David said he could see it on my face — that I looked hopeless. The last several hours of strong labor had produced no progress, and my cervix (baby’s exit door) was thickening back up. For the first time, I started considering pain relief. I was doing my best to cope and it wasn’t enough.
Since I am the nerd who carefully reads all the material from my doctor’s office and does additional reading and research, I knew there were two primary types of pain-relief in labor: IV pain-relief to take the edge off, and epidurals (tube of medication placed in the epidural space below the spinal cord) to cause numbness in the lower half. I also knew there were some possible side-effects to both, so I opted for the IV pain relief first. The results were quick, and while contractions still hurt, I was falling asleep in between. The nurse came back as the medication started to wear off, and told me I was at nine centimeters . . . not quite far enough to deliver the baby. I had tasted the wonders of medication and did NOT want to go back to hard labor and zero progress. I decided to get the epidural.
“Epidurals are wonderful things, Julie,” said my nurse. “I’ve had epidurals for my two deliveries, and everything went fine.” The anesthesiologist arrived, and stared at me for a moment (I found out later why).
“Do you consent to the epidural?” he asked. “Rare complications include seizure, spinal headache, and paralysis.”
I sat on the edge of the bed, shivering from the labor. “Yes, okay,” I said.
The epidural was placed and I laid back down. Soon I noticed my right side going numb, but could still feel lots of pain on my left side. “I’m not going paralyzed, am I?” I asked my nurse, half joking, half unsure what going paralyzed would feel like (or not feel like).
“No, you’re not,” she said. “Lay on your left side to try and drain the medication over.” Laying on my side didn’t fix the problem, so the anesthesiologist came back in to straighten the tube . . . and the beautiful peace of numbness was mine. I fell asleep, totally exhausted, and woke up two hours later to the doctor-on-call setting up for delivery.
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