I know there are tons of
very strong opinions surrounding epidurals.
People seem to be passionately for or against them. Honestly, I hesitate to even utter the word
out loud or put it in writing because of the strong feelings regarding
medicated or unmedicated births. So, as I tiptoe through the subject, let me
just say that I am 100 percent middle-of-the-road on epidurals.
I will sing the praises of an epidural because
anything that can make that much pain invisible to a human birthing another
human is both a miracle and a scientific work of art. On the other hand, I think my mama friends
who have knowingly gone into what is likely the most painful experience of
their lives—ready to bear it all with no assist from meds—are rock stars. This
is not about my opinion on epidurals.
It’s about my experience with
It never occurred to
me NOT to have an epidural with my first pregnancy. Get that baby out with as little pain as
possible! I didn’t regret it,
either. I had a happy and healthy baby
boy. And, with the number of stitches that were said to have been administered
afterwards, I’m pretty happy I was oblivious to all that went on down there.
I loved my birth story:
Nearly two weeks late. Had a
scheduled induction. Got to get a full night’s sleep and showed up bright and
early to the hospital only to have a baby five short hours and six quick pushes
Easy-peasy, right? It was a walk in the park, actually—thanks to a baby
that was very ready to come out and a little thing called an epidural.
But, as I started comparing stories with friends who went
about this whole pushing-a-baby-out business with no drugs, I found myself with birthing envy.
Birthing envy is when you hear other people’s birth stories and become
jealous of their short labor or exciting water breaking story or their calm
home birth ambiance.
birth experiences just seemed so much better than mine.
I mean, here they are, “bragging” about how intense it was
when the baby crowned or the animalistic noises that they made through
contractions and I’m all: “Crowning? What’s
the ring of fire?” I mean, I played Uno
through most of my labor and contractions.
The doctor came in and checked me as I was about to lay big, fat "Skip"
card on my mother and said, “It’s time to push." Lovely as that all was, I felt
like I’d somehow missed out on this amazing experience because I didn’t feel it
the way they did. Did I not “earn” my
birthing badge because I didn’t feel all the pain?
Even through my slight envy of other people’s natural birth
stories, when I was about to give birth to my second child, I went ahead and
wholeheartedly signed myself up for an epidural without a second thought. Obviously, I wanted drugs, right?
My labor was progressing pretty fast and just as my contractions were
getting unbearable, my knight (anesthesiologist) in shining armor (scrubs) rode
(rolled his cart) into my delivery room. We did the whole “turn and hug a pillow/act like a cat” bit so he could
administer this magic potion into my spine.
Relief was eminent … or so I thought.
Thirty minutes later, I’d been poked with what
I can only assume was a 10-inch long needle into my spine numerous times and
still felt every damn thing.
“Sometimes epidurals aren’t 100 percent effective,” my
“Umm, come again?”
But as I look back on the birth of my darling
daughter I find myself thankful that my epidural failed me.
How did I not know this?!
My little magic shot was now off the table. I was left to labor alone—and by “alone,” I
mean with my entire family, husband, parents, son and nurse going about life
around me while I gritted my teeth and moaned through my contractions cursing
the doctor and the medicine that failed me.
Fast-forward through a couple more hours of pain and
discomfort and begging the nurse to let me push, and I finally emerged on the other
side with a sweet baby girl on my chest and all the memory of pain out of my
mind and onto her. Epidural? What epidural?
In the moment, when the epidural didn’t take effect, I was
pissed and desperate and worried that I would not survive the pain. But as I look back on the birth of my darling
daughter, I find myself thankful that my epidural failed me.
I felt really good
immediately after birth.
AMAZING. Like I was energized and
exhausted at the same time. There is
nothing that feels better than the absence of pain after you’ve been experiencing
it for a lengthy period of time. No
drugs give you that kind of high.
I wasn’t paralyzed.
When I had my son, the epidural was 100 percent effective. I couldn't move from the waist down. While
it was nice to not feel any of the trauma taking place in my nether regions, I
felt paralyzed after birth. I couldn’t
sit up straight in bed. I couldn’t even
cross my ankles or scoot over for my husband to sit next to me. This time, I could curl up and cuddle with
both of my kiddos. Even get
up and use the restroom.
I felt like a
Here’s the thing: I did it.
The thing I thought I couldn’t do without meds, I did. I was forced to overcome my fear of pain and
I pushed that baby out feeling every little damn little thing. Me and my body
did that. Now if that’s not brag-worthy, I don’t know what is.
I’m now six years removed from my successful epidural
experience and six months past my second birth with all the feels. And you know what? After time has passed, I don’t sit here
remembering the pain or lack thereof for either of my children’s deliveries. It’s all a blur when it comes to that business.
What I do remember is seeing these two
beautiful babies for the first time. Being a mama is a powerful thing, both
emotionally and physically. Nothing—not
even an epidural—changes that.