epidural vs. natural labor birth story

An All Natural Childbirth vs. Childbirth with an Epidural

This is two birth stories from one woman. All birth stories are not for the faint of heart. After all, this is labor we’re talking about.

Some stories are intriguing, some are surprising, some breeze right through, and some break down every detail. In these stories Jessica really takes the time to break down every detail of the experience, especially with her all-natural birth!

This story is not for the squeamish but shares very clearly what her experience with an all-natural birth felt like. The unique sensations of the importance of breathing, the difficulty of dealing with the pain, and more.

Please enjoy these heartfelt and detailed birth stories weighing the drastic differences the same woman can experience in a medication-free vs. an epidural birth.

epidural vs. natural labor birth story


One Natural and One Epidural: Did I make the right choice?

When I talk about having my babies now, it’s with a wry smile that I got an epidural with the
wrong one.

With my daughter, I had intended to deliver naturally and without pain meds.

But what also made her birth eventful is that based on my gut feeling I chose not to get an amniocentesis during
pregnancy to determine what kind of abnormality she had — if she did.

The doctors had told me to abort before giving me any reason, so having an amnio after that didn’t feel right.

She was just a small baby because of a two-vessel cord, and the bowel obstruction she had did not
indicate that she was unfit to carry, I reasoned.


The Night My Contractions Started

The time of her birth came in early November 2015. One late night, I felt a shift in my abdomen and cramps began. I took a bath to relax, but contractions steadily continued.

We ultimately ended up in the hospital and I was told I was borderline pre-eclamptic so… Surprise!

It was Go Time.

After I was admitted, I intended to ride out my labor on my feet and have something of an experience like everyone sees in the movies. Instead:

  • I was induced with Pitocin
  • Directed to stay in bed
  • Not to get up

My contractions became three times worse when I laid there, so I kept sneaking off to the bathroom. It was some while later, after several painful cervical checks during which my nurses told me to just get my epidural over with, that I finally did.

At that point, I was 4 to 5 centimeters along. While the pain of my contractions was getting harder to deal with, I was still holding steady and had only started to feel like I was enduring my labor.

And while I did not feel I accepted an epidural the most willingly, it did bring a lot of relief.

I did not feel anything after the epidural.

All I did was take a long, long nap.

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Then It Came Time to Push!

The lights were flipped on and my soft, dark cave of a hospital room became a glaring bright medical theatre as I was set up in bed, something like twelve staff filed in, and it was time to bring my daughter into the world.

When I mention I felt nothing after the epidural, I mean that I can sum that up in a particular moment during pushing in which I was eventually told that I needed to push harder because my baby’s heart rate was beginning to fall.

Without that guidance, I had barely tried pushing at all because I didn’t know how hard or not I was. Until then, I hadn’t noticed the student doctor in the corner who was cringing while watching me give birth.

There was the nurse who tried to coach me on how to breathe.

I remember a male doctor up front, with a blonde female doctor to his side.

When I was finally told I needed better pushes, she delivered in about 20
more minutes after seven contractions. Voila.


What did that birth with an Epidural feel like?

Birth itself was kind of a trip. My memory of that moment is kind of fuzzy… not memorable. Except that I was thirsty. And the room was very bright. And I hoped I was pushing right.

The only real part I felt? When she came out all the way. I guess my body was feeling everything far more than I was taking in because I let go of a great breath, and it was like that breath left my body with her. She was born.

NICU staff members swept her to the other side of the room as I began to shiver uncontrollably from the birthing meds I had been given. I felt very cold, and it took three warmed blankets to manage that.

Next, I couldn’t breathe due to having an asthma attack, and so my worry over why I heard no baby crying yet couldn’t find footing. I was sewn up from a first-degree tear as the epidural wore off. Then I asked for water to drink, and was
able to take some sips.


How Was Recovery from an Epidural Birth?

Recovery was a bit better, though I missed seeing my baby. I had been shivering too hard and had an asthma attack from bad breath coaching, and was not able to pay more attention to my daughter when my husband tried to show her to me at my side.

I only had a brief glimpse of the blanket around her, a flash of white and stripes, and then she was taken away.
My husband had tried to show her to me after her breathing was attended to, but she had already guzzled two ounces of meconium and had obvious needs that landed her in NICU care fairly quickly.

Before birth, I’d told my husband to stay with her if she had to go straight to NICU, and I waved him away at that moment too… Since I do not count the five minutes in which I fell asleep three times while trying to look at her, and still failed to see her properly while I was told to sign a paper for her admittance to NICU.

The next time I actually saw her was two days later.

After she was born, blood was drawn from my new daughter, my husband, and myself that later determined she had a partial Trisomy 18 that should have been fatal before, in the process of, or shortly after delivery.

A life measured in moments only.

But I am happy to say she’s the first Little Love my body has had the privilege to bring home, and — although her early years have been an absolute adventure — she’s three-and-a-half years old now.

The experience of my first child was a scary way to become prepared for the birth of my second, which came in July 2019.

RELATED: 3 More Women Share Their Experiences with Epidural vs. All Natural Births


positive birth story epidural vs all natural labor and delivery

Four Years Later: The Story of my Unmedicated Birth

Achieving my son came after three losses since having had his big sister.

I had an uneventful pregnancy, even if I did refuse an amnio this time again.

During a 17-week loss in between my children, I’d gotten an amnio with that one “to be sure” and found out that baby’s results were that he was a carrier.

The next day we found out he had died in utero due to a cord accident — that after a month’s time in which I had migraines three times each week from the anxiety of getting that test in case of another prenatal/postnatal experience like my daughter’s.

So for this son, I chose not to test.

But I did get a NIPT screen, which was clear with a nuchal measurement of 2.04 that couldn’t be prettier, ultrasounds were all perfect, and my gut feeling was unworried.

In the span of time of my pregnancy, my husband had gotten a job in a different state. We relocated, but I was able to secure new care with a birthing center.


My birth plan going into birth for my son was the same as with my first in that I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth.

But events being what they were for my daughter, it was decided my son would be born in the hospital the birthing center was affiliated with.

Having had an epidural after the painful contractions of my first delivery, I wasn’t at all sure I could do it.

I ended up praying my body would have an “easy” birth. Just let it be easy, let me make it through intact, I said to myself.

I spent much of my time anxious about how things would go. But the midwives who tended me, and a healthy dose of self-forgiveness for the complications that came after my first birth and more recent upheavals in my life that took away from my original plans for my second baby, pulled me through.

  • Like my daughter, my son was born in his thirty-ninth week.
  • Like my daughter, my son was having complications. Not pre-eclampsia this time, but polyhydramnios and reduced fetal activity.
  • And once again, I was induced.
  • Pitocin was used again, but this time raised very slowly.

And I’m truly not sure how it is that I had a Pitocin drip and no pain during that labor. It was like very, very mild period cramps. Mostly pressure. And feeling the hip, sciatic, and tailbone pain that followed me through both pregnancies.

But the miraculous thing was, I felt no pain.

The staff, doula, friend who was able to come, and my husband all seemed to take it as a challenge that I should feel more pain. Let’s crank the Pitocin. And so on, because I was so stoic.

I think it’s possible that my pregnant belly had stretched too far to feel anything, as I had a vertical line of numbness along where the linea nigra was on my belly.

Maybe it was divine intervention that I should have a mostly painless birthing process, I don’t know. But labor was so easy I was bored. I kept waiting for the time I would need an epidural, but nothing was out of my ability to manage.

I was still 2 centimeters, I felt almost nothing. Then my midwife asked if we would like to try a Foley bulb.


When they Began to Progress my Labor with a Foley Bulb it got Really Interesting.

After the bulb was inflated, I went from next to no pain to immediate discomfort, feeling pressure in my colon, and pain grabbed me like a sharper, steadier, spike in the middle point of my abdomen.

Although very intense, that was it. But the pain from the bulb and the tension that was set for it may have sent me into too much pain, so I was given a medication that made me feel drunk and like I had to remember to take breaths. Or remember how to talk. Or remember how to do… anything.

But eventually that strange state of meds wore off and the pain was bearable again, in that I suppose my tolerance had adjusted to it. The bulb had moved me from 2 centimeters… to 6 and was removed just before my water broke.

Shortly after my water broke, I abruptly vomited every bit of Jell-O and raspberry tea I’d had since admittance. Labor moved quickly then.

I don’t remember so much of it by that point except:

  • That I was on my back in the hospital bed with my eyes squeezed shut.
  • I know I was crying.
  • I remember hitting the sidearm of the bed with a fist at one point or whimpering.
  • My midwife reminded me to breathe each time.
  • I felt… watched over.

Not the glaring bright like last time, but watched over in dimmer lighting. I was told to “Breathe in. Big, slow breath.
Breathe it out. Let it go. Let go. Remember your breath.”

And it was like breadcrumbs back to feeling like I could handle things again. Over and over.


What Natural Birth Felt Like for Me: in Detail

When natural birth is described as “surges”, that remembrance of breath when overridden by nearly-unbearable pain is what that means. The breathing exercises women learn before their labors aren’t about how to breathe right, or anything else. It’s remembering to breathe. Remembering breath. To trade away pain for breath. Breath is how it

After some time floating in my pain world, I was asked to readjust my position, to be on my side. After much trouble (as I’d recently relaxed entirely into pubic bone dysfunction) I made it into a side-lying position with a peanut ball between my knees.

And then I was asked to move again and ended up on my hands and knees.

Something about being on my hands and knees must have clicked for my body because that was the end of it.

I went from 7 centimeters full force to 10 centimeters very quickly when my baby’s head dropped into my pelvis. And that intensity of labor went full throttle as I felt like throwing up. But instead of throwing up I felt a massive lurch downward.

The remainder of my birth, I screamed.

I was afraid, so I screamed. I was angry that I felt out of control, so screamed that. It hurt so much in my abdomen and it felt good to scream it.

And each scream, my midwife told me to lower my tone so it was belly yells instead of high-pitched. Because belly yells are useful. High pitches are not. Belly yells move belly muscles which contribute to bearing down. But I honestly couldn’t stop screaming.

It was just where I was at. Somewhere, floating in my head, in pain, and screaming is how I coped because I couldn’t crawl out of my body away from the pain. So, on my fours, head to bed, every muscle taut, I screamed.

In good news, I barely felt the “ring of fire”. It was a shadow in the distance. It was the abdominal cramp that wouldn’t let me go that felt awful. Or the way everything felt dry in my body because my waters had been released. I could feel baby descend like you might use your tongue to feel a burn in your mouth, raw like that.

And I couldn’t stop it. I was told not to push because I was only 7 centimeters, but my body did it anyway. “I’m sorry—pushing—can’t stop!” I sobbed and pushed anyway because my body had lurched again.

That puke feeling, that downward curl of my spine, and that final letting go of every muscle in that region – that’s what it means when women say pushing feels like having a bowel movement. It’s not that you’re using the muscles it takes to have a bowel movement, but that those muscles can’t help themselves due to the stretching happening right next to them.

Whether or not you pass stool during birth, it’s not stoppable. I felt embarrassed because I thought I might, so cried that I was sorry if I did, but kept going. Luckily, I didn’t. But I felt that lack of control over that set of muscles too. It’s just… so much pain.


I Began Yelling for an Epidural During Transition.

I was yelling for an epidural by then. In fact, I yelled five times for an epidural, and I think being asked four of those times if I was sure stalled me enough for the point of transition during birth to complete. Because by then my son was already crowning.

And then I felt a lurch and I guess his head was out. I didn’t hear anything, but then I heard someone say his shoulders were out.

And then I didn’t need anyone to say anything because the pain was already subsiding as I felt the rest of his body come out. Then the umbilical cord was dangling. There was some rush of fluid, and my hospital socks got soaked.

By then I was wrung out like a washrag in a drained bathtub.

I still hadn’t heard anything. I looked at my husband, who had tensed. The room felt tense, like an invisible livewire. My son wasn’t crying. There were a lot of people in the room again. I started asking, staccato, “Is he alive? Did I kill him? Is he alive? Is he gone?”

It had been over a minute.

I was later told he’d been wrapped three times in his cord… around his neck, his torso, and his left foot.

And then he cried from the other side of the room, and everybody, every person could breathe again. Once
measured, my husband held our second Little Love.

I was returned to my back. I wasn’t out of breath really, but the enormity of birth was an adrenaline rush that took time to leave behind.

My everything down there was numbed with a few injections, and the midwife got to work repairing my second-degree tear. It was almost peaceful, except for me yelping when the needle felt sharp. Like sending a pointy little object through a badly skinned knee a few times.

But at my side, I could see my son. I was able to breathe, able to appreciate.

No chills, no isolation, no utter exhaustion. My son was able to be laid on my chest, as my heart of hearts hoped he could be, and it made this whole experience different and better.

He found his way to my breast and nursed like a champ without even being shown, and it was so, so reassuring for all to just be well.


Why my Epidural Birth Was With the Wrong Baby. And Comparing the 2 Experiences.

I mentioned at the very beginning that I had an epidural with the wrong baby, right?

Allow me to finally share why that is: After 31 hours, my daughter was born 6 pounds, 8.6 ounces, and 21”. My son? After 15 hours he was born 10 pounds, 1 ounce, and 22” like the Kool-Aid man crashing in.

Would I say that really made a difference now, though? No, it really didn’t.

I think I could have had a perfectly fine birth with my daughter with no epidural. And I really did have a good birth with my son with no epidural.

My daughter showed distress and having the epidural on board would have made that experience an easier emergency caesarian section if she’d had to come out faster than I was able to deliver.

My son was in distress upon delivery but I was able to have that experience and he came around. Experiencing the birth of a smaller baby allowed me a faster healing time normally advertised for a natural birth. This was just as well since my husband and I had to follow her to a different hospital that could handle the medical interventions she needed.

My experience with a large second baby showed me that bodies are certainly capable of far, far more than we are
given confidence to do, but that we still need to treat ourselves more gently than we might think after what Nature puts us through.

The difference though, I believe, was in heart rates – and were I interested in more children than my two, I would choose the birth experience that supports the option my baby needs for heart health.

Yes, begin naturally, but it’s baby’s heart that will ultimately lead the way.

RELATED: 3 More Women Share Their Experiences with Epidural vs. All Natural Births

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jessica plummer of chromo challengesThis Birth Story has been a wonderful submission from Jessica Plummer from ChromoChallenges.

Jess Plummer blogs on ChromoChallenges about Trisomy 18, Balanced Translocation, and Special Needs living. Her life as a medical mom is where these issues came together in 2015, and she’s here to share the care tips she’s learned as a medical mom, and where possible helping them develop their own approaches.

Jess attended Missouri State University and has a background in technical writing (BS degree, 2009) with creative writing flair (MA degree, 2011). Her experience spans research, writing, copyediting, and data entry experience in creative, archaeological, medical/scientific, and manufacturing fields.


Want to hear what happened to her daughter Abby after she was born? Read her growing story.

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  1. It as hard to come by educated people about epidurals vs. natural childbirth. However, you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks.

    1. Well thank you I appreciate that. I tried to get a lot of information from these other women who have actually experienced labor and delivery natural and with an epidural, as well as my own experience.