I'm a little over two years into this whole mom thing, and I'm still finding ways in which going through labor and delivery has changed me. Not only did it make me a mother, but it helped me realize a few things about myself that I either didn't know or had simply forgotten. So, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that choosing an epidural made me more assured at work, but when I stop to think about the birth of my son and how it has actually made me a better coworker, employee, writer, and editor, it's just, you know, unreal.
Of course, at the time I didn't think about how choosing to have a needle inserted into my spine would aid me in meeting deadlines or negotiating a raise. Obviously, I just wanted the damn pain to go away and to be able to rest for a few hours before I met my son. I had gone 10 hours medication-free, trying everything under the freakin' sun to deal with what turned out to be intense back labor. I walked the hallways of the labor and delivery wing of the hospital, I labored in the bathtub that was provided for me in my labor and delivery room, and I rolled around on a labor ball. Yeah, nothing. The only thing that could possibly help was standing, swaying, and leaning on my partner. After 10 hours of standing and contracting, I simply couldn't do it anymore.
Enter the epidural, and enter another labor and delivery moment that would remind me of my limits, my strength, my determination, and a slew of other aspects that make me unapologetically me. So while there's still a hefty amount of judgment and shame women who choose epidurals have to deal with from those who have a pretty set idea of what a "perfect birth" looks like, I say embrace that beautiful epidural and all the ways it can actually make you stronger.
I Learned To Listen To My Body
Sadly, it took me far to long to really learn how to quiet my mind and listen to my body. It's easy to cloud my thoughts with the preconceived notions of others, and really focus on what people assume is "best for me," instead of just listening to what my body has to say in the matter.
So when I finally did shut my mind down and just focus on what my body was telling me, I knew I needed an epidural if I was going to have the strength to push my son into the world. That same "quiet of the mind" has aided me in work, too. When I'm given too many projects or loaded down with too many deadlines I know that, physically, I probably can't accomplish what is asked to me and I need to either reprioritize or tell my superior that our team needs to do a little restructuring.
I Learned To Respect My Limits
It's difficult for me to admit when there's a thing I can't do. I know, I know. My silly pride is something I'm continuously working on. Which is why labor and delivery was truly a humbling experience, and one that I have carried with me and throughout every other aspect of my life.
I had a limit the day I brought my son into the world, a limit that could be respected by the use of modern medicine. I also have limits when it comes to work, and how much I can actually accomplish while maintaining a healthy work/life balance that affords me the opportunity to spend time with my son. When I feel myself reaching my limit, I ask for a break or take some time off or simply learn to delegate more efficiently, so I don't crumble under unnecessary pressure and a ridiculous work load.
I Learned To Ask (Read: Demand) For The Things I Want And Need
I've always had an issue asking for the thing I want or need, in almost every aspect of my life but certainly in the workplace. I'm not alone, either. While it's reported that women ask for raises about as often as men do, but don't get them as often, it can be difficult to feel like even suggesting you are given what you're owed for the work you're doing is worthwhile. (Plus, the gender wage gap is a thing so, you know, that sucks.)
Still, when I asked for that epidural I was unwavering in what I wanted or needed. There was no, "Well, let's wait and see," or a, "How about we check back in a few minutes?" Nope. I want what I want and I want it now. I have since used that same determination when negotiating time off, salaries, and so on. I mean, if I can ask for a needle to be jabbed into my spine so I don't have to feel my body twisting into itself, I can ask for a small raise no problem.
I Learned To Disregard What Others Assume Is Best For Me...
Oh man, did people have feelings about what they thought was best for me when it came to labor and delivery. And I'm not talking doctor people, but people with no medical knowledge or experience, people who have never pushed a child out of their body, and people who don't, you know, have vaginas.
Still, what a friend thought about me "taking the easy way out" when it came to asking for an epidural didn't matter at all when I was in that moment, demanding someone call the damn anesthesiologist. I mean, who cares? I was the one in pain. I was the one who had to rest so I could push my kid into the universe. No way I was going to give a you-know-what about someone else's "ideal" birth.
I feel the same, now, when it comes to my work ethic or how I choose to accomplish the tasks that are laid before me at work. Sure, some people might not understand why I do what I do, and maybe I don't work the same way some of my other coworkers do, but so? As long as my work is completed efficiently and effectively, I say my job here is done.
...And How To Ignore Judgment From Others
If I can handle the harsh judgment and criticism from people who don't think my son's birth was "natural" because I chose to have an epidural, I can handle any inter-office gossip. Trust.
I Learned How Important It Is To Rest
My epidural, honestly, gave me the ability to have a vaginal birth. I had gone 10 hours medication-free, and because I was experiencing back labor the only position that assisting me in enduring the contractions was standing and leaning on my partner. After 10 hours of standing, I was exhausted. I knew, after listening to my body, that there was absolutely no way I would have found the energy to push when it was time to do so.
So I had an epidural and, a few minutes later, I was able to sleep until it was time to meet my son. That rest period was crucial, and a valuable lesson I have carried me with me as a mom and a career-oriented woman. I am useless if I don't get the rest I need.
I Learned To Humble Myself And Listen To Experts
While I know my body best and was thankful that I had a team of doctors and nurses who respected that undeniable fact, I also learned that when it comes down to it, there will always people who simply know more sh*t than I do. After all, the birth of my son was the first time I had ever been through labor and delivery. It was my body but, well, I didn't know a whole lot about what was truly going on.
So, in deferring to doctors during some sometimes-scary-but-ultimately-fine moments, I realized there is always the capacity for growth. That has aided me in work, too, as I am always willing to learn from those who have been around longer, have more talent, and have figured things out in a way I truly haven't.
I Learned How To Adapt When Plans Changed
I had planed on experiencing a medication-free labor and delivery. However, I had also planned on giving birth to two healthy twin boys, and that didn't happen either.
At 19 weeks, one of my twin sons unexpectedly died in the womb. That means that, when ti came time to experience childbirth, I would bring a child into the world that was alive, and one that wasn't. That changed the game, changed my birth plan, and changed my expectations. It also changed my dream of having a med-free labor, and that epidural became a life-line when everything else related to my labor and delivery seemed like too much.
If I could adapt to a situation that was so mentally and physically exhausting, I can adapt to damn near anything.