If I was to believe anything about childbirth from the media, it would be that it hurt. Still, the inevitable pain didn’t deter me from my intention to deliver my babies vaginally, so I tried to gather intel from other moms about their delivery experiences. Some had epidurals, some didn’t. Each one had a birth story that deviated wildly from what their vision of the experience might be. And there were things that women who chose epidurals wanted me to know, since I was not opposed to getting one myself.
Still, in the end and regardless of how many questions you ask or research you sit down and do, nothing truly prepares you for childbirth. One woman’s success story may be a good point of reference, but it could never serve as a “role model” for the perfect delivery or a benchmark for what you're sure to experience, too. In writing my birth plan (which is every first-time mom’s biggest, most unintentional joke she'll ever play on herself), I mentioned getting an epidural upon request. In my heart, however, I was thinking, “Oh I won’t need one. I’ll be able to soldier through the pain. I have such a high threshold for it.”
Just as I had misconceptions about epidurals, and the circumstances that can potentially facilitate them, other people may not know the real deal about them, either. Since nothing about labor and delivery follows the script we've collectively grown accustomed to seeing on television shows and in movies, let me share a few things about the choice to get an epidural that women, like me (who has had two of them), want you to know:
It’s Not An Easy Decision For Many Of Us
In my birth plan, I stated that I would attempt to labor for as long as possible without any medication. Sadly, however, my birth plan didn’t make a contingency for an induction, which I had to have (at near 42 weeks). I didn’t realize how much I would be affected by having my labor induced, and my contractions sped up (and intensified). In that state of overwhelming pain, I knew I wanted it to stop, and fast. I asked for an epidural, and it eventually brought the relief I needed.
Asking for the pain relief I wanted and needed wasn’t an “easy” decision, though. In fact, it was a rushed and almost desperate one. Every woman’s birth story is unique, and there are so many factors that go into things we can and cannot control when it comes to delivering babies. While my decision to get an epidural may have appeared to be a “no-brainer,” considering the level of pain I was in when it was administered, it was an option I took great care to investigate in the months leading up to my daughter’s birth. There is a lot of information out there for expectant mothers when it comes to the technical aspects of an epidural, but I found very little info when it comes to the emotional factors surrounding that decision.
It Doesn’t Mean We’re Weak
Quite the opposite, really. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help, right? Right?
We Typically Can’t Have Anyone With Us When An Epidural Is Administered
Picture it: I’m in severe pain (not discomfortk, but pain), with contractions crashing down on me full-force, thanks to the pitocin used in my induction. I ask for the epidural, consult with the anesthesiologist, sign some papers (like I’m in any kind of state to understand them), and then my partner is told he must leave. He cannot be present when the epidural is administered. I am alone, in excruciating pain, and about to have a scary long needle stabbed into my back. I’ll get a baby out of it, though, so I soldier on. #WorthIt
It Hurts Like A $%(@)(!_)!*#&(%^(&^&*&!^)...
I’m doubled over in pain from contractions, and the doctor is nonchalantly asking me to sit up straight. I have nurses on either side, holding me up. My back is swabbed with an antiseptic solution and, well, then sh*t gets real. That knee-buckling pain I was feeling a minute ago has just been turned up to 11 with the deft poke of a needle.
...And It Keeps Hurting
Think the pain gets numbed right away? Hell no. That needle has to stay in my back for the solution to work its way inside. Meanwhile, the contractions continue and I’m being told to sit still like it’s NBD. Ugh.
When I think it can’t possibly get any worse, it gets worse. Before the numbness kicks in, the creepiest kind of icy sensation crawls down my back from the needle’s point of entry. The feeling is unreal. It’s like a demon is entering my body.
It’s A Risky Move
Any medical procedure comes with a risk. An epidural is an anaesthetic being injected into my body and I guess that’s what those papers were about (the ones the hospital needed my signature on). This is a no-take-backs kind of situation, my friends. Once the needle punctures my skin, there's no changing my mind.
It Means We’re Also Choosing A Catheter
That’s right. Once we’re numb from the waist down, we can’t use the bathroom. Enjoy the visual. You're welcome.
Your Opinion On The Subject Does Not Matter
Unless you are my attending OB, keep your mouth shut about my choice to get an epidural. We welcome your support, but not your dissenting opinion (if you happen to have one).
Whether you’re my friend, my partner, my mother, or my nurse, please know that your thoughts on the subject are irrelevant. It's my body, it's my choice and, in the end, I am going to do whatever I need in order to bring my baby into the world.
We Rarely Regret It
At least I didn’t. I can’t have any regrets about something that facilitated the birth of my healthy babies. I am grateful for the option of an epidural, and I refuse to consider that I might have felt better about myself if I had forgone one.
There is no sense in mulling over the events of my children’s births, other than to share with other women what my experience was in the hope that it helps them prepare for what to expect (although, as I’ve said before, every woman’s story is unique).
We Would Probably Do It Again
Hell, I did. It was easily the worst thing about childbirth, but I was again induced with my second baby so the contractions went from zero to 60. I needed that epidural to ride them out until I was dilated enough to push.
Having had two successful hospital births involving an epidural, I’d go for a three-peat. However, I’m done having kids and, as a result, epidurals.