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My Drug-Free Birth Was Totally Selfish

Photograph by Getty Images

“Anyone who wants to experience the full pain of childbirth is slightly crazy and possibly a masochist.”

“I wouldn’t have a cavity filled without novocaine, why would I give birth drug-free?”

“You don’t earn a special award for skipping the epidural.”

These are all phrases that I said or thought at one point. I never even entertained they idea of a drug-free birth.Then I had my first child and a totally shitty epidural experience, and my opinions changed drastically.

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With my first birth I received an epidural in the late stages of labor. First, it only worked on one side and about 15 minutes after it took full effect, it was time to push. I couldn’t feel when I was pushing and I tore like crazy. Seriously, worse than I thought imaginable.

I wasn’t trying to join a tribe or prove a point. I was simply trying to avoid a hideous recovery.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t move into a better position. Worse still was the headache that came on strong just hours after having my baby. This wasn’t an annoying ache that would go away with Advil, it was full-blown migraine level torture that lasted more than 24 hours.

I didn’t opt for a drug-free birth so that I could say I did. I didn’t do it for bragging rights or the thrill of the challenge. I wasn’t trying to tap into the feminine energy of the universe or insure that my child was spared from some supposed toxin. I wasn’t trying to join a tribe or prove a point. I was simply trying to avoid a hideous recovery. I was willing to get through the pain of childbirth in the hopes that I would be able to sit upright and maybe even walk around once it was all over.

I don’t judge anyone for getting an epidural, ever. I don’t believe that it has adverse effects on the baby and I don’t think there's anything wrong with wanting to avoid the pain of childbirth.

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It just turned out that it wasn’t the best option for me.

That second birth without an epidural turned out to be so much better. I had a lot of luck on my side, mainly that my labor was very fast, and I was surprised that I could manage the pain. But what was really nice was how I felt when the pushing was all done. I felt amazing, high and happy and ready to hop out of bed and take on the world.

It’s easy to assume that someone who opts for a drug-free birth is doing so as a martyr, but for me it was just the opposite. I did it for me, as my first step in self-care as a mother of two.

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