Monday, February 16, 2009

Labor and Delivery

During my blog black-out, I've been conversing with a lady who is set to deliver her first baby any day now. One thing that keeps coming up in our discussion is pain relief during labor. I've had four deliveries resulting in live births (as near to term as I could get). The one common thread, in four very different stories, is that labor hurts. It hurts like hell. The only difference is the manner and location of the pain.

I do know some women who've done pain free births. One such woman reads this blog (Amy) and would probably share her experience with you. Another woman named Erin had a great birth story you should read (maybe she'll pop up and share a link). I know women who've birthed just about everywhere and I hope they'll join the discussion to share what they know.

What I do know is that any religious claim to pain is bull. It's true that the most ardent fundy will claim that labor pain is a woman's duty. But, to them I ask...what about the Biblical promise to Adam. God knows that, to create another, Adam must be put through great pain. To remove the rib from Adam to make Eve, Adam will be subjected to great pain. What does God do? He puts Adam to sleep. Read that again. God puts Adam to asleep to avoid the pain of bringing forth a new human being. Where, exactly, is the religious objection to relieving pain in child birth? I say that they don't have a leg to stand on. If God exists, he/she/it certainly expects us to use our wisdom to alleviate human suffering. If he doesn't, then I expect outrage over the women who get pregnant by non-religious piety in IVF clinics all across the nation. The religious right doesn't seem to object to the interference of man in that case.

Moving along - take the meds if you want them! Don't allow a cleric wearing a dog collar (especially an unmarried cleric) tell you that your fear of pain is proof of your lack of will. Dry that out and you could fertilize a golf course.

"What To Expect", while a wonderful series, has screwed an entire generation of women into thinking that a book can adequately prepare you for what labor will be like for you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAhahahah-ha-itty-haha! There's nothing that will prepare you for your birth. It is what is it is. Go with it.

Don't buy into the catty, b/s religious crap...
Scientology says "don't scream" or you'll imprint chaos and negativity onto the baby. Let me just roll the ole' oculars. *pause* I've seen men grunt while taking a six oz. shite on the toilet. I've seen a burly, manly-man groan when hefting a ten pound bag of lawn fertilizer up a slight incline. The truth is that humans react to pain by engaging in some noise making. Can you imagine what it would be like to watch a martial arts master blast through an I-block without his "Heeeyaaaaaaaa!"? Shoot. Go out in a blaze of glory, friend! You don't have to swear Kathy Griffin style, but a few "shits" and growls won't damn you to hell. I'd be willing to bet most people can't hoe a garden without a few oral celebrations or think it's reasonable to pass a seven pound bundle of bone and muscle through your coocher without making a peep. Me thinks you're a bit to hard on yourself.

Don't fear the pain relief. No one is going to stand at the door to the hospital and demand a drug test before you leave. There's no special parking spot for "morphine moms" or "epidural wussies" at Baby'sRUs. Within ten minutes after birth, I'll guarantee you that no one gives two shoots about what you had to take to deal with your ordeal. They'll be too busy counting toes and asking about the consistency of meconium.

I've had the Douala's. I think they're handy. They're not healing incarnate and they're not a substitute for a husband, mate, or good friend who loves you. But, they'll do. Their sole duty is to hold you hand and cheer lead you on without actually involving Mylar and spanky pants. They move your favorite pillow and give you scalpel massages, totally understanding that that little hair on your head is a mental barrier for your baby's entrance to the world. It's okay!

You're right. Pain is generally there for a reason. That doesn't mean we accept that it needs to hand out for another eight hours to re-remind us that there's a big, wiggly barrel load of baby eyeing your snatch as it's emergency exit. I have yet to hear of a twenty year old who approaches his mom, joint in hand, who says "Yo, Madre! That teensy hit of morphine you hand when I was less than born totally primed my receptors for opiates. I remember how great it felt to be wasted AND wonder why someone was shoving my face into gazongas I'd never seen before." It just doesn't happen. It's no big deal. You'll make mistakes that really count later.

Just sleep well, great white mother. You won't be pregnant forever. :)


Anonymous said...

I think the point of the religious claim to pain is that pain and suffering came into the world after the fall, though why then Adam needed to be knocked out escapes me. But I digress.

SImon said...

Indeed, fundamentalists will tell you that childbirth is the punishment of women for Eve's fault, as related in Genesis:

I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.
– Genesis 3:16

On an unrelated note, glad to see you posting again Possummomma.

Thranil said...

While I agree with your assertions about the ridiculousness of the religious claim that anyone 'needs' to suffer, I do want to point out a different point of view when it comes to drug-free childbirth.

My wife and I have 3 children together (7, 5, and 2.5). The first child was born in a hospital and she opted for an epidural. The recovery period for child and mother was a few days before everything was more-or-less nominal (as normal as it can be that soon after birth), and while she wanted badly to breastfeed, her milk never really came in.

Between this and other issues related to this birth (which I won't get into right now), she opted for a home birth for the second child with a midwife and a doula. Was it painful? I can only imagine. I remember sitting on the bed with her in terror listening to her scream. The interesting thing to me is that her recovery time was almost nill and the baby was extremely alert and ready to nurse as soon as he popped out. There was significantly less blood and her milk came in within a day or two.

So while she did experience intense pain, she was so amazed at how much better things were with the home birth, she wanted to do it again when we had our third (and FINAL) child. It went pretty much the same way that the second birth went and I know that she would encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to look into a homebirth as a viable option.

She and I both know that not everyone is ready for an experience like that and that hospitals/drugs are what many people want. So, I'm not trying to say that her experience is better, but I'm just trying to offer a different perspective than what has been offered so far.

Oh, and while I have no real concern about my eldest child having drug issues due to the manner of his birth, he is definitely more emotionally and bodily challenged than either of my other two children... and it may have nothing to do with the manner of his birth, but it is a curious correlation.

Anonymous said...

Home birth is not safe! If you have a postpartum hemorrhage (your wife/partner is bleeding to death), eclamptic seizure, shoulder dystocia--this is how mothers and babies die. You shouldn't take risks with your child's life. Yes, we all understand pregnancy is not a disease. You have anecdotal stories about home births that went well, and most labors and deliveries go well. But you got to the hospital so that if something UNexpected occurs or if your baby is in danger, a doctor can do something about it.

If you want to look at morbidity and mortality figures for childbirth at home (or on the prairie, or in the Middle Ages, which is where you are Thranil), it's scary and sobering. Let's not go back to Middle Ages childbirth.

Xena said...

What I never understood about the biblical passage is that it says that god will greatly increase the pain for childbirth. Greatly increase it from what? Eve hadn't had a child when she ate from the tree. It seemed silly to me. How would she know the pain was a punishment and, you know, not the way things kind of have to be because of the size of the child verses the size of the birth canal?

Dawn said...

I have a book I bought when I was working as a midwife from Ebay about "Christian Childbirth" (basically a Lamaze/Bradley mix from way back in the day...1960's or so). It stresses breathing, relaxation and narcotic free labors since done correctly women shouldn't feel pain in labor (as if....)

Curiously enough, it argues that the bible never says the woman with 'pain' for childbirth. The pastor in the story argues that the word "pangs" for labor, as quoted by Simon, is a misinterpretation. He says the word is "labor" and is the same word used for man's work to grow food, and the fact that it was translated differently for men and women was poor translation skills and the need to punish women for bringing sin into the world by eating the fruit. Very interesting book in some ways.

Anonymous said...

There was no way someone was sticking a needle in my back. My back where I can't see, no way. I am amazed that anyone can stay still long enough to have an epidural. But that was a personal choice. I support my friends what ever the decide.

What I can't understand is why would a church need to be involved with a personal choice. Adam and Eve weren't real; so why should women be punished for a woman that is fiction?

Tonette :o)

PS Glad to see a post PM I have missed you!

Amy said...

Glad to see you post again, PM!

I'm assuming that I am the Amy in question, but if not I'll run my mouth anyway :)

The highly abridged version of my birth story is that we had planned a homebirth, then I had a random placental abruption at 34 weeks. I was hospitalized and had a wonderful OB who, instead of c-sectioning me right away as most would have, put me on bed rest and careful observation to make sure that the baby and I were both stable.

When I arrived at the hospital I was 4 cm dilated (Placental abruption causes pre-term labor) and felt no pain whatsoever. I was given meds to stop my contractions until I was full term. The goal was to have a full term baby, but not to wait so long that the placenta had deteriorated to the point where it could not support him through a vaginal birth.

At 37 weeks I was taken off the meds and allowed to walk around. My cervix had closed back up from the bed rest, so over the course of the next few days I went from 1/2 cm to 6 cm dilation with regular contractions and felt nothing. It was slow progress, but absolutely pain-free.

At 37w4d I was induced with a cervical ripener (which is less harsh than the standard Pitocin) and again resumed bed rest so that the baby could be monitored. I dilated 2 more cm in several hours, but stalled at 8cm and was in incredible pain from the induction. After hanging in there for several more hours both our midwife (now acting as doula) and the doctor advised me to have an epidural to avoid a c-section. Our son was born shortly afterward. He experienced some stress during the birth, and afterward we saw that 10-15% of his placenta was non-functional from the abruption.

I would caution readers to do their homework before deciding whether or not to have an epidural. While there are certainly cases where epidurals and/or other interventions are necessary to achieve the best possible outcome, epidurals are not without side effects. One main concern being that they can stall labor and lead to more interventions which can cause complications for both mom and baby. I've also heard from numerous women who have gotten epidurals at the first sign of pain (around 1-3 cm) only to have it wear off during the pushing and delivery stage. Definitely not what they were going for! :) Do the research, check out the other natural options for pain relief, make sure you have adequate support from your birth partner, doula(s), friends and family, and make an informed choice.

And Thranil, I second your opinion on homebirth and midwifery care. I greatly prefer the midwifery model of care to the medical model (in the case of a low risk pregnancy). I could write a novel about our family's experience of the two, but suffice to say that we're going to start working on baby #2 soon and are planning a homebirth again :)

Corbie said...

I missed you!

Didja ever notice most of the folks advocating painful birth are guys? I liked Robin Williams take on it. I'm going by memory and may be a little off, but it went something like this.

"I was with my wife when she gave birth. They encourage that in the classes so that men can "experience what giving birth is like". Lemme tell you, unless you've shit a 10 lb. watermelon out of your ass, you've got no idea what your wife's going through!"

I think he came pretty close.

{{{Hugs}}} again to you and yours, Pmomma.

Thranil said...


Please do some research about the thing that you are blasting first. Any midwife worth her salt has less than a 3% transferal (to a hospital) rate. And even then, there is (in Texas at least) ALWAYS a doctor on call during the birth so a mother can be transferred quickly into a physicians care if any complications arise. Also midwifes (in Texas again) are VERY well trained (medically) to be very aware of any signs of problems during the course of a birth, and the after care that a midwife gives her client far exceeds anything that anything I have ever heard of (or experienced) coming from an OB. In addition to this, midwifes do not take on risky pregnancies.

So you can either look at the figures of how things were 100s of years ago before even germ theory was around and deduce that such-and-such thing isn't safe... or you could look at the information for today and find that the picture is wildly different. Your choice. You can guess which one is mine.

Thranil said...


I'll be sacrificing a box of girl scout cookies at the shrine of the invisible pink unicorn in order to ensure a much smoother #2 for ya :).

Anonymous said...

miss you.

Scotty and Beckett were drug free until we hit the table for surgery after 12+ hours...the most painful hours of my life.

now i think i'll sign up for drugs at the door =)

Amy said...


Many thanks! ;) And thank you also for sharing the stories of your children's births. It's always good to hear about positive childbirth experiences.

I'd also like to put this out there for anyone considering a homebirth or who is interested in learning more about the safety of midwifery. It's a study published in BMJ entitled "Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America".

You may need a subscription to access it, I connect through a university proxy so I'm not sure. My apologies if it is inaccessible to some.

Traceytreasure said...

The midwives knew it wouldn't be long before I had our kids once I started screaming into a pillow. I could never be into Scientology. Not that I want to anyway but they would have hated to see me in labor 4 times. I think my neighbors heard me deliver our youngest. I don't care! Screaming for drugs with a home birth is perfectly normal...IMO!

I was thinking about you the other day. Glad to see your posting!


Terra said...

I was a surrogate and I labored for more than 24 hours with no epidural. When I finally decided to go for the epidural, I didn't feel the needle (it was moot, by that point-after a day's worth of hard back labor pains, a little needle = meh) My reasoning behind the epidural was that I was so tired that I was scared I wouldn't have anything left to give by the time the pushing came.

Unfortunately, shortly after the epidural kicked in, I was rushed to the O.R. for an emergency C-section. However, I think everyone's story is different. I read all the comments before me and if there's one constant, it's variety. I didn't read many books or go to any labor classes when I was pregnant, because I wondered how much use to me they would really be. I just did yoga breathing through the contractions and think I did quite well. I think birth is such a weird experience that it's kinda like death/grief-you can't rehearse it and it's really good to just be flexible and do what's right for you at the time.

I will say, however, that the pain of labor fades ridiculously quickly. I still don't remember much from that day, and I certainly don't *only* remember the pain.

Gramomster said...

Pmommma, I was so happy to see a new post! And on a subject about which I feel so passionately.

\\begin long story/rant\\

I have 3 children, 23, 18 and 16. The first one was a hospital birth. It sucked. Okay, I was young, but not uneducated. I had a mom who had 2 homebirths, and had midwife friends, so I knew of whence I spoke when asking questions of my OB. He literally laughed at me, and did just as he pleased, including a local for an episiotomy, and injecting demerol into my IV as I said "No". No aftercare, no compassion. I was just another patient. I didn't get to see my baby for about 8 hours, because the staff decided I needed to rest. So by the time the birth euphoria wore off, and I could sleep, here they came with the baby that I'd been asking for for hours. Yay.

Fast forward 5 years. Pregnant with #2. Homebirth all the way. Asked friends for recommendations, found wonderful midwives. One had been an OB RN for ten years, the other was an EMT. They took their time listening to me at prenatals, which averaged an hour, with tea and chit chat. How you're doing emotionally is just as important to a midwife as how you're doing physically. Very supportive. I had a long labor (16 hours). They sat in my house the whole time. I also had a back-up OB who would have stepped in had I needed transport to the hospital, and my midwives would've stepped into the doula role. My daughter was posterior, and flipped over during pushing. The coaching was amazing, none of that hold your breath shit (throats are oddly connected to vaginas, and open throat more, like, 'sex noises' help your vagina open.) And, they coach you to push with your body, not when you're told to push. No tearing, Cassady's eyes were open when just her head was out, and she just happily settled, looking around at her world. I was sitting up, cross-legged, within the hour, perfectly comfortable, and feeling more empowered than I knew was possible. Baby never left my side, apart from a shower, and she nursed well. Then, the midwives come to the house for follow up at days one and 3. So much more personal.They also arranged a food tree for the first two weeks after birth with other clients. We'd had little socials, so the midwives also helped to create a community of women who had babies around the same age. Amazing.

Baby 3 was also a homebirth. Different midwife, same back-up OB, easy, calm, short (7 hours) labor. Again, no tearing, alert nursing baby... beautiful. I was a student at the time, and hubby had to go to class at day 3. My midwife came and picked me and my laundry up, took me to her house, fed me... amazing.

Another fast-forward... 2006, my then-16 year old daughter gave birth to an 8lb 12oz boy. With midwives. No drugs, 5 hour labor, she caught the little guy herself. She had supportive midwives who were absolutely wonderful. She utilized a birthing center that was close to the hospital if needed, there were big beds, balls, chairs and tubs in the rooms, a full kitchen, a family room... support for the whole family. My grandson was born alert, nursing in minutes, completely present little guy. He'll be three this summer, and while he's mine now, I know my daughter is glad she decided to have him, and very glad that she chose the manner of birth she did. She experienced tremendous condecension and judgement from the medical community, and only support from the midwives.

\\end rant\\

Long story short, whatever works for individual women is what works. I've had friends who, after a couple successful homebirths had to be induced and hospitalized. I've had friends who utilized all sorts of avenues. For me, for my mom, for my daughter, midwifery in some form was absolutely the right choice. I feel it is woman-centered, and we are people giving birth, not simply vaginas expelling something that needs to be caught by some 'professional'. I guess I especially have trouble with male OBs. They don't have the equipment, they understand the mechanics, but not the experience.

So, yeah, I'm totally with Thanril here. Anonymous, you do need to do your homework. Homebirth is very safe, in fact has less complications than hospital birth, perhaps from the non-reliance on drug intervention, which can actually stall labor, and lead to a higher c-section rate. The US has a rate of c-section about double what the WHO considers reasonable and safe.

And yeah, it hurts. And releases endorphins which makes all memory of the pain evaporate the moment the baby is out. Plus, it's not constant pain like a toothache. It ebbs and flows, and with good support, it is totally manageable.

Yay midwives!

Thranil said...


On #3, our neighbors apparently knew when my wife was giving birth when they heard her screaming... ;)

Traceytreasure said...

Thanks for sharing your stories. I had our son in a hospital and they tried killing us both. All of our girls were born at home, without any complications. If you want all the details see My Recipe For Wellness blog and search Surviving Home Births. It's an odd title since I never feared for my life or my child's life at home!


Traceytreasure said...

Surviving Childbirth is where you'll find my hospital experience.

possum_momma said...

The point my dear pregnant friend is, as you see, labor is different for every woman/family. Each of mine was unique. There were things I loved and hated about each. With P1, I was young and my labor was over fifty hours (PROM). It didn't really hurt so to speak. It was always managable.
P2 was an emergency C because he had a true knot in the cord. That was the worst recovery but necessary to get my special little guy. I was lucky. Problems like that aren't the norm and I know that but I'm glad I had access to the hospital and technology or the outcome would've been unthinkably different. P3 was painful because she was posterior and I had a tear in the placenta. Still, I went from 4-10cm in about 30 minutes...that I am thankful for. My doula was the most wonderful doula ever. P4 was everything I didn't expect. I thought it would go lightning fast with no complications (being the fourth and the second VBAC). One of the doulas annoyed the ever-loving crap out of me and made me wish she hadn't been there. The labor was induced and took more than 24 hours with almost every complication/intervention in obstetrics. It was the most exhausting of the four. It was also the biggest sense of reward of all the births. Working that hard, for that long, must've built up massive love hormones because I actually felt a warm rush of something I still can't describe come over me the moment I saw the top of his head. It was like being underwater (all garbly and slow-mo). It was amazing. You just never know. Because I had my children early, I know the hospital was where I needed to be but I wouldn't have any qualms about home births or birth centers. If I'd carried to term with no complications, then I would've totally aimed for a home birth with a midwife and a close back-up hospital. It just didn't work out and that's okay with me.

Erin said...

Ironically I just linked my birth story in my blog post today. Maybe I was feeling the vibes.;)
I think the important thing about birth is that each woman makes an educated choice, the choice she feels is best for her and her partner (if applicable). For me, I knew that I had a family history of women who needed c-sections, and I felt like avoiding an epidural and laboring in positions I wanted would hopefully help me avoid it. As it was, I still skirted close to a c-section, but I do think that the opportunity to change positions, use water, and so on helped to finally convince Luke to get the hell through my pelvis.
I agree that the claim that pain is there for a reason is ridiculous. I've heard people opine that pain is there to stop women from just having babies over and over again, which is just such a stupid idea. Because honestly, I forgot what it felt like two seconds after Luke was out of me. As I'm sitting here now, halfway through pregnancy #2, I'm looking forward to labor. If I was to be taught a lesson from a 22-hour unmedicated labor, I guess I didn't get it, because here I go again!

Traceytreasure said...

Thanks for sharing. I love hearing other women's stories. I've always said, it's not how the child comes into the world that is important, it's the love that the child is received with that is important. Every experience is different as every person is different.
Thanks for sharing your labor stories, the more I learn about you, the more I like you!!


Best of luck to your friend...

Barnetto said...

Young and childless, so I don't belong posting here.

But I saw a show on tv a while back which described some women who orgasm while giving birth. I suppose that's not a huge percentage of the population and I can't expect to be one of them. I'd like to have a kid someday, but the whole birthing thing makes me squeamish (and reading you guys hasn't helped!).

But yay for new possum blogposts ^_^

Trepkos said...

Glad to see you post again, Pmomma.

I had a spinal with my first boy, and had a very bad reaction to the meds. The last thing I heard before passing out was 'emergency c-section.' Luckily the last vial of whatever the heck they were frantically pushing into my veins worked and I had a normal, if rather painful, delivery thereafter. They told me not to yell or make noise. I told them to stfu. Making noise during pushing was rather like making noise during karate strikes, to me. It took them forever to let me hold him though.

With my second boy, I knew that I could not have meds. More importantly, I was prepared, knew what to expect, trusted the process, and had doctors who were laid back rather than interventionist. They let me walk around, and had a bug tub for me to labor in, which was magical. I ended up having a water birth since he came too fast for me to safely get out of the tub. I grabbed him right as he was born and held him for a good long while. Until I had him, I had thought the whole 'orgasmic birth' stuff was hogwash. (We didn't find out about his true knotted cord until he was out. Very lucky.)

Both births had significant amounts of pain, despite the meds of the first one. For me, the bathtub of warm water worked much, much better than the meds. Every person and every birth is different and has different needs.

The pain certainly wouldn't dissuade me from having another child, the 8 month morning sickness from hell was worse.

mom2boys said...

I used to be so passionate about this subject. I had an induced horrendous experience with my 1st son that led to major complications resulting in a c-section that I went way the other way for baby #2.

I had a midwife for #2 and had wanted to use the birth center (unattatched to the hospital) but hubby was just too nervous for that since it was a VBAC. So we opted for a midwife in the hospital.

In the end I think that was the best compromise. I got all the wonderful comfort of a midwife (and personal service) but I had the protection of a very non-medical birth environment even though it was a hospital. I had no drugs and actually only got to the hospital 2 hours before my son was born.

Ironically enough after he was born I had a weird tear that required extensive stitching (it was on the inside and very odd) so I still ended up with medication! We were supposed to go home within 12 hours but I had a fever so we both had to get some antibiotics just in case and had to stay 2 days.

But as I said I used to be passionate about it. Now that the boys are 7 and nearly 9 I realize that it doesn't matter that much. What matters is that mom and baby have the best care for them and that the family is pleased with the outcome. My 1st wouldn't have been so traumatic if I hadn't tried to be so in control of every little thing. Since then I've learned to relax and just let some things go.

BTW, welcome back PM I've been thinking about you lately even though I haven't posted much here.

Ginger said...

Hello Pmomma. I know this is completely off-topic, but I thought you'd be interested in this blog (if you weren't already aware of it). It is written by two women who have escaped from the quiverfull movement. It's called "No Longer Quivering."

Anonymous said...

hey how are you?