Before I had my first baby, I thought having a medicated birth was the "easy way out," that it might be harmful, and that it would ruin my "birth experience." Then,I had one, and I seriously wanted to tell everyone about it. Why? Because it was amazing. Once I got my epidural my back labor instantly went away, so I was able to nap and watch TV until it was time to push. Of course, I only have my experiences to go on, so I asked some other parents to tell me what a medicated vaginal birth feels like. For the most part, and as I suspected, they were fans, too.
It's unbelievably frustrating to know there are so many myths about medicated child birth just floating around, being digested by soon-to-be moms. I think it's partly because almost every birth story you read online, or hear about in childbirth class, features an unmedicated birth. I also think so many people, myself included, feel ashamed that we got epidurals, as if it makes those births less amazing. That's pretty horrible, considering we probably wouldn't feel ashamed to ask for pain medication if our arm was broken or we were having a root canal. I think this is partly because our culture romanticizes child birth and tells moms-to-be that the only "right way" to give birth is to feel every contraction, push, and tear. I say false. And no.
Everyone deserves to have access to the pain relief they need to help them through what's arguably one of the hardest days (and possibly nights) of their lives. Everyone deserves an opportunity to tell their amazing medicated birth stories without shame, too. Why? because birth is badass, and so is knowing what you need to make it through, like the warriors featured here:
"So, my first birth was fast and furious and the med-free experience I hoped for. My second was totally different. I was in prodromal labor for eight days before pitocin was started due to fetal heart rate fluctuations. I labored for six hours on the pitocin before I begged for the epidural, after crying because I felt like a failure. I was terrified of getting a giant needle in my spine, but it was utterly painless. I felt a pinch and then blessed relief.
After the epidural was administered, I actually proposed to my anesthesiologist it felt so great. I was afraid that I would feel totally numb but I didn't. I was still able to feel my lower half and move myself, I just wasn't wishing for death anymore. The epidural allowed me to nap for a bit (after having been awake for over 30 hours) before delivering my son. Before I started pushing, the room was full of laughter, and I was able to welcome him with joy instead of horrible pain. It. Was. Amazing."
"My first was without [medication]. It took 12 hours of pain, back labor, sweat, and exhaustion. Walking and ice cubes. Pushing and pushing. Panting and breathing. Pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and an episiotomy, and more pushing, and finally, a baby.
With [medication]? Ahhhhhh. I feel pressure. Ohhhhh. Push, push TV sitcom style, and baby. All within 20 minutes. Guess what I did for my third? Lol."
"I had an epidural, and I'm glad I did. I could literally feel their bodies moving slowly through mine. I felt them slip out from in my rib cage and down. It was eerie and foreign, but unique. If I was in tremendous pain, I would have missed that."
"The epidural was amazing. No one tells you this, but you can sleep! Why didn't they mention this in my crunchy childbirth class? And in the third trimester I was so uncomfortable that I hadn't slept well in months. I had the epidural at midnight and at 8:00 a.m. the nurse woke me up and said it would be time push in a bit. I couldn't feel a thing while pushing. It was great."
"With my first I tried my best to labor 'naturally,' but was already under the weather with high blood pressure and preeclampsia. After Pitocin, I was in a lot of pain and decided on the epidural. After a half hour, I was fully dilated (after seven hours of labor) and had a delightfully easy 10 minutes of pushing before I got to meet my son. I got to be fully present and relatively pain free. The epidural helped me relax and go with the flow. BTW, when I had my second I did not hesitate to get the epidural sooner so I could relax my mind and body during labor."
"Pitocin made the contractions — all back labor — super intense, and the epidural didn't really numb me so much as take the edge off. I still felt everything, but it was a little muted. I have severe anxiety, and not being afraid of the pain really allowed me to focus my energy away from my panic attacks.
The actual birth itself was so fast — I only pushed for about five minutes, four full pushes. I remember pressure, but no real pain. I think the worst part of the birth was the placement of the epidural. They 'missed' the first time, and only one leg went numb. So they had to back it out and put it back in."
"I stubbornly didn't want a medicated birth. I am terrified of needles and resistant to some pain relievers. At 16 hours of back labor, my husband finally told me that he couldn't handle seeing me in so much pain. He said, 'You already have the IV. Try the IV pain relievers.' So, we did that. It took it back down to manageable. Then the pain ramped up again, and we did an epidural. It kicked in on one leg first, then the other about two hours later.
The epidural dulled my pain from 'surely someone is removing my spine' to 'really bad period cramps,' and I was able to doze off. Right before midnight I realized I had pressure that felt like I had to poop. I felt more pressure than pain when he was coming. If we have another child, I will definitely be going the epidural route once the pain crosses my tolerable level."
"My epidural made it really feel like pressure instead of pain. I could feel when to push and I felt her come out. It was hard and exhausting but a really beautiful experience. 10/10 would do again, if I were to have another baby. Honestly getting it in was the most painful and terrifying part."
"I have had both [a medication and unmedicated birth] and the epidural births were fantastic. It didn't hurt and enjoyed the whole experience. I was able to rest while in labor. I was chatting with the doctor and the nurses. The unmediated birth was not by choice, I just barely made it to the hospital. It felt like someone was cutting out my insides with dull meat cleaver."
"Had a vaginal birth with an epidural. It was surprisingly easy. Felt nothing, [and the doctors and nurses] had to tell me when to push. 10/10 would do again (minus the episiotomy I did not want)."
"I think my experience might have been unique in that I could feel everything when [my daughter] was born, it just didn't hurt. My water broke at 2:00 a.m. and was accompanied by pain, and my contractions were immediately super painful. I held out until 7:00 a.m. and went to the hospital. I lasted maybe another hour or two before I begged for the epidural. I had hoped to do it without, but the pain was so bad.
After the epidural, it was such a relief. I could still feel touch on my legs and feet but my contractions didn't hurt. At one point they turned it up but it went up too far and my dilation stalled and I couldn't feel anything. I was so relieved when they turned it back down that we hit the sweet spot again when I could feel things but no pain, and I started progressing again. It was absolutely amazing. I am so glad that I was able to enjoy the feelings and sensations and the experience without being distracted by the pain. I wouldn't change it for the world."
"I went in to the hospital with your standard 'no Pitocin, no pain meds' birth plan the crunchy parents of the internet thrust on you. I had a small leak in my waters and not a full break, so I was told I had to start Pitocin because we couldn't wait due to the risk of infection. Until then I hadn't contracted on my own. During Pitocin my husband describes it as me 'not being there.' I was shaking, moaning, and thrashing. I wasn't progressing because I was tensed up tight.
The lovely anesthesiologist came in, set the epidural, and all was right with the world. I went from four to 10 centimeters in under an hour and was able to be present and not stressed. The only scary part was shortly after it was placed my left side went numb. My husband Googled it, went white as a ghost, and lied and said 'you're fine, it's fine.' I found out later his Google results had turned up possible paralysis, and he worried about that until I got the feeling back hours later."
"I've had two medicated inductions. The first was fast and easy with three pushes, and was virtually painless after the epidural. The second literally birthed himself without breaking the sac via ejection reflex. My epidural was super strong, and I didn't feel any pressure to push. He came out during a check when the nurse opened my legs. While it was super easy and pain-free, I wish it hadn't happened like that. Everything went so quick I don't have many memories of it."
"The epidural worked so well for me that everything was completely numb, except for my vulva. So, I still felt that ever-so-lovely ring of fire and some tearing. Before I got it, I had some miserable back labor. And getting [the epidural] felt like a really bad back spasm and being punched in the spine."
"It was wonderful. I laughed the whole time, ate jellybeans, and was certain I was not actually pushing until they told me 'she's almost out.' Still hurt like a b*tch later, though."
"My epidural felt like the best invention ever. I 100 percent did not feel the insertion. However, I was in a lot of pain and discomfort from the sitting position that I was required to be in while they set it up, and vomited on my OB-GYN three times. After that, I felt three more contractions. Each one felt less painful than the last.
I napped on and off while my family visited. As I got fully dilated, I got a little nervous about delivery. I was allowed to push the button on my epidural every 15 minutes. I could start to feel my feet and legs a little and a lot more pressure. My nerves made me push the button three times, which completely cancelled out any sensation I had, however it slowed down my contractions.
My OB-GYN ended up turning the epidural off so that I could push properly. I felt the pressure as she descended, but no pain. I honestly didn't even know that her head was out. They needed to do an episiotomy to get her out, which I also did not feel. One more big push and she was out. They did not turn the epidural back on so I felt the after birth and was in a lot of pain, as I was being stitched up for 45 minutes. So the first moments with my daughter weren't the greatest, but she was healthy and perfect so no complaints from me. The only annoying thing about it was that it made me itchy and cold. I wanted 493,737 blankets."
"I had Pitocin and an epidural. Pitocin contractions are no f*cking joke. Within an hour I was in so much constant pain, with no breaks, I was asking for an epidural. In retrospect, I probably had a ridiculously full bladder that was causing a lot of the excess pain. Once I got the epidural and they drained me by catheter (while they remarked that they didn't know how I kept that much urine in me without peeing myself). I was in a glorious state. I felt nothing and could still move my legs. Best thing ever.
The actual birth was tough. It took me a while to figure out how to push so they turned the epidural off and it was like shutting off a light switch — I was instantly in a sh*t ton of pain while I pushed my sunny side up baby out and had a third degree tear. I honestly don't remember much from the first hour of [my son's] life, which I really regret because I was in so much pain and felt every stitch. They finally gave me a shot of something, and I was able to relax a little more and get to know my baby."
"It's like laying on a soft, whispy cloud that floats along as you doze and watch your contractions spike. You think, 'Wow. Looks like that one sucked. Oh well. I wonder if this hospital gets Comedy Central?'"
"I had a 'natural' birth with my third, but ended up having an epidural with my fourth. Trying to sit still while in active labor so they could place [the epidural] correctly was torture, but once it started to kick in I calmed completely down and fully relaxed. They also gave me a catheter, which I honestly appreciated because I was having to pee every five minutes and it took away that sensation. I was exhausted, and I was able to get in a quick little nap. My legs were very heavy and I could feel pressure, but not pain. I started feeling a dull pushy/constipated type of feeling and the nurse came in and I was nearly fully dilated.
My baby ended up being posterior and malpositioned, with a compressed cord. They manually dilated my cervix the last half a centimeter, and I didn't feel a thing. Pushing without sensation in my legs was weird and felt a little awkward. The doctor applied pressure to my vagina, so I could feel where to bear down. I also could not feel my contractions, just pressure, so the nurse had to instruct me on when to start and stop pushing.
Because of my baby's position and heart decelerations, the doctor preformed a vacuum-assisted delivery. I was very grateful for my epidural at this point, because I could not feel what he was doing but I imagine it would not have felt very pleasant. I felt instant relief from the pressure, and my baby was placed in my arms. I wish they'd let you get the epidural for postpartum soreness."