I have been a mother for just about 5 years now. That's 43,800 hours. Of those hours, 27 were spent in labor, and they stand out as the worst. So, I still count getting epidurals (13 and 7 hours into each labor, respectively) as two of my best parenting decisions to date. As a result, though, other hours have been spent listening to some sanctimonious moms try to convince me that getting an epidural was a bad idea, which means I've spent hours coming up with ways to respond to moms who shame you for getting an epidural.
Whether or not to get an epidural is not a question of "right choice" and "wrong choice." Just as the decision to have children at all isn't an issue of "right" or "wrong," or should or shouldn't. These are all decisions that rest in the hands of the woman in question, and the answer varies. For me, getting epidurals were part of two wonderful birth experiences overall and absolutely the right call to make. ("Absolutely the right call," was, in fact, how I described them at the time to my partner, blissfully kicking back and actually enjoying each contraction instead of exhaustedly wincing through them every two minutes for hours, for hours on end.)
I've also learned a few things in my time as a mom. I've learned all the names of the characters on My Little Pony. I've learned the precise face my daughter makes before she's about to poop (and denies it). I've learned that my son is a talented and inveterate procrastinator. And, of course, I've learned that there is a contingent of other mothers out there who will do everything they can to make your experiences not about you, but about them and their opinions. Epidurals are a powder keg for this proclivity, and over the years I've concocted some practical (and amusing) responses to their statements, questions, and claims.
"I Just Didn't Want My Baby To Be Born Drugged"
What you can say: "There's no substantive, conclusive evidence to show that epidurals have an effect on a baby."
What you wish you could say: "Oh I so hear you. My baby actually completed a personally tutored D.A.R.E. program when they were still a fetus. I had a local police officer come over my house on Wednesdays and talk to my belly through a bullhorn. We were like, "Just say no, little baby!'"
"Our Bodies Were Made To Give Birth"
What you can say: "That's a pretty reductive way to look at a woman's body, don't you think?"
What you wish you could say: "Nu-uh! My body was made for eating tacos!" Then just whip out an enormous bag of tacos (I assume you keep one on you at all times, too) and just pull a full on Cookie Monster devouring them.
What you can say: "Could you elaborate what you mean by that?" When they do they will likely dig the hole deeper and realize they sound ridiculous.
What you wish you could say: "I know. We both got the same outcome only I didn't have to be in pain the whole time. Jealous?"
"It's Not Really Giving Birth If You Have Interventions"
What you can say: "Yes it is."
What you wish you could say: "Really?! Oh, crap. Gotta e-mail my doctor and ask WTF happened in that delivery room, then. Because I was pretty sure I had a baby, but now I don't know. Is this, like, one of those Matrix scenarios?"
"You Just Never Know What Kind Of Effects It Will Have In The Long-Term"
What you can say: "Yes we do; there aren't any."
What you wish you could say: "*gasp in a very dramatic fashion* "OK, wait. Are you saying that my baby might be a superhero one day? Like, the epidural gave him a mutant power. Oh my God, I bet it did! I hope it's teleportation! That would be so ridiculously cool. BRB, imma officially change this baby's name to Kurt Wagner, better known as Nightcrawler!"
"I Wanted To Be Able To Bond With My Baby"
What you can say: "I had absolutely no problem bonding with my baby after giving birth."
What you wish you could say: "Me too, which is why we got matching tattoos as soon as the cord was cut! I got her name, she got mine and we each got a teeny-tiny anchor next to it. It was pretty sweet."
[Writers note: But seriously, don't tattoo your baby. Because duh.]
"I Didn't Get One Because I Really Educated Myself"
What you can say: "I got one for the same reason."
What you wish you could say: Honestly, the above is sort of perfect. It's what this Connecticut girl refers to as a "New England burn." It's cold, sharp, concise, and not strictly-speaking impolite. Generally speaking, a New England burn shuts down your debate opponent pretty quickly and you can move on to other New England-y topics, like lacrosse, sweaters, or the goddamn leaf peepers from New York.
What you can say: This is another instance when, "Could you elaborate what you mean by that?" may be used to great effect.
What you wish you could say: "No, what was really selfish was when I continually drank the baby's formula in the hospital. I resented that she was getting so much free stuff and I wanted her to share."
"If You Can't Make This Sacrifice For Your Baby Then You Shouldn't Be A Mother"
What you can say: "Being a good mother is not dependent upon being in pain."
What you wish you could say: "Oh my God, you're right!" Then dramatically hand her your baby and run away sobbing "I'm a monster!" Go to Starbucks or something, but definitely stay away long enough to ensure this person gets nervous and worried that you're not coming back.
"Did You See 'The Business Of Being Born'?"
What you can say: Answer truthfully and pray that this person doesn't give you a lecture about the premises presented in the film. If she does, talk about how you're glad everyone is free to make the choice that's best for them and try to change the subject.
What you wish you could say: "Have you seen The Empire Strikes Back?" Then just give the whole plot of the film. Bonus points for re-enactments. Double bonus for an accurate Yoda impression.
"I'm Sorry Your Doctor Made You Feel Like You Needed It"
What you can say: "I never felt pressured into doing anything I didn't want to do."
What you wish you could say: "It wasn't the doctor, it was the goddamn contractions and enormous baby head pressing onto my not-yet fully-dilated cervix!"
Actually, just go with the second one. The second one definitely works, you guys.
"You Didn't Really Get A Real Experience"
What you can say: "My experience was real and wonderful."
What you wish you could say: "If the rest of the experience is anything like the experience that led me to the point of asking for an epidural then I'm 10,000 percent OK with that." (Actually, feel free to actually use this one in real life, too.)