Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Anger, pain and politeness

Arriving very late at the birth plan party, but what am I if not unoriginal? Anyway, our plan read, "My husband and I plan to do whatever it takes to have Olivia come out healthy. Do whatever you have to do."

Until the very day I went into labor, I had every intention of getting pain relief as early on in the process as possible. I guess one of my reasons may be a little different from others', though: I don't have a particularly low pain threshhold; I have dealt, unmedicated, with a reasonable amount of pain at various stages of my life--the torn ligaments and major sprains resulting from my daredevil childhood on the balance beam and uneven bars, the repeated bursting of my eardrums, infected tonsils the size of Chinese apples, unanesthetized wisdom tooth extraction (long story). Like Jen, who wrote a much better post than this on the birth plan topic, I don't tolerate pain meds well--they generally make me retch. I've always preferred pain to retch. So, why was I so certain that I'd want the pain relief, even at the risk of the retch? One big reason is that pain makes me angry and self-centered. Instead of making me contemplative in some beneficial, self-reflective or transformative way, it makes me want to punch something. Always has. That wasn't the frame of mind I wanted to be in for the birth of my daughter. Also, let's be honest, while it's not my biggest fear, I don't particularly like pain. I'm guessing I'm not alone here. While I fully realize that this is not the case for everyone, I do not find it enriching; my ability to withstand pain is not tied up in any way with my sense of strength or womanhood. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it is.

On that day in April when I went into labor, I became, much to my own retrospective astonishment, quite shy about asking for the drugs. Shit, there were five strangers in the room poking at my cooch and I wasn't feeling shy about that--but asking for the drugs felt a little like asking for a cup of coffee during a job interview. Like it wasn't quite polite. Also, for the first twelve hours or so, the pain was completely manageable. Just like really strong period cramps. And then there was the excruciating pain and nauesa of transition, then that beautiful stretch where the drugs kicked in (plus, bonus! No retching!), then that hideous stretch where the drugs had worn off.

In the end, we met the requirements of our birth plan--she was healthy. I, however, was in so much pain, and so agitated by it, that I couldn't truly enjoy the moment of her arrival. Jeff couldn't understand why I wasn't full of joy, ready to overflow with happiness, but the best I could muster for a good twenty minutes was to not snap at him or the nurses, and to be jealous of the fact that he was clearly ecstatic while holding our daughter.

I've decided that our birth plan will be more demanding in the unlikely event of a "next time": I will include a line item for "give me more drugs."


Anonymous soxfan said...

me too!!! jeff and i are expecting a boy in march, and i will be getting an epidural as soon as i can possibly manage it!

5:09 PM  
Blogger adrienne said...

the only details in my birth plan were: a) get me to the hospital in time for an epidural, and b) do whatever it takes to have a healthy baby.

most people scoffed at my nervousness for not having enough time for an epidural considering it was my first baby, but when i went into labour, i got to the hospital within half and hour of my water breaking and was seven-ish centimetres and a hundred per cent effaced!

8:46 AM  
Blogger Anna H. said...

Bugs, have I told you lately that I love you?

Well, I do.


12:05 PM  
Anonymous Jen said...

It's good to know, isn't it, what you want for the (hopeful) next time? I was very surprised by how, more than any other experience in my life, I was completely unable to anticipate how I would feel/react/etc. until I was in the middle of it. Having been through it once, I think, makes such a difference--now we know ourselves a little better, and hopefully, the second time will be a better experience!

7:15 AM  

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