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.
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:
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.
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.
It Made Me Feel Strong
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
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.
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
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.
When My Baby And I Were Healthy
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.