Before I had my first child, I had no real idea what to expect. I mean, I planned to give birth in the hospital and hoped that it would be complication free. But I had no real birth plan – except for drugs. I knew I wanted the drugs. In fact, if I could have written it in big bold letters across the top of my chart, I would have said GIVE ME ALL THE DRUGS.
I don’t mean illicit drugs, of course; I wanted meds. I wanted an epidural and whatever other medications my doc thought was reasonable, safe and effective during childbirth. And I felt no shame in that. None. Zip. Zero.
These days it seems – and even all those years ago when I was first pregnant, for that matter – natural was in. Other pregnant women I knew talked about water births and how they birthed their babies without drugs. Many of them said this matter-of-factly, but others said it with an air of superiority, as if delivering their babies without medication was some kind of badge of honor. As if foregoing medical interventions anointed them as some kind of earth mother goddess or made their delivery more legitimate and badass than someone else’s.
Let me be very clear here: no matter how a woman gives birth, she is a freaking badass.
You want to have a drug-free birth? Great. If you want to have a water birth, fan-freaking-tastic. If you want to have birth at home, more power to you. You want to give birth in a field of wildflowers while being fanned with sage and lavender while forest animals look on? You do you, boo.
And if you want to get an epidural, go right TF ahead.
Listen, friends, there is no shame in a medicated birth. No shame whatsoever. Bringing a child into this world is hard fucking work, and we deserve all the help we can get. You don’t get a prize for doing it drug-free. We need to do what’s best for our bodies and our minds. For some that means unmedicated births. For others, that is a C-section. For me, that meant an epidural ASAP.
I did not feel the need to prove what my body was “capable of” by gritting my teeth, screaming at Satan himself, and generally hating my husband for the 12+ hours that I was in childbirth (including 3 solid hours of actively pushing, followed up with a large episiotomy and a forceps delivery). No thank you. I know what my body is capable of, but just because I could have delivered my children without drugs does not mean that it was what I should have done.
Some folks are able to lean into and breathe through the pain. They rely on their partner for back rubs and foot rubs. Me? I didn’t want to have anything to do with my husband while in the midst of a contraction. I didn’t want to hear his voice. I didn’t want him to rub my shoulders. I didn’t even want him asking me what I needed. I wanted him to STFU and get as far away from me as possible. Doing childbirth drug-free would have meant retreating into myself and excluding my husband from the process.
Before the epidural, I was an angry woman who just wanted to be left the fuck alone. After getting the epidural, I was positively glowing, I tell you.
In the pre-pushing hours, we watched television and joked with each other. And then when childbirth stalled and I was faced with the decision of whether to use forceps, I was able to listen to the doctor’s advice and make a rationale decision in a way I doubt I’d have been able to do if I were in a pain-filled delirium. That wonderful, glorious needle in my back allowed my husband and I to experience childbirth as a team.
For me (and for about 60% of women giving birth), epidurals are freaking awesome and it’s time we stop acting like childbirth is more legit or more brag-worthy if it’s done drug-free.
The risks and side effects of an epidural are pretty minimal too. There’s a small chance your blood pressure can drop (your docs will monitor you) and some women (less than 1%!) experience a severe headache. Other possible side effects can include: shivering, a ringing in the ears, backache, soreness at needle site, nausea, or difficult urinating. All relatively minor things, in my opinion, especially when you consider that it might prevent you from contemplating murdering your partner during childbirth. Some studies show that an epidural can make initial breastfeeding attempts more difficult, but the studies are rather ambiguous. And if you get epidural anesthesia, you probably can’t walk around while in labor (or maybe even for a little while afterward) — fine by me since my nether regions were on fire.
Bottom line: childbirth is no fucking joke, and all moms are bad asses. PERIOD. We’re badass warrior goddesses because we love and care for our kids with a fierce tenderness for the duration of their lives, not because of how we chose to bring those children into the world.
Nobody can look at you, or your child, on the playground and be able to tell how they entered the world.
Timmy, over there, definitely a C-section kid. And that one, her mom had an epidural for sure.
So, that’s one more thing we need to take a seat about and reserve any sanctimonious opinions on the matter.
After all, it isn’t until after childbirth when a mom’s true grit and strength come into play.