Hi - I don't want this post to cause any controversy, I just want to share my story and hear from others who might have had similar experiences or who feel entirely differently! Just interested in opinions and experiences!
I did all my antenatal care through a birth centre, meeting with midwives and working hard to prepare for a med-free, intervention-free birth. Looking back now, I can't really pinpoint why I wanted such an experience - many of my friends had gone through the birth centre and raved about the experience there, and I suppose a small part of me wanted to be able to say that I did it med-free (badge of honour and all that).
So when I went into labour everything happened much faster than I thought it would, and nothing at all like they talked about in my antenatal classes - short and extremely painful contractions that came 2-3 minutes apart, right from the beginning. I couldn't speak through contractions basically from the minute they started, but still when i arrived at the birth centre I was only 3cm dilated. I had to be moved to the labour & delivery ward because I had high blood pressure, and I knew that since I was now on the ward I could get an epidural if I wanted. I said I wasn't sure, and the anaesthesiologist was tied up anyway, so I said I would wait and see. I was 4cm at that point. Another hour or so later, I was overwhelmed by the pain and the back to back contractions, and asked for the epidural - then asked to be checked first, cause I thought if I was 9-10cm I could make it - but if I was at 5cm (like the antenatal classes suggested I should be - 1cm/hr was the rough rate of dilation for most women, apparently), I definitely wanted to get the epi. Well, I was a touch shy of 10cm and ready to push, so I said no to the epi and started pushing. 1 1/2 hours of pushing later, and the pain was completely in my back and the baby hadn't moved AT ALL despite standing up the whole time and blowing out capillaries in both my eyes and my cheeks from pushing. Finally, the OB came in the assess me, said I wasn't progressing, and agreed to let me have an epidural even though I shouldn't have been able to get one at that stage.
Sitting through the insertion of the epidural through continuous contractions was THE hardest thing I've ever done. I have nightmares about it almost every night. But, when it took (which it luckily did equally in both sides and fully), it was the greatest relief I have ever felt in my life. I honestly think it must be what a heroin addict feels when they do the first hit of their life. From a point of near insanity I relaxed instantly and was laughing and discussing philosophy with the anaesthesiologist. I pushed another hour with the epi, still no progress, and proceeded to have an uncomplicated forceps delivery. I've had a super easy recovery and my baby suffered no ill effects from 3 hrs of pushing or from the forceps.
I've come to the conclusion that I will NEVER labour unmedicated again - next time (if there is a next time) I will ask for the epidural the minute I get to the hospital. I also feel like a lot of the things I was told in the antenatal classes I took about med-free birth were misleading and in some cases, downright wrong. Yes, our bodies were made for this, women have been birthing for millennia without drugs, etc etc - but in speaking to the OB after my birth I asked if the outcome of my birth would have been so good if I hadn't had access to drugs, forceps, and the possibility of a c-section, and he told me absolutely not. With a baby stalled at such a high position like mine was, all the oxytocin in the world and the strongest contractions imaginable were not going to move him - medical intervention was necessary. I shudder to think about the outcome if I had been somewhere where it wasn't available!
Anyway - sorry for the novel. I'm reflecting 2 weeks later and am interested to hear what others have gone through, both med-free and non. Congrats if you've made it through this whole post!!