Figured I'd better finish this before I totally forget...
So Zach was born. It was painful but quick and for that I was thankful. But then the really miserable part started. Doctors and nursing digging their knuckles into my tummy trying to contract my uterus. Doctor turning me into a hand puppet to dig out blood clots. Stitching up a second degree tear. Birth was painful, but at least you get something out of it. This? Was just painful. Unbelievably painful. This was the moment I really started wishing for an epidural. Apparently, it was the same things they did to me when Morgan was born but of course I didn't feel any of it. It just seemed like everyone was being so rough and had no compassion or sympathy.
That's when it occured to me that trying for a "natural" birth in a place with a 90% epidural rate may be doomed to be unpleasant. If there is a gentle way to do thing, the staff will not have experience with it. And they will probably just be annoyed that you are fussing and moaning when all of those reasonable mommies with their epidurals are keeping quiet and letting them go about their business.
When I talked to my sisters on the phone shortly after Zach was born I told them to never have an unmedicated birth. "Get the sweet sweet drugs!", I told them. Upon further reflection I've refined my position somewhat. Here is my advice now:
*Set yourself up for success. If it is very important to you to have a natural, genle birth, you need to have health care providers who support this decision. You may have to go outside of your insurance plan to find the right doctor/midwife/hospital/birth center.
*Be prepared. Its probably worth it to take a childbirth class. Lamaze, Bradley, Hynobirthing, something. I read books about all of these methods, but its hard to remember in the heat of the moment unless you've actually practiced them.
*Get help. Several friends and aquantances suggested that we hire a doula to be our advocate in the hospital. I scoffed at the idea. I wish I had considered it more seriously. When things start moving very quickly, it would be nice to have someone not directly involved to help things go your way.
Ultimately, I think I would choose a natural birth again. One HUGE difference between this time and Morgan's birth was the recovery time. This time, I felt 95% back to normal in less than a week. Four months after Morgan was born I still felt some pain. It is much easier to push correctly when you can feel what you are doing. But I no longer regret having the epidural and other pain meds with Morgan. It was the right decision at the time, as was the decision to pass on the medication this time around.
Finally, I've learned to look at birth like I look as weddings. You spend an awful lot of time planning for it and you get a distinct picture in your mind of what it should look like. And when the moment comes, there are things that may be out of your control and it may or may not go as planned. Whether it was a perfect experience or a disappointing one, birth is just one moment and what is really important is what you do next - parent your child.