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Anastasia and her baby Alexei
Epidural, Vaginal Delivery

My planned birth was as follows: no episiotomy; no caesarean section; and principally no epidural injection, just pain relief, if required.

Here is how it all turned out. I awoke the morning I went into final labor and did the cardio portion of a fitness video program. Then I went and had my hair done and manicure. At this point I was already 4 days past my due date. The manicurist told me that she massaged certain points in my hands to stimulate the coming of labor. I laughed it off thinking that, like my mother was with both of her children, I would be at least 2 weeks late . This was at 12 pm.

At about 7:30 pm that evening I started getting contractions that were different from the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been feeling for a while. I had read several descriptions of what true labor should feel like: from the top of the uterus spreading down. The contractions I felt were nothing like that. Rather, they were concentrated in the lower abdomen, and becoming progressively more painful. Additionally. the contractions were not as regular as I was told to expect. They were approximately 15 to 20 minutes apart at first, and, starting at approximately 8:30 p.m. they varied in time from 5 to 7 to 10 minutes apart without any definite pattern.

The only thing that suggested that I was 'true labor' was the fact that contractions were becoming progressively more and more painful. Feeling concerned that I may be in actual labor, I called my doctor to see if I should go to the hospital. At that point I could hardly talk on the phone because of pain.

We arrived at the hospital at 10:30 pm. They told me that they would check first to determine whether I was in true labor. I thought that if what I was feeling at that moment was not true labor - what would true labor be like? During the first exam I was dilated 3 centimeters - two more from my last prenatal visit. The doctor then told me that she was going to rupture the membranes. I knew that would make the contractions stronger.

In my planned birth I was going to be the 'queen of relaxation.' I read all about relaxation techniques. I also attended birthing classes and practiced the various relaxation techniques The reality, however, hit me hard.

At first, I tried to breathe and relax. At 12:00 am, as the pain became worse, I asked that regular pain relief be administered. This also was not what I expected. Despite the medication, the contractions were just as painful. The only difference was that I would fall asleep for brief periods in between the contractions.

Two and a half hours passed when I realized that I need an epidural injection (or something strong that would relieve my pain). The pain was so excruciating that I even stopped dilating. As of 3:00 a.m., the dilation had stopped at 3 centimeters. I watched my contractions on the monitor and instead of going up and down they would get up on the scale and stay up for a long time. If I had a gun at that point - I don't think I would have hesitated using it. I barely survived until the epidural was administered at 3:00 am. I wanted to scream and yell at the hospital staff to hurry up with epidural - but I contained myself.

In making my birth plan I was afraid that the epidural would slow down my labor and that I would need a caesarean section. In order to avoid slowing down the labor my doctor also administered pitocin. From 3 am to 5:45 am I watched my contractions on monitor. They did not appear to be very strong, and I was not feeling any pain. I could even sleep all that time. It was so great, relatively speaking. The only thing that worried me was that with small contractions my labor would last 10 more hours.

Thankfully, my doctor was watching my contractions in her office. She came to check on me at 5:45 am - just in case - because even in her opinion the contractions did not appear to be strong enough to open the cervix. We were both wrong. By that time I was dilated to 10 centimeters. That's when my doctor told me to begin pushing with each contraction.

Because of the epidural I could not feel the pushing in my lower body; only my face would get all red. I did not have an episiotomy, only several tears. In fifteen minutes at 6 am I delivered my son Alexei. He was born 8 lbs and 19.5 inches. He is beautiful and healthy.

I have to give thanks to God and to contemporary medicine for the epidural. If I were delivering a long time ago, like in the last century, and had labor this painful, I am sure I would not have survived the birth. As much as I was against having an epidural, I think it actually saved me from a caesarean section allowing my labor to progress quickly.

I know that a lot of women don't experience such pain and can actually implement all relaxation techniques, but this is how my labor and delivery went. I hope that reading this will help someone in making their birth plans and to alleviate concerns about epidural injections.

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