In some mommy circles, I’m something of an unintended hero. Every time I’m chatting with a new group of mom friends and the time comes to share birth stories, mine is always short and sweet.
“My water broke in the middle of the night,” I always start, sharing the details of the birth of my now 4-year-old. The same thing happened with my oldest son—now 8 years old—nearly to the minute. The first time, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I wrapped a thick blanket up and between my legs like a diaper and told my husband it was time to go to the hospital. They weren’t ready for us ― the baby was coming a couple of weeks early ― so we were ushered into a room that looked more like a storage closet. My stomach rumbled while I waited on contractions that never came, and I eventually had to be induced. But at that point, I couldn’t eat.
The second time was different. I was a pro now. I ate a banana, determined not to go into labor hungry this time. And as the first contractions started, I put a towel down on the floor and quickly typed out notes to email to the colleague who would need to take over my duties the next day.
And then we get to the part that my fellow mamas sometimes find impressive.
This second time around I did have contractions. And yes, they were painful. I tried to switch positions. My husband tried to rub my back as they instructed in the birthing class we took in preparation for kid #1. The way I remember it, when it was time to push, I pushed once, then twice. The second time, the doctor exclaimed, “I saw the head that time!” And I decided that I wouldn’t be a revolving door—the baby came out on that third push.
“And you did it with no drugs?!?!” someone inevitably asks, their eyes wide with surprise. Another would exclaim, “I would never give birth without an epidural!”
And well, here’s where I have to admit that I am hardly a hero. I don’t even really have a good philosophical reason for choosing to have a drug-free birth. Fact is, I’m just cheap.
When I had my oldest son, I was a military spouse, so the sum total of that birth was probably about the amount of a copay. I didn’t bat an eye when they said they’d need to use Pitocin to induce labor. I didn’t fret over how long of a hospital stay I’d have. And when they offered me a drug that, in the end didn’t seem to help with pain at all, but just made me really sleepy, well, I gave the thumbs up.
The second pregnancy had to be different. As civilians, we had to pay our own way. When I went to the hospital a few weeks before giving birth to register, I remember the intake coordinator quoting me a figure, then waiting as though I was ready to write a check right then and there. I laughed until I realized she was serious. When I left, I did my research.
According to Parents, the average birth in the U.S. costs $3,500, but adding in prenatal and postpartum care it’s more like $8,802. While it varies greatly what you’ll actually have to pay based on your insurance plan (and where you live, believe it or not), it’s safe to say having a baby is no bargain.
I continued to add it up. An epidural could cost me more than $1,000, and some insurance plans don’t cover them completely. Then the hospital charges fees on everything from the diapers they put on the baby to the diaper mom wears after birth. My overnight stay, not even the delivery itself, could set me up in the Ritz-Carlton for a few days. So it was decided. I would have no epidural, and I’d need to limit my stay to 24 hours to avoid additional charges. I even balked when the nurse put in an IV. (“How much is that going to cost me?” I remember thinking.)
It’s important to know that I had a healthy pregnancy and, thankfully, there were no complications. Since I had an early morning birth, I left the hospital after a day and half—a bit shorter than the 48 hours most insurers will cover for an uncomplicated vaginal birth. I also knew my body and had a support system, so I felt comfortable heading home. For some moms, that extra day or two in the hospital is necessary for recovery, breastfeeding help and self-care.
My honest reason for going drug-free might seem kind of extreme, or even petty to some, but it worked for me. If anything makes me a hero, it’s my timing—I spent just enough time in the hospital to avoid being charged another day but still got to enjoy the “complimentary” steak and lobster dinner before being discharged
After all, I had to get my money’s worth.
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This piece was originally published by Crystal Lewis Brown on Mommy Nearest. Crystal Lewis Brown is a freelance editor and writer living in Phoenix, where she wrangles her dog and two boys (although not always in that order). You can find her on the web or on her psuedo-food blog www.brunchwithkids.com. Her love language is tacos.