I don't remember exactly what I had during my labors-Fentanyl with my first and Phernergen with my second (sp?), I think-but I do know that they got me so much farther than I would have gone had I not chosen to accept them. Both of my labors started out with very strong, painful contractions (and I took Hypnobirthing classes both times, I know that using the word "pain" is discouraged, but "surges" just isn't a strong enough word) and were very prolonged, 32 hours with my first and 48 with my second. I went about 16 hours with my first with just the IV pain meds; PP were right, they didn't completely numb me, I could still feel the contractions, but the meds took enough of the edge off that I could work through them and keep my focus. I ended up accepting an epidural about mid-way through because I was making no progress (baby was async, never descended, C-section after 32 hours of labor) and I was exhausted, pure and simple. I didn't like it, didn't like the fact that it stranded me in the bed and robbed me of my freedom to walk and change positions, but I accept that it was necessary. Second baby, pretty much the same scenario; labor was very intense right from the beginning, I was very slow to progress, the pain meds helped me keep focus and helped me avoid the epi for much longer than I would have without them. Went about 38 of 48 hours without the epidural, got it because I desperately needed rest. It served its' purpose, I was able to sleep and re-energize myself so that I could complete my VBAC, and by the time I was ready to push, it had totally worn off; the nurses had actually started to change the battery in my IV pump, got sidetracked and never finished the task before I was ready to deliver, so my epidural wasn't even on for the last few hours before my boy made his arrival. The one difference between my two labors was that whatever medicine I had with my daughter left me totally alert, and what I had with my son knocked out cold. As in, the nurse put it into my IV tube, I felt a chill as it went into my vein, and 20 seconds later, it was lights out. Both of my babies were born totally alert, nursed beautifully right from the beginning, had no side-effects whatsoever.
I accept that I am not one of those lucky women who can handle completely med-free childbirth. I need help to cope, it is what it is, and it doesn't make me a bad mother. I really feel like I am now confident enough in my own ability to handle labor and experienced enough with how IV meds work for me that I won't need the epidural next time.