For those of you who have been following me for a while (hi, mom), you may know that I wrote about the birth of my first kid. If you didn’t read that post, let me sum it up for you: I went into labor and 41 hours, a bunch of drugs, and a few pushes later, our daughter arrived.
In 41 hours, someone could fly from LA to Nairobi, a whopping 9,653 miles. It’s a stupidly long time to be miserable.
But it wasn’t all bad, because drugs. Never having been a doer of drugs, my experiences with them were next to zero, so little did I know what magical effects they can have until 30 hours into my ordeal, when I got my first dose of morphine, and then an epidural. I ate the most delicious pudding I’ve ever had, took a nap, and woke up and had a baby. It was nothing short of amazing.
This positive drug experience gave me a sense of confidence about the birth of Baby 2.0, because I knew what the drugs were like, and I wasn’t afraid to use them.
Fast-forward to a Saturday morning in February.
The night before I had felt a little funny, but woke up on Saturday still pregnant. It was mid-way through my pre-natal yoga class -somewhere between Warrior pose and the push-ups- that I started to notice I was having regular contractions. I finished my class, drove home, and called the grandparents to let them know they needed to come pick up our daughter.
In the hour between establishing I was in labor, to when they arrived to pick her up, my contractions went from once every 15 minutes, to once every 6 minutes. Things were going fast, and as soon as they got to the house, we raced out the door to the hospital.
Driving through the hilly city, when we finally got close enough to see the valley where our hospital was located, we were greeted by an arching rainbow that appeared to end on the roof of our destination. It seemed like an omen that things would be okay, and for the most part, they were.
I labored for a while without anything, but then out of nowhere was blindsided by an anxiety attack. I went from breathing through my contractions, to screaming for someone to cut my sports bra off because suddenly I couldn’t breathe. My mind raced, my body shook, and I felt the room closing in on me. I felt completely out of control, and totally lost my confidence. Tears streamed down my face as I begged for something to make it all stop.
After receiving a dose of Fentanyl, I was able to labor a little longer until another round of anxiety hit, and we decided to proceed with the epidural. With my first epidural, I received it, and pretty much immediately fell asleep. With my second, I laid in bed and panicked.
Anxiety absolutely overcame me, and I found myself unable to do anything but worry. The epidural had taken to one side more than the other, making me feel off-balance. More bothersome, I continued to feel as though I couldn’t breathe, but found wearing the oxygen mask to be unbearable because of an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia.
For hours I laid in bed, trying to gather my thoughts as my mind raced. With each visit from the midwife, I became more and more depressed because the baby had turned, and my labor had stalled. I felt incredibly hopeless and helpless, and stupid for being so naive about the downsides to the drugs that had served me so well my first time around.
Things took a turn for the better when my nurse, after listening to me complain about not being able to breathe for hours, finally discovered that my epidural was creeping up, and at that point, was just below (or at) my diaphragm. After it was turned down, things progressed quickly, and the little man made his first appearance shortly after.
I’m sharing this story for two reasons.
First, to reiterate an important point: Every birth is different. From the duration, to the way your body reacts to the drugs, and everything in between, labors can vary wildly. I knew this, in theory, but didn’t grasp the idea fully until laying in bed feeling betrayed by my friend, Drugs. I’m not trying to scare people away from doing them. Given the opportunity, I would probably opt for them again. But this time, I would be mentally prepared to know that my experience with them could be very different.
Second, anxiety during and immediately following labor is pretty common. Since bringing Baby 2.0 home, it’s reared its ugly head a handful of times but thankfully as time goes on (and sleep improves), I’m finding the intensity of the attacks to be lesser and lesser. I mention this only because prior to my own experience, I didn’t know how common something like this is, and as always, just want other people out there to know they aren’t alone, and urge them to tell their doctor if they feel something isn’t right.