Monday, April 7, 2008

Tattoos and Giving Birth

4 years ago, while I was still pregnant with Sweet Terror, I was sitting on a park bench, watching my kids frolic, when another mom came and sat next to me. I noticed that she had 3 kids of her own and, also like me, she had tattoos. Ok, so I only have one small one, a lizard on my foot, and she had both her arms covered from shoulder to wrist. Feeling a sudden kinship through our similarities I couldn't help but say, "I hope you don't mind me being nosy, but, seeing your tattoos, I just have to ask, did you have all your babies naturally?" (Naturally meaning no drugs). She got a big ol' smile and proudly said, "I sure did!" And from there we had a long and wonderful conversation about tattoos and natural childbirth.

I love telling people that I have had all four of my children naturally. Yup, I am one tough mammasita! Ok, so I'm not being a hundred percent honest here. I do get a shot of Stadol in my i.v. but I'm not sure how much pain it kills because it still hurts like nothing else can. And I actually asked for an epidural with Sweet Terror but couldn't because she came too fast (that includes caster oil and deserves it's own post).

Why go natural? For lots of reasons. One: I am a sniveling, yellow tailed, chicken. I can't stand the thought of needles in my back, someone messing with my spine, or having it go wrong (as it did for my sister, and that was awful). Two: I like to think I'm tough. And three: I read way too many stories about Native Americans when I was little and if they could do it, so could I.

After giving birth to my second I started reading in magazines about using hypnosis or focus therapy in childbirth instead of drugs. Everyone was talking about it as if it were some great new invention. I felt even cooler as people would bring up these articles and I could say, in a snobby superior voice, "Oh yes, I used focus therapy and self hypnosis for my first two children." To which most would ask if I had taken a class or where I had learned to do it. There was no class for me, I just did it.

The first time I ever used "Focus Therapy" or self hypnosis for pain was when I was about 8. I was driving home with my dad after a fun daddy-daughter date at the shooting range when I was suddenly in physical agony due to some intestinal something-or-other. All I knew was that I had had it before and it usually entails me writhing on the floor in agony. I felt I couldn't turn into a whiny baby after having just made my dad proud by actually hitting my target several times and almost getting a bulls eye. Plus it was going to be a good 30 minutes till we got home and had a bathroom handy. I panicked. Then I told myself, "Be an indian warrior." I remembered reading about Native American boys going through certain trials before becoming a man. I recalled several stories about how they had to learn to ignore pain. So, what I did was I pretended there was a ball of white light inside me. I focused on that white light and pretended to be in that light where I couldn't feel my body. I stared at the road with a glazed look, not really seeing anything but not wanting to give my dad reason to ask questions. I was able to carry on a conversation with him, only coming out of my light long enough to give a small answer or to say, "Yeah." or "Uh huh". And I made it all the way home without so much as a groan. I don't think he ever knew how much pain I was in that night.

When it came time to have my first baby everyone was asking if I would go natural or get an epidural. My answer was that I was going to try going natural but was open to anything. I don't think I even made a sound until it came time to push (Again, I had read many times that Native American women wouldn't make a sound when delivering a child). I pretended that my head was dislocated from my body and that I was watching the pain instead of feeling it. Part of my focus included a rhythm I was keeping by swinging my knee from side to side. The only time I lost it was when people would touch my knee or try to hold it still (my poor mother in-law, I about bit her head off for touching it). DSSH finally realized what was going on and was very good about protecting that knee. It was still painful beyond belief. I felt it all, but with the focus technique I was able to free my body from reacting to the pain (does that make sense?). Total time 4 hours and only 10 pushes.

With my second baby I used the same technique and also used it to keep my body calm enough that I was able to keep from pushing until the doctor could make it. As soon as she came in I asked, "Can I push now?" She said yes and he came out in one push. Total time 4 hours and one push.

Now my third baby (Monster Man) was a lot harder, but most of that was due to a doctor who would not listen to me no matter how many times I told her how my body worked. I was in so much pain for so long that I had to sing in order to stay focused. This was very entertaining to my husband because I was singing songs from primary when I was a little girl in church. Try singing this when in full labor. He came after 9 hours and about 20 pushes. Stupid doctor!

Baby 4, like I mentioned above is another story for another post.

And as for this baby? I had asked for an epidural with Sweet Terror because I thought she was going to be my last and figured I should just try it. But now I'm thinking I don't want to ruin the awesome record I have going here. So, I'm going to do this one natural too. I can promise you this, though, if I have to do this one more time I am going to ask for the epidural as soon as I'm 3 months along. Can one be kept numb for 6 months?

As a funny side note, the mom with the tattoos shared this little tid bit with me: "Yeah, I thought I would be the coolest mom in the world because I'm so laid back and I've got all these cool tattoos, but whenever I go to my 9 year old son's school he asks me to wear long sleeves so I don't embarrass him. I guess there is some cosmic rule that mom's just can't be cool." I consider that a piece of great wisdom from an experienced mother.

What was your most memorable birthing experience?


Jen said...

Stadol does nothing for pain. It just makes one groggy so one is not only in pain, but also incredibly sleepy and cranky from wanting to sleep, but not being able to because it hurts so dang bad...

LAHansen said...

Totally amazed by you...

I only have two birth stories and they are both worthy of full blog posts (which I will some point). But here's a quick little note: With Baby #2 I went to the hospital and said to the nurse, "I'm not good at the pain thing, but I'm really good at pushing. I'm saying this because when it's time to push...the baby will come fast." She said "OK" and then promptly decided that I was exaggerating...flash forward a couple of hours. It's time to push...nurse comes in and says..."let's see how you do with a little pushing." After push #1 she said, "Wow" and after push #2 she told me to stop pushing and yelled down the hall to get the doctor...the doc ran in the room in time to literally catch the baby's head as it exited my body. The nurse then said (in essence), "You were right about pushing."

You'd think after delivering lots of babies these people whould learn to listen to the mom...

CC said...

I consider our adoption processes 11 and 28 months of labor. Hard, heavy, and horrible. Does that count?

Sea Star said...

I too am too scared of needles to ever let one come close to my spinal cord. I have had all three of mine natural.... well I did have some sort of IV drug with #3 because the doctor was too busy and asked me if I could wait for a little bit before pushing. I said if you are going to make me wait I wanted to at least "take the edge off" the pain. Even with the waiting. I was only at the hospital about 2 hours before Henry arrived.

#2 was even faster. The doctor didn't make we wait that time. My poor boys both looked all bruised from coming so quickly.

With my first I had a med student there helping the doctor. She was supposed to do the suction of the nose and mouth once the head came out. When Sophie came out with a cleft lip. The med student fainted. That is one of those things that really freak out a new mother.

Sonja said...

I feel pretty lucky to say that I don't have any interesting birth stories. They were all very memorable to me. But very straight forward. I have gone to nurse-midwives, delivered at the hospital and had epidurals. My smallest baby was 8 lbs, biggest was 9 lbs 3oz. All healthy and hungry right away.

If we have another baby, I want to deliver at home, so that will probably be interesting.

So, a tattoo needle is okay, but not one that is going to save you from immense pain? ;)

An Ordinary Mom said...

I firmly believe that all women labor differently so it is hard to compare one birth story to another. I know some women with really low pain tolerances, but can breeze through labor like no other. I also know other woman who are the complete opposite. Our bodies are all built differently and we all experience the pains of labor in different manners.

I know I have an incredibly high pain tolerance, but ended up requiring an epidural for my first delivery - need I say more than high risk pregnancy, induction, pitocin, and 4 hours of pushing during a 36+ hour labor. My second delivery? The epidural kicked in for the after birth.

I still admire you :) !!

Shannon said...

Thanks for stopping by today ( : We googled 'marshmallow shooters' to find exact instructions.
My husband kinda knew how to make them already, but we just wanted to be sure! The link in my post should take you to a set of instructions, too. Are you thinking of making them? They're a total hit with both little and big boys ( :

P.S. I love pistachios and think I'm going to have to try the ice-cream you mentioned!!! Thanks for the tip ( :

Charlotte said...

a) I had no idea you have a tattoo! I wish I'd seen it:)

b) I think every birth is worthy of it's own story. That's my favorite part of baby showers - how everyone gets to horrify the soon-to-be mom and impress each other with all the guts and glory:)

C) I really admire you for going natural. I had the epidural for #1 (because she was stillborn, I also had all kinds of other good drugs that they usually don't give laboring moms. I pretty much got whatever I wanted.) For #2 - epidural, 9 hrs labor, not too bad. #3 came in at just over 1 hour - no time for an epidural and that was absolutely the worst pain I've ever been in. I literally thought I was dying. I said good-bye to my husband. (It's hard being married to a woman who is both a wuss and highly dramatic.) So for #4 I figured I could go natural again, forgetting of course about the "dying" part. I tried the hypnobabies class. It didn't work even a little bit. He came in 46 minutes though but I was in such agony that I asked for an epidural - they put in the needle and then I told them I had to push. They never even got to hang the bag. Sigh.

d) I'm part Cherokee, you would've thought that would have helped me out more:)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I LOVE birthing stories. Women are just amazing.

Jen- Thanks for making me still feel like a tough girl =)

Lahansen- You just told the the exact situation I had with #1. That is why I worked so hard not to push with #2.

CC- from what I've heard I think adoption stories can totally compete with birthing stories. I can't imagine the work, pain, and will that goes into that process.

Sea Star- Oh my goodness! You really like to keep the hospital staff on their toes. =)

Sonja- I've never claimed to be rational. =) I would love to hear about all your different experiences. I've always wanted to try the different options for birthing but end up chickening out (or pleasing my equally chicken husband)

AOM- I think any labor that goes over 6 hours should just be taken C-section. I almost died with #3 and that was just a piddly 8 hours. I will NEVER say a woman is not amazing just because they had drugs (unless you are one of my sisters, but I just like to tease them). My hats go off to people who have to endure long painful deliveries!!!

Charlotte- I never knew about #1. That is quite the jump, from 9 hours delivery to an hour or less. How fun for the doctor =)

kay said...

i'm totally impressed! i wanted to go natural but the blizzard that struck up during our trip to the hospital put me in such a tizzy all i wanted was to relax. so i went for an epidural.

did you love jane eyre? i read wuthering heights right after that. jane was the best. and i just finished the handmaiden's tale. very interesting. i'll try a stephen crane next.

Happy Days said...

I love your blog!
I plan on comming back! I had three epidurals! I am a wuss! I had a bad reaction to the second and still got one with the third! The third I ended up with a spinal headache and they had to take me back to the or the next day to have a blood patch. Not good! I still don't know how people do it with out the meds. I give you sooooo much credit!

Family Adventure said...

I had both mine naturally. The first not by choice, but because he came so darn quickly. Like you, I was open to anything, but he made the decision for me.

For number two I decided to do the natural thing, and it was fine. He was quick, too.

In fact, if I'd had a third, the doctor told me to make sure I was at the hospital before labour started, as they figured it would be too quick for me to make it there from home.

So, I was lucky, all in all. I'm pretty sure that if I'd had long births, I would have been all over the drugs. I am not tough by any stretch of the imagination.

I think you're amazing, doing this a fifth time. And I betcha it'll be a quick one, just like the first ones :)


Summer said...

Most memorable birth experience: Birthing my first child. The delivery ended in a fourth degree tear, one broken tailbone and 45 stitches. Recovery was a beast, and lasted a good 9 months. He did more damage to me than my subsequent deliveries combined and he was the smallest of my babies. My other two were over 10 pounds.

Amber M. said...

I love delivery stories. You au natural women simply amaze me. I'm high risk, too, so mine are always induced and I've had an epidural all three times. BUT my husband got to deliver my baby girl (number 2) when the doctor walked him through "catching" her. It was amazing. Funny side note...he asked the doctor if he needed gloves and my sweet doctor said, "Why? She's your baby!"

Packer Family said...

I wanted Natural birth so bad!!!! I labored for 13 hours waiting for the pain to pay off but Caden,s head was too big, He was stuck and trying to come out the wrong way. I begged and pleaded with the doctor to find a way to get him out without a C-cection but after 38 hours of Labor they had to get him out via C-section. My second one was a scheduled C-section and it was like a vacation in comparisson. I will never get to experince a Natural birth :(

Lynell said...

Such fun stories. So, here is my two cents. My #1 was while we were still in college. I went totally natural because we were stupid enough not to have insurance and we had no money. All I can say is near death experience! I have nothing but horrible memories of the whole thing. #2 My water broke and by the time we made it to the hospital there was no time for an epidural. So that was a natural deliver too. Painful but least it was fast! #3 I had an epidural. It was a totally different experience. Absolutely wonderful, spiritual, I felt like I actually got to experience the birth of my son. Same thing for #4 and then #5 was natural again because of the time thingy.

Pretty crazy now that I think about it. But I have to say that if I had the choice I would pick an epidural everytime.

But that is what is so great! Everyone can choose what is the best thing for them. Ü

Magirk said...

I tried to go natural with our first, with a midwife n' everything.

But with fibromyalgia, I only made it about 12 hours, then my body darn near gave out on me. I couldn't take the next 10 hours without the epidural. Plus, her head got stuck in my pelvis somehow and wouldn't even budge, after 3.5 hours of pushing. Hello C-section. But I did successfully sleep between the contractions for about the first 8 hours! :D It was a miracle.

With the twins' birth, I think they gave me some sulfur, even though I told them I was allergic to it. They were whispering about 'should I give it to her anyway?' next to me, thinking I couldn't hear I suppose. Head nodding was the Dr.'s reply.

Next thing I know, I'm hallucinating and screaming about going home, clawing at the bed and begging Hubby to get me out. Yeah, I'm still mad about it.

Since a C-section was imminent, we just went with that from the get-go, since I was afraid of complications with twins and a previous C-section. The epidural didn't work right, so in the operating room, they're poking me asking, 'Can you feel this? Can you feel this?' And I'm saying, 'Yes! Please don't cut me right now! I can feel it all!'

Yank it out, try again, hurriedly, in about 10 minutes, we're ready to go. The babies came out only 2 minutes apart, I saw them both before they went to NICU, then I instantaneously fell asleep for a few hours.

At least the second labor wasn't 22 hours long with 3.5 hours of unsuccessful pushing.

I admire you for going natural. I've always wanted to do it. Just too many 'factors' against me, I guess.

Poppy said...

try this one on for size!
I don't know how the next one will turn out...we'll just have to see!

Anonymous said...

#1: Had an epidural. Labor and delivery were calm, beautiful bliss!

#2: Had an epidural. Labor and delivery smooth, fast, and as memorable as ever.

#3: Had an epidural, but it didn't take all the way. Could feel all pain in left side and screamed like crazy; was too pained to notice the baby until she was at least an hour old. *sniff*

#4: Had an epidural, but baby was born in about and hour, so it hadn't "taken" all the way. I was fine until actual delivery, which hurt a lot but I had enough epidural in me to be relaxed and enjoy the moment.

#5 is on his or her way--I totally plan to have an epidural so I can enjoy childbirth like I did each time i was pain-free! (by the way--never totally pain free; they make you dilate to at least a six before you can get it, so you do get to experience many painful contractions with no drugs, first!)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Happy Days- see, stories like that just freak me out.

Family Adventure- LUCKY! All birthings should be so quick.

Summer- You deserve a medal for being brave enough to have more children after an experience like that!

Amber M- I would for my husband to have that experience. Though I wonder if I could make myself let go of his hand long enough to let him do that.

Packer- I feel for you, but at the same time envy you. I really would like to do a C-section. I begged for one with #1 but everyone just laughed at me.

Lynell- Ok, it is stories like that that make me want to try an epidural

Magirk- What did you need the Sulfur for? All I can say is that making me hallucinate would be like turning me into the Hulk, you just don't want to be around when it happens.

LaDonna- Being my sis ter I can just say, "You wimp!" but I won't. I just worry that the one time I do choose to have an epidural I will have it go wrong. If it did go wrong I just might harm one of the nurses.

Lisa said...

I've done it both ways and I would never ever go without drugs again. For me, it was a much better experience with the drugs!

Tama said...

My birth story: I had told my new doctor (we had moved to another state) that my babies come really fast. He says, "Ya, ya. Whatever." Fast forward to the hospital six months later--he is RUNNING down the hall of the hospital because the nurse called him (after I had only been in labor and in the hospital for 30 minutes) to tell him to hurry because my baby was coming. I delivered my baby daughter myself, in two pushes, while my husband held my knees in position as the doctor came sliding into the room. He took one look at me and the baby (she was 8 pounds) and said, "WOW!!! You really do have babies fast!" DUH! He let me know that for the next baby that I needed to stay within 30 minutes of a hospital during the last month of pregnancy and if my water broke at home I probably wouldn't make it to the hospital to have the baby. I did make it to the hospital with #3 but only because he was over 9 pounds and it took 45minutes to deliver him.

Amy said...

Wow, you're a brave momma. I really thought I might make it a la natural with my first, but took the epideral at 8 centimeters. I was fine until then and then broke down. I had an epideral the second time, and would probably have one again. Though, whenever I get to listening or talking about it all, I get very scared! =)

WomensDaily said...

Oh my! I give you tons of credit for giving birth naturally!

Misty said...

I had an epidural, which didn't work, with Hannah - - she was over 9 pounds and I was in labor for 47 hours before she was born. I was able to push (as the doctor pulled) her head out, and they found her shoulders were too large, she was stuck. So. They rammed her out, after cutting me open down south, a 4th degree episiotomy.... feeling every thing perfectly. THAT I will never forget....

I now have c-sections, gratefully, so the choice to go natural isn't really an option for me! (wink)


Rachel said...

I know this is late, but I love hearing others' birth stories.

Early in the pregnancy we were told our miracle son had polycystic dysplastic kidney syndrome. They didn't know whether it was one or both.

Dumb me immediately googled it. The first thing that came up was an autopsy photo of a poor baby who passed away at birth.

It was terrifying. If both kidneys were involved, there was no way my son would live past his delivery day. I was willing be pregnant with my tiny kicking and hiccuping son for the rest of my life.

Soon they told me his other kidney was okay and I had a wonderful pregnancy.

Delivery was AWESOME. Heck yeah, it hurt. But I had an amazing time with family and a birthing coach. The hospital let me climb into a bathtub until they realized I was progressing quickly.

My focus spot? My friend told me to quit clenching the tub rail during contractions. Being the "must impress the teacher type", I tried mightily to comply. It got me from 4cm to 10 real darn quick.

Pushing was a joke. After 2 tries, the nurse threatened me with a catheter since my full bladder was blocking the birth canal (fluids only, no drugs).

I ran for the bathroom to try to pee, and warned them the baby was close.

"yeah, yeah, first time mom, it'll be awhile".

"no, he's right there".

"get up and come back to the bed"

took two steps when they realized I was crowning. My wonderful friend and birthing coach actually grabbed a towel and caught him.

I was standing completely upright when he slipped out!

Get this... the doc left the room to GO PEE. The nurse looked terrified!

More details on my fun birth story on our blog. Birthing is NOT for wimps, but a healthy baby is worth it!