We see it every day.
Nancy, the admitting nurse, smiled warmly at Katrina, who had just arrived at the Women and Children’s Center. “Here’s a gown you can change into. You’ll need to remove your bra and undies, empty your bladder, put the gown on, and then hop into the birthing bed.” A few minutes later, Katrina appeared in the bathroom door, walked the few steps to the bed, and climbed in.
“So….”, Nancy said in a calm, inviting tone. “Why did your doctor send you to the hospital today?”
With a slightly apprehensive look on her face Katrina, who was about to have her first baby at the age of 21 with her boyfriend, Ray, replied, “To have a baby.”
“I see. And do you know how that is going to happen? Your doctor has ordered an induction of labor. Do you know what that means? Did you take the Oh, Baby! childbirth classes that we recommend?”
Katrina shook her head. She had no idea what she had gotten herself into. She was initially thrilled that her pregnancy would soon be over, that she would be able to paint her own toenails again, and that the days of going to the bathroom 20 times or more a day would soon be just a memory. But while she knew she was at the hospital to have her baby, she had no idea how this little person was going to be coaxed to come out!
Know What to Expect
Every day hospitals all over the country are admitting expectant mothers who have no idea what to expect, what choices they have available to them, or how to cope with the pain of labor. Pain – yes, there, I said it! No matter how you do it, having a baby will involve pain.
Many of our moms believe they will have an epidural as soon as they walk onto the unit. For most of them that’s not a possibility. If you believe an epidural is the best choice of pain relief for you and your doctor agrees, you will need to wait until you are in active labor. That means your cervix is changing every hour.
Let’s say you call your doctor and he sends you to the hospital because your contractions seem to be about five minutes apart lasting about a minute long and they have been doing that for one hour. You are 37-and-a-half weeks pregnant at this point. Your nurse will assess you and figure out what’s going on. Then she’ll report her findings to the doctor who will decide whether you are the real deal or a labor wannabee. Labor wannabees go home. The laboring mom who is a “keeper” and who stays will then be admitted.
But at that point most women are still not in active labor. While no number of centimeters is written in stone, most women will receive an epidural if that is their wish after they are dilated four or more centimeters. Until then, using the breathing, relaxation, and active birthing techniques that I teach in the Oh, Baby! classes usually controls pain.
Don’t believe those things work? Really?
I have had two babies – the first in 1977 when I received so much medication (not by choice) that my head was literally spinning with hallucinations of giant four-foot wide spiders that crawled around my labor room for four hours! That experience was not anything like I expected. I was even kept in bed with thick belt buckle restraints because that’s what my doctor ordered – and I was a good, well-behaved patient. I didn’t deserve that kind of treatment, but that was the routine for that doctor. And I had what would be considered a normal uncomplicated vaginal delivery.
In 1981 when I became pregnant again, I was looking for another way to have a baby. I was bound and determined not to have a repeat performance of my first birth. I purposefully chose my hospital and obstetrician. I listened carefully to every word he said. I was going to have a different, better birth – the best birth possible!
When he told me that my husband and I had to attend childbirth classes in order for my husband to be present for the delivery, I signed us right up. My husband wasn’t quite so thrilled to be attending childbirth classes, but he went. I told him, “If you were interested enough to be present for the conception, you should be interested enough to be present for the delivery!”
During those classes I learned all about the experience I had with my first baby – what had happened and why. I learned about what things I liked and the things I didn’t like. It was an eye opening experience. Then I learned about the choices I had for my upcoming birth, and how the prepared childbirth techniques I was taught would help me cope with labor and assist me in progressing efficiently to the pushing stage.
During the last few months of my second pregnancy, I would lay awake at night and wonder, “What if this breathing business doesn’t work?” I knew I could go through labor and delivery with tons of medications on board and survive the pain, but could I do it without all of that to help me?
Our childbirth educator encouraged us to try to deliver naturally – without the use of any pain medication. I didn’t know if I was up for that! In 1981 at the hospital where I delivered, the only patients who received an epidural for labor were women whose husbands were anesthesiologists. An epidural was not an option for me.
Believe it or not, I did it! I used my breathing and relaxation techniques with every contraction once the going got tough – and they worked! I did take a half dose of Nubain, a popular IV medication used more frequently than any other IV pain medication for labor pain in the country. But that’s it! That’s all it took. I was ecstatic and so very proud of myself. I had met the personal goal I had set for myself.
Know What You Want
That last sentence is key: I had met the personal goal I had set for myself. In Oh, Baby! classes I see a variety of expectant parents with all kinds of thoughts about how their births should go. Some want an epidural as soon as they can have one. Others would prefer to start with IV medication if they need it, but will accept an epidural if things get rough. A few want to try to go through labor without anything at all.
All of these options are open to you as an expectant mother. The choices you make are between you, your labor nurse and your doctor. I am simply the messenger, providing you with all the options you have to consider. A wise educator once told me over dinner, “If you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any!” So true!
Every expectant parent should attend Oh, Baby! classes, but first-time expectant parents should consider them essential. Our classes provide you with a good knowledge base of what you need to know to make those important choices. You’ll get information in Oh, Baby! classes that you won’t get anywhere else. You’ll help your labor nurse take better care of you because you’ll understand what you need to do to have the best birth possible.
New five-week and all-day Oh, Baby! sessions are starting soon. Give me a call and let’s get started planning one of the most important events in your life!
OK, tag, you’re it. If you are reading this and you have had a baby or if you are expecting, weigh in and tell us what you think! I encourage you to join in our blog and share your thoughts.
What's Your Story?
For those who have experienced birth, what was your personal choice regarding pain medication? Did you do without any pain medication…have IV pain medication…have an epidural? How well did your choice work for you? How do you feel about the choices you made during labor? What would you do next time?
If you are going to be having a baby in the upcoming months, what options are you interested in for your labor? We’re interested in hearing about your pain medication thoughts, but what about all the other options you have – using a nice warm shower to provide comfort, using a birthing ball (provided in your labor room at Sarah Bush Lincoln), walking in the hall, massage, breathing and relaxation – any other options you have considered. Thanks for checking in on the blog. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!