ::shrugs::

      The midwives here bring a crapload of stuff to a home birth, pitocin as well. My midwives believe in allowing the placenta to pass on it’s own (provided it’s within a reasonable time – I think more than half an hour to an hour and they’d be worried), so the pitocin they carry is typically given in case of hemorrhage. I’m sure that if I needed it for another reason, they would administer it, but pitocin is (in general) not my friend, and I do believe it caused some of the issues that we had with Kitten’s birth. For us, I’m not sure it’s a good choice, as long as it isn’t necessary (ie. hemorrhage or placental issues). I do believe that the midwives know more than I do, so if they turned to me and said “we should give you pitocin to help your placenta come along”, I wouldn’t demand that they not do it or anything – they’re the experts and it’s what we pay them the big bucks for 😉 (well, at least the gov’t does!).

      Would you ever do a home birth, Barb?

      • Micah would have been an IDEAL home birth, under 4 hrs from very first contraction until he was out, but I tested positive for group B strep or whatever its called and needed (even according to the midwives) to have IV antibiotics every four hours during labour (luckily only once! :] )
        I hadn’t really considered it until I had read a bunch of natural birthing books (Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Birthing from Within and The Birth Partner – I HIGHLY recommend the first two and the 3rd one would be for Rob to read!) and watched a few videos (the business of being born, etc) then when I found out that I needed the Iv antibiotics I realized that I was disappointed that it wouldn;t be an option. There was A LOT of blood, I tore in a few places, so I wouldn;t really have wanted that on my beautiful new mattress… I would consider it when we have another baby though because of how stinkin’ easy Micah was to deliver!

  6. I have done it with and without.
    #1. If I can do it you totally can do it.
    #2. I would choose no drugs next time now that I know what it’s like both ways. I didn’t have any overly dramatic issues with either, but it was way faster without.
    #3. I can identify with your Everest scenario. It is kind of cool to master the pain and get through it, especially when your DH is standing by saying “I can’t take this any more!” ha ha .
    Good luck to you & God bless. I can’t wait to hear your birth story. I could listen to all the gory details all day long. I’m weird like that.

    • I’ll be sure to call you and regale you with all the fun details. You know. Some time in March! 😉 Ha ha.

  7. Brit was Transverse Breech, and had been for 8 weeks despite our best efforts to get her to turn. My OB ended up making me have a c-section. I was scared shitless. AND NOW, because of the current situation here, if I manage to get pregnant again, I HAVE to deliver in the hospital, because there is not a single licensed midwife here who will take a HBAC. *sigh*

    I do like your analogy, though, about running a marathon.

    • Sorry to hear that you have no choices when it comes to your next birth 😦 Will you be able to have a VBAC in the hospital at least? Do your midwives have admitting privileges there?

      I super hope this baby decides to be head down. I’m scared of having a breech baby, and don’t desire to transfer to OB care. 😦

      • I can have a vbac in hospital, but our hospitals don’t have midwives. Only choice for me if I want a midwife attended vbac, is the birth center, and that would mean (if I chose that one) that if something were to go wrong, I would be transferred to the WORST hospital in the county….

        • Well that fully sucks. I was going to deliver at the birthing center here, but a transfer would have meant a long ambulance ride to the only hospital I *didn’t* want to deliver at – ever. So I feel you on that one. Maybe when you have another baby something will have changed? We can be hopeful, right? 🙂

          If you do go the vbac in the hossy, good luck. I know that lots of women do it, but it always seems like an uphill battle. Hopefully the hospital you chose isn’t one that refuses doula help! 😉

  8. Thanks…. I still have thoughts (when I’m feeling brave) of just NOT getting to the hossy in time and having an “illegal” homebirth, but that brings up the fight to get a legitmate birth certificate.

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