Before I had my first baby, I thought getting an epidural was a sign of weakness or failure. I worried my choice to use medication during childbirth would be unhealthy for me and my baby, too. So I was seriously scared of what might happen if I "failed" at "natural" childbirth. After 18 hours of labor, though, my epidural was not only awesome, it was just what I needed to make it through. Still, there are so many things I wish people said to me when I got an epidural. While everyone seemed to have something to say about my decision to have a medicated birth, those comments were rarely what I needed to hear.
When I got pregnant the first time, most of my friends were proponents of "natural" childbirth and told me how horrible childbirth would be if I "broke down" and choose to have an epidural. The few people I did know who had a medicated birth thought I was silly to try to give birth without one, and told me I would "probably end up caving." The medical staff at the hospital made comments about how an epidural would slow things down, which didn't end up being true for me at all. Then, when labor and delivery was all said and done, people asked whether or not I got an epidural as if it was a sign I had "failed" in bringing another human being into the world the "right way."
I totally support pregnant people making informed choices, including choosing pain management during labor. The thing is, because I had heard so many things about epidurals, I don't think I was really able to make an informed choice. I waited until I honestly felt like I was going to die, and when I finally asked for one I felt so ashamed (which is horrible considering I wouldn't feel bad about asking for pain medicine at the dentist). Afterward, and even though it was just what I needed to deliver my daughter, there was nothing else for me to feel but guilty.
There are so many things I wish people had said instead; things that would have let me know people supported my choice and recognized that everyone is different. I needed to hear that birth is badass no matter how you make it through. So, with that in mind, if you're about to talk to a woman who had an epidural during labor and delivery, please consider saying the following things. It could end up making all the difference in the world.