I went into labor and delivery with pretty laid-back expectations. I wanted to try my hand at medication-free birth, but was more than open to the idea of an epidural. In the end, I wanted to feel empowered to make my own decisions, regardless of whatever those decisions may or may not be. So, after 10 hours of drug-free labor, I asked for that sweet, sweet epidural. It was awesome, minus the cruelest things anyone could do to a mom who had an epidural. Those things, of course, were not awesome at all. They were unusual. They were mean. They should never, ever, happen again.
I was lucky in that I had some incredible people around me when I pushed my son into the world. My team of nurses and doctors were extraordinary; a group of people I had grown to love, admire, and rely on thanks to very difficult, high-risk pregnancy. My partner was attentive, loving, supportive, and nothing short of everything a woman could possibly ask for in a birthing partner. Then I had my two best friends in the delivery room; taking pictures and doing anything and everything I asked of them, including making themselves somewhat invisible when it came time to push. Still, there were things people did — well-meaning people; people I love; people who did whatever they could to be kind to me during something as intense as childbirth — that drove me insane once that needle was inserted into my spine.
It's not their fault. I mean, just like me, they have never experienced labor and delivery before (as an outsider, or personally). Still, a boatload of women would benefit from people refusing to do the following, once that epidural is administered. So, you know, pay attention and stuff.
Eat In Front Of Her
I was free to eat when I labored for 10 hours medication-free, but the moment I had that epidural I was told I could have ice chips, and only ice chips. Ugh, that's the worst. I don't want to suck on some stupid ice cube; I want a burger. I want Pad Thai. I want a sandwich with every deli meat known to man. So, if you eat in front of me when I can't eat, I may silently wish for your untimely demise.
Dance In Front Of Her
The moment you tell me I can't do something, I desperately want to do that thing. So when I had an epidural and I couldn't get out of bed, I wanted nothing more to shimmy around the labor and delivery room between contractions. Obviously, that wasn't possible. So when it was time to push and my partner did a little jig, I wanted to stab him in the heart with a spoon.
Walk Around In Front Of Her
Obviously people have to walk in order to get around, or whatever. It's not like I'm advocating for non-laboring people to crawl around labor and delivery rooms across the country. It's just, the pacing? Not necessary. Sit in one spot. After all, a woman with an epidural has to.
Pee In Front Of Her
It's not that I couldn't pee, I just couldn't be in an actual toilet. Oh, how we take certain necessities for granted when they're no longer available to us, right? I could go my entire life never having a catheter again, and I would be a ridiculously happy camper.
Talk About How Huge The Needle Was (Or Is)
We already know. Trust me when I say that we know, and we don't need a play-by-play commentary or description of the entire epidural process. We don't need you to grasp in horror. We don't need you to hold your breath until you "see what happens." Ask like something is happening, because that's what we're doing.
Share A Story About Some Beautiful, Drug-Free Birth
We don't care.
OK, we sort of care. We love you and we are so happy for anyone and everyone who had the birth they wanted. However, you don't know that having an epidural was something we didn't want (unless you ask us). So, positioning one type of birth as fundamentally "better" than another, when we're going through the "other," is unnecessary. Save your drug-free birth stories for another day.
Discuss Her Chances Of An Emergency C-Section
An epidural increases a woman's labor and delivery time, which can increase the chances of a c-section. Most women are aware of that potential risk, prior to even going into labor. If they aren't, a doctor will usually go over said risks and potential complications before she agrees to an epidural. So there's no need to hammer home the possibility of a trip to the operating room.
Call Her Lazy
Yeah, a "lazy woman in labor" isn't a thing. That woman is literally pushing and/or getting a human being cut from her; there's nothing even remotely lazy about that. A woman who has requested an epidural didn't "take the easy way out," because an "easy way" through labor just doesn't exist.
Assume She's Ill-Informed
I didn't experience any judgment or shame about having an epidural until a few days postpartum, but that doesn't mean it was any less painful or hurtful.
I was speaking to another mom who had a home birth, only to have her tell me that, "I probably didn't know what was going on, and that's why she made it a priority to educate herself prior to giving birth." Ugh. Why? She had no idea what my birth was like; no idea what I was specifically feeling; no idea how long I had labored without medication, or why my birth was particularly traumatic. To have someone talk to me as if I was stupid, just because I made a decisions that was beneficial for all involved, was infuriating. So. Damn. Infuriating.
Basically, Do Anything That Isn't Supportive
A woman in labor needs support. That's really and truly, it. Don't do anything that makes this grueling, inspiring, incredible, painful experience anymore difficult for her. Don't do something that you wouldn't appreciate being done to you when you're at your most vulnerable. This goddess of a woman literally has a needle in her spine and a baby coming out of her body. #Respect