Too much information overwhelms me, and I am certain that no topic has ever been written about more than childbearing. So naturally, as soon as I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I was quickly overwhelmed.
My first instinct when I am overwhelmed is to simplify — ruthlessly simplify. Anything that is not mandatory or absolutely necessary will get tossed to the wayside. This is how I decided to approach my first pregnancy.
I bought some pregnancy books, but none of them got read except for one that broke down pregnancy into day-by-day advice. One page of information a day was all that I could handle. But when too many days of information were irrelevant to my particular pregnancy (I wasn’t having twins, for instance), I got bored and gave this book up as well.
I planned on having a natural childbirth in a birthing center, because this seemed the most low-maintenance option. By skipping an epidural, I was told that I wouldn’t have to spend the night in a hospital. After a couple of hours, I could go right on home with my new baby. This sounded appealing.
As I started my monthly obstetrician visits, I quickly learned that opting for a birthing center required birthing classes. And just like that, a birthing center was out. It would be the hospital for me.
When my daughter was a couple of weeks overdue, my obstetrician manually separated her amniotic sac from the wall of my uterus in a procedure known as “stripping the membranes.” This process releases hormones that may trigger contractions. A couple of days later, my contractions began.
I had been warned by friends that if I checked into a hospital too early, I might be sent home. This definitely seemed like a hassle I wanted to avoid, so I was determined not to be early. I waited until my contractions were so strong and so close together that I could not get up from a seated position. My mother drove me to the local hospital and I was checked in.
I ended up being 7 centimeters dilated upon check in, which is quite far along. As soon as I was set up in a bed, a nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural. There was nothing in the world I wanted more. The pain of labor was terrible.
We all react differently to different kinds of pain. My reaction to contractions was stillness and silence. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to speak. I just needed to concentrate on getting through the next wave of intense pain. The worst part for me was being told by nurses to “breathe through it.” For some reason, I badly wanted to hold my breath through each contraction. It was the only thing that somewhat dulled the pain (maybe because it dulled my consciousness a little). So despite my initial plans, when I was asked if I wanted the pain to stop, my answer was a resounding, “YES.”
As soon as the epidural hit my nervous system, the storm broke, the clouds parted, and the sun returned. I rose up from the sunken place I had descended into and was able to interact with my mother, husband, and the nurses. From that point on, I simply had to push for a couple of hours. My daughter was born as the sun was setting at 4:18 p.m. on November 17.
I am currently pregnant with my second child, and I will absolutely be asking for that epidural again.
By Dalana Quintana