Going into my 4th pregnancy, the words of my last delivery nurse rang through my head. I had labored with and delivered my 3rd baby in under 2 hours without an epidural, and the sense of accomplishment and power that fete gave me was a high I still felt. I was determined to repeat that experience with my 4th labor and delivery.
“A relaxed approach to pain…”
I remember when I was a child getting vaccines to leave the country with my parents, a nurse told me, if you clench it will hurt more, relax.
I didn’t believe her. It hurt either way… clenched or relaxed. Pain is pain!
In my world pain just hurt – no matter what. And it was something to be avoided or reduced at all costs.
Yet those words had been teaching me so much about myself and my mindset. Between the birth of our 3rd baby and becoming pregnant with our fourth, our lives had literally turned upside down. I’d felt pain in many forms and from many directions, in ways I never considered possible before. I was learning that not all pain is created equal. Or rather, my approach to pain makes all the difference in how I experience it.
I was induced at full term with my 4th. When labor kicked in I was ready. As soon as my nurse saw contractions registering on my monitor they wheeled the necessary equipment into the room and began to get my bed ready. “I hope you don’t mind these intrusions, but you have a bit of a reputation around here and I am scared to death of having to deliver your baby with out the doctor.”
My 3rd baby had been almost 6 weeks early, and had weighed just shy of 6lbs at birth. This child was full term, and was not so small. As contractions rolled through me, I wasn’t screaming or fearful, I was breathing and pushing, breathing and pushing, relaxing with waves of pain and instinct. When I finally heard, I see his head, I’d been pushing for what felt like hours… and then I heard; wait, don’t push, just relax right there… Wait? What? Are you KIDDING? I’m being split wide open!
I instantly remember my last delivery, when I’d screamed I can’t do this! there hadn’t been any waiting… There was no way on earth I was prepared to “just relax” right here! HEll NO! I mustered up all the strength I had in me, and as I felt the contraction dissipating, instead of screaming I pushed with all my might, and fell back with relief as the doctor exclaimed surprised, ohp! here he is! and all the pain washed away as they placed my newborn in my arms.
It wasn’t until I was being cleaned and patched up that I realized something wasn’t right. One nurse asked if I’d torn before. The doctor was taking a lot longer than I remembered it taking with my previous births, and kept asking for more of this or more of that. When my legs went numb in the stirrups I finally asked what was going on.
Honey, your labor was only about 50 minutes long, and your baby is over 8lbs… you tore pretty badly. Its going to be a long recovery, so just relax and we’ll make sure to give you ample pain relief.
The reality of her words hit hard over the following weeks, when everything from walking to rolling over in bed was laced with pain. What happened?
At my follow up appointment my OB explained.
When you try to speed up the process because the pain is so intense, you can cause way more damage than you realize. Honey, you tore as much as you could without needing major surgery to repair things. Recovery will take longer than usual.