Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Midwife, The Anesthesiologist, And Me (4)

And Me - The Truth Comes Out

I've spent a lot of time thinking about pain and fear.  I don't know if that makes me really weird, or really self-actualized, or maybe it is normal and you've also pondered these topics?

Before we go any further into this topic can we discuss semantics for a moment?  I have a hard time with certain terms associated with pregnancy, and labor and delivery.  In the beginning, I have trouble telling people that I am pregnant.  It's not that I have a problem saying the word "pregnant", it seems so blunt when you say, "Hi, how are you? I'm pregnant."  and the word "expecting" sounds to me like you haven't finished the sentence, "Hi, how are you?  I'm (or Devin and I are) expecting... it to rain... the mailman to come soon... a baby."  Sometimes I wish we could go back a hundred years ago when you didn't talk about it, and people didn't ask about it, and everyone just sort of pretended it wasn't happening until suddenly: baby! Wow, how about that?! Except, of course, that would be no fun.  But it would make me less stressed. 

The other phrasing issue that stresses me out is about the delivery.  People ask, "Did you have an epidural?" Or they'll say, "Did you go natural?"  And while it is easy to answer these questions, "No." "Yes."  When I am trying to explain how I feel about the whole thing in a blog post, I don't like to say, "During my natural childbirth"... because what does that make the experience of a woman who did have an epidural, "unnatural"?  Well I'm certainly not comfortable with that.  I've heard some people say "unmedicated", I can't quite put my finger on why that one disturbs me, but I am also uncomfortable with it.  Be that as it may, I don't know any other way to describe it.  If you do, please share. Also, am I the only one who gets stressed about how to phrase things?

And now finally to the point.  Heather was my third unmedicated labor and delivery.  (I'm getting stressed about that whole sentence, should I just have written labor? Just delivery? Stay with me folks.)  When people find out I get reactions like, "Wow, you're so brave" or "you're so tough" or "I wish I could do that".  And so I feel like it's time for me to be honest.

This isn't about bravery for me.  It isn't about being tough.  It seems to me that people experience pain differently, and in large part I think that is based on our past experiences and how we registered the pain from them.  We see portrayed on tv and in films the pain and agony of childbirth, and it is so easy for that to become the focus of the experience, until the fear of that pain is all we recognize.  UNLESS there are other fears that become a controlling factor, and override any fear of pain.  For me, make that two greater fears.

You know one of them already, my fear of needles that has been under much discussion in my last few posts.  Yes I have a distressing fear of needles, but as many of you know under certain circumstances I can bring myself to put up with them: when I had a root canal I most certainly let them numb me, and every month when I have to have my TSH checked I handle that pretty well too (although it took me years to not cry when they did that... embarrassing).  And so if the fear of needles was my only problem I probably would have had an epidural with each of my babies (Um, in the spirit of honesty maybe not all three, I was feeling quite empowered after our time in the Netherlands, and I might have had Hallie natural.  But with both Hallie and Heather when I got to transition the fear of the pain I remembered made me really not want to go through with it, so if it really had been only needles I might have talked myself into an epidural.  We'll never know.)

But I have one more deep dark fear that only a handful of people know about and it is really the big deal breaker when it comes to me and a leisurely pain free experience.  I'm going to let you in on the secret, because I don't want people to continue lingering under the impression that I am brave.

I am afraid of being stabbed in the small of my back.  When Devin is unloading the dishwasher and my back is to him, and I turn around and find him putting the knives away, I get a sick feeling in my stomach - and he's the person I trust most in the world.  When I'm going up the stairs I have to chant in my head, "you will not get stabbed.  no one is going to hurt you."  I can't sleep with my back to an open door, because it makes my back feel too exposed and I can't relax.

I'm crazy, I know.  I have no idea why I am plagued with this fear, I have had no bad experiences with knives or back injuries to validate it.  I also don't know when it first started, but I think it began developing in high school.  And now you know.  I realize, rationally, that a needle is not a knife, and that the anesthesiologist will not  be "stabbing" me with intent to kill, but for some reason my brain just doesn't care - all it recognizes is sharp metally object going in to the small of my back and every morsel of my body screams "No thank you".  There you have it.  Maybe you think less of me, but at least now you know the truth.


  1. Good to know ;)
    Well, if for some reason you must have an epidural or something of the sort - tell your nurse you require being put to sleep instead or that you need some medication to help you relax.

  2. I think one of your more endearing moments was when you made me walk down the dark street with my hand on the small of your back. It made me feel like a really useful engine. Sorry, too much Thomas.

  3. Is it also a fear of not being able to see what is going on behind you? Fear of being stabbed in the small of your back is very valid, I definitely don't like the thought of that either. I still think you are amazing and brave for having your children 'unmedicated'

  4. I have a fear of being shot by people hiding behind fences. I have no idea why.

  5. FYI: I never comment. I always read.

    I'm throughly enjoying your pregnancy-labor-delivery posts.

    The fear of needles seems semi-normal. The fear of "being stabbed in the small of your back" might be the craziest thing I've heard today - and that's saying a lot because my three-year-old says CRAZY things and we were in the car together for two hours.