Epidural Drama


By Heather Mark

“Terror” wasn’t strong enough to describe the anxiety I felt about giving birth. The lifelong commitment to nurture and guide the little baby inside me seemed like a piece of cake compared to giving birth to that little baby. Birthing class videos (aka, horror films) didn’t demystify the birthing process, they simply proved to me that birth would be the most agonizing experience of my life. Without question, I planned to get an epidural, and get it early.

Contractions didn’t start when my water broke, so I was given a Pitocin drip at the hospital. Once I was dilated three centimeters, the contractions were coming so strong that I knew it was time for the epidural.

The anesthesiologist prepped me by numbing the local area first. “So far, so good,” I thought. But then it felt as though she was cranking my vertebrae apart with a tire jack. A clicking, cracking sound reverberated through my bones and into my ears. I gasped.

“I got heem,” she said, meaning she drew blood she shouldn’t have. I groaned as she prepped a different spot on my spine to try again. And again, the pain rattled up my spine. I was drenched in sweat, I shook, I cried. Then I heard then the anesthesiologist ask for the doctor because she “got heem” again.

I didn’t think I could make it through another attempt, but the mood in the room changed as soon as my doctor stepped in. He kept the tone light, distracted me, and successfully gave me an epidural in moments. It wasn’t long before my contractions were pain free.

Except epidurals can cause low blood pressure, and mine had plummeted to 80/40. I didn’t know if I would throw up or pass out, and my limbs felt heavy and weak. A nurse quickly administered epinephrine; soon my blood pressure was OK and my strength returned.

The anesthesia process, which should have taken just a few minutes, had become an hour-long ordeal. In contrast, it took only 25 minutes to push, and there was little pain. In fact, delivering my darling Henry gave me an adrenaline rush! Giving birth is a monumental achievement, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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