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Hell Yes! Doula Nails All the Times It's OK to Get an Epidural

Photograph by Twenty20

The other day, I came across a Reddit post that made me want to cheer. The post was created by Savanah Kennedy of Wild Flower Birth Services and is titled, “Situations where it is OK to get an epidural.”

Doula services are often associated with so-called "natural" births, so the writer's list surprised me by being refreshingly blunt and direct. What it basically boiled down to is that a woman should get an epidural if and whenever the hell she wants!

Here are some of the “situations” listed:

When you’re dilated to 6 centimeters or more

When you’re dilated less than that

When you’re tired

As soon as contractions start

Anytime you want it

Photograph by wfdoula.com

I've given birth to three sons, and each child birthing experience was unique. I never made a concrete birth plan but always hoped to labor as long as I could stand and get an epidural if—and when—I felt like I needed to.

When I went to the hospital to deliver my third child, I felt like a veteran. “I’ve got this,” I told myself. Then I was faced with an unforeseen complication: an aggressive nurse who continually shamed me for wanting an epidural.

I made it clear from the start that I wanted to labor for a while, but would most likely end up wanting an epidural. She seemed to not even be listening to my wishes and told me she would give me the room with the jetted tub, since I was going to try to “go natural.”

After laboring for hours, and with contractions that were becoming so intense that I questioned how I could be in so much pain without passing out, I reached my limit. I was spent—body and mind. I told the nurse to call for the anesthesiologist and was shocked that she argued with me.

Then she said something that I will never forget: “I just don’t want you to be disappointed in yourself.”

It broke me, but mostly it pissed me off. Being in as much pain as I was, I couldn’t even react.

The truth is, I’m traumatized to this day. I feel like I was left powerless in the situation.

She kept insisting that I get into the magic tub that would somehow take the pain away, so I finally told her to call the doctor, that I would labor in the tub until help arrived. Only, that’s not what ended up happening.

When I asked my husband to check to see if the anesthesiologist had arrived, the nurse still hadn’t called him. “I thought she wanted to try laboring in the tub,” she explained.

If you can’t tell, I have some feelings about this. The truth is, I’m traumatized to this day. I feel like I was left powerless in the situation, that the decision about how my birthing experience would go was made by someone else.

I had a brief moment of reclaiming my power when, at nine centimeters, right before pushing, I finally received one dose of pain-relieving medication into my spine. I still felt almost everything, but was spared the “ring of fire” I had heard so much about.

Women are unique beings. Some of us want to attend birthing classes, hire doulas and “go natural”—and some don’t. Both options are totally fine! I know women who request an epidural the moment they enter the hospital, and others who prefer a home birth.

There is a prevailing myth out there that it can be too early or too late to get an epidural, and that's simply not true. The doula's post is right—it's up to the woman who is laboring to make these decisions. She should never be shamed for them.

Our body, our choice. End of story.

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