Friday, February 3, 2012

The Epidural Video

Mrs. Blackwell had to get tested for gestational diabetes this week. This test involves drinking a sweet compound and waiting an hour to survey her body's response.

So, while we waited for our hour to time out, the nurses recommended we watch a video on epidurals. Apparently the video is mandatory viewing for any husband who wants to be  allowed in the room with a wife who has an epidural. 

Our usual TV watching faces: annoyed and underwhelmed.
So, we just sat in the private little patient room and watched a video, right? Nope. Firstly, there was no TV in the "little patient room" so we watched in the very un-private, big, waiting room.

OK. Fine. No biggie. That is until the video starts to play. 

Initially it made for comic relief. The grainy footage looked like it was shot with an old handheld VHS camera. There was plenty of bad hair and dated clothing. At first, my wife and I joked about how bad the actors were. Well, that's because they weren't actors.

And the needles being pushed through the skin weren't fake. The blood wasn't corn syrup with red dye. The expressions of agony pasted on the faces of the women "acting" like they were in labor were, in fact, real. As were the closeups of the babies triumphantly exiting the womb. 

We watched this, and everyone else in the waiting room watched us. And for good reason. 

My wife, who is typically composed, couldn't hide it; her face was driven to contortions by the carnage. I, on the other hand, have zero composure and I'm sure my face reflected this reality.

If the imagery wasn't enough to make an Army medic wince, the dialogue was.

In-depth descriptions of the procedure included words like  "permanent paralysis, nerve or brain damage, cardiac arrest or death."

Aside from these extremely rare biggies, there's a long line of slightly-less rare side effects making it apparent that the epidural isn't always the pain preventer it's billed as.

Intense itching, chills and shaking that can last throughout labor, shortness of breath and nausea are just a few of the other surprises that could pop up and render your wife unrecognizable.
More drugs? Sure, what could go wrong?

A woman shaking with chills, continuously scratching at itches and fighting off the urge to vomit? A little talk about the Kennedy assassination and we're off to the races here. 

Fortunately, the video instructs that doctors can administer more drugs to suppress each of these side effects. More narcotics to treat the side effects from the first round of narcotics? Given that your wife has been reduced to the pea soup scene from the Excorcist, this sounds less than reasonable. 

For me, the big takeaway from the video is that, these scenarios are rare. In listening to women who have had epidurals,  I've yet to hear one regret their choice. So, like most decisions with this pregnancy, as long as my wife's cool with it, so am I.

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