Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

10 Ways My Epidural Made Me Feel Empowered During My Labor

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Before I had my first baby, I was so intrenched in the "natural" child birth movement that I lost some necessary perspective. I honestly believed that having a medicated child birth was unhealthy for me and for my baby. I also believed that if I had to have an epidural, I would end up feeling helpless and weak which, as a sexual violence survivor, was seriously scary. As it turned out, my epidural made me feel empowered, not helpless or weak at all. That's seriously badass.

While I totally support pregnant people making informed choices and when possible, consenting to medical procedures (when safe for both them and their babies) — and I think it's horrible when people feel pressured into procedures they don't want — I want to tell everyone about my epidurals. Like, literally scream it from rooftops and call everyone I know. Maybe, purchase a billboard? Honestly, I'm still thinking about the marketing plan.

Before I had my daughter, I was terrified that having an epidural would be painful, harmful, and hurt my birth experience. I was so scared. That's both not OK and really freaking terrible. I went to the hospital scared out of my mind. I didn't feel empowered at all. I tried to keep an open mind, and then I had a conversation with my midwife. She was totally supportive of me choosing no pain medications or choosing all the meds. She explained my options and recommended that I wait and see how things progressed and keep those options open. In other words, she rocked.

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As it turned out, 18 hours of back labor and no sleep in over 36 hours was my threshold for pain and exhaustion. When I asked for it, I felt so ashamed (which is horrible considering I wouldn't feel ashamed to ask for Novocaine at the dentist). After I got it, I was transformed. I knew I could do bring my baby into the world, I got some damn sleep, and I even laughed with my husband. When it was time to push, I got to push side-lying (not on my back like all my friends had threatened) and my midwife held a mirror so I could watch my daughter being born. I didn't tear, and besides some hemorrhaging (which had nothing to do with the epidural) both baby and I were healthy.

So, honestly, there are so many ways I felt  empowered by my epidural, including the following:

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I Called The Shots

I was 100 percent in control. No one forced me or pressured me. They honestly were supportive of anything I chose. That was amazing. They respected the fact that only I knew what I was experiencing and had a right to decide what I needed. That's how childbirth should be.

Pain Relief

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It was amazing. I have no way to describe back labor to people who haven't experienced it for themselves, but it was seriously the worst thing I have ever felt. I didn't feel amazing or strong. It made me feel like I was being stabbed. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and scream f*ck over and over, when I could get anything, but a whimper out.

After my epidural, labor was no big deal.

I Got Some Damn Rest

I hadn't slept in over a day. I was so exhausted, I felt like there was no way I could make it. After my epidural, I took a nap while we watched a movie. I could feel when it was time to push and everything was awesome.

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It Made Me Feel Strong

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It made me feel strong again, like I could physically do this thing which, you know, just so happened to be the hardest thing I had ever done.

When I did it, I realized birth is badass, no matter if you have no pain meds, all the meds, or a c-section.

It Made Me Believe In Myself

I seriously doubted myself. I was no longer a badass warrior goddess, I was a weeping, exhausted mess. My epidural gave me my confidence back. I was a rockstar.

It Shut Down The Shaming

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Having an epidural shut down all the voices – my friends, the one nurse who said something snarky, and most importantly, the voices in my head  – shaming pregnant people for pain relieve is seriously unkind and uncool, and the phrase, "natural child birth" needs to die in a fire.

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It Changed My Mind

Having an epidural completely changed my mind about "natural" child birth, which is really something that's freaking hard to do for someone as stubborn as I am. I am now an advocate for choice and doing whatever it takes to get through labor. No one gets a trophy or a cookie for going med-free and there are a ton of "right" ways to birth a baby.

I Realized That Pain Is Unnecessary

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Feeling pain doesn't make you stronger, and it's my freaking body.  I was just joking with my OB-GYN the other day that if men carried babies, epidurals would be administered at 20 weeks gestation. She said, "No, I think they'd probably have artificial wombs by now." The idea that pain is necessary for child birth is really archaic and misogynistic.

When I Caught My Own Baby

It was amazing have the strength to reach down and catch my own baby. I still felt when it was time to push and knew when she was coming. I truly believe that I wouldn't have been able to do anything at that point, but cry and scream, had a I not gotten my amazing epidural.

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When My Baby And I Were Healthy

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

That's the point. Right? A healthy baby and parent, and not some mythical experience. There's more than one "right" way to give birth. I am not saying that it's not OK for all pregnant people to choose what kind of birth they want (as long as they are safe), but when I held my daughter close to my chest I realized that, for me, a healthy baby was the most important thing.

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