Today I paid my twice-yearly visit to the dentist for a cleaning and exam. I’m blessed with healthy (if crooked) teeth -- and since my mom was the office manager at a dental office, I’ve been very conscientious about maintenance all along.
I also figured out fairly recently that I have very sensitive teeth and the anxiety I felt during even simple procedures was pretty debilitating. The muscles in my entire body would be clenched so tight that I ached all over and sometimes I'd be completely wiped out and good for nothing for the rest of the day after a visit.
What does all of this have to do with labor and delivery? Pain management techniques! It’s my unwavering belief that there is no shame in pain medication! None! Whatsoever!
As a doula, people often seem afraid to tell me that they’re planning to use an epidural for pain relief. I really want them to believe it when I let them know it doesn’t matter to me. At all! My interest, and my job as a doula, is helping women have a satisfactory birth experience — whatever that means to them. My role is to provide physical, emotional, and informational support. Want to hear about the risks and benefits of different medical procedures? I’m on it! But it’s your decision and your birth — I’m just there to help.
Everyone is so different. For me, giving birth without pain medication seemed do-able and something I wanted — and, it must be noted, I was fortunate to have two short and uneventful labors when my sons were born.
On the other hand, I have friends who only use breathing techniques to deal with dental pain — who don’t even use Novocaine when they get a filling. And there is no way on God’s green earth that I would ever submit to such a thing — that sounds like pure crazy talk to me!
There are lots of good reasons to plan for a natural childbirth. There are also lots of good reasons to plan for an epidural. And there are plenty of good reasons to change your mind somewhere in the middle! But, I think that the key is to know your options, to make a plan and to ask for the help you need.
This time, I decided to own my fear. My plan was to get some prescription Xanax and bring along noise-canceling headphones and not feel like I had to make small talk with the dental hygienist. Instead I closed my eyes and zoned out to the sweet sounds of Abbey Road. I was in and out of the chair in no time!
Lessons learned: Know Yourself. Know Your Options. Get Help. Make a Plan. It works!