When I started going over my birth plan and envisioning labor and delivery, I knew that the experience would be difficult. After all, I was going to be pushing another human being out of my body, so I didn't expect it to be a walk in the ole park. However, what I didn't anticipate was the "fall out" after I gave birth. Since I chose to have an epidural, I was on the receiving end of some unnecessary judgment and have realized that there are things moms who got an epidural really want you, and everyone else, to know so that eventually (hopefully) that judgment can end.
I can't help but think that shaming and judging how another woman decided (or ended up) giving birth, is another way for the evil patriarchy to divide women and downplay our collective power and wondrous abilities. You can't just give birth to a human being. Oh no, you have to do so in a very specific way in order to call yourself "powerful" or in order for your birth to be deemed "natural." I find this unnecessary comparison to be just like the unrealistic expectations women face when it comes to their appearance. You have to look a certain way, but you shouldn't act like you're trying to look a certain way. You shouldn't wear makeup because that's "cheating" but, hey, you shouldn't wear too much makeup because then you're not "natural." At some point, you just can't "win," no matter what you do.
I couldn't help but feel that way after I brought my son into the world. After all, I had labored for 10 hours without any drugs or medical interventions, but that didn't keep people from telling me that my birth wasn't natural. I brought my son into the world after growing him in my body, but that didn't keep people from telling me that I "took the easy way out." Ugh. It's just, you know, the most exhausting. So, in an effort to fight the damn patriarchy and this unnecessary comparison of women's labor and delivery experiences, here are a few things women who chose to have epidurals would really like you, and everyone else, to know.
Please Don't Automatically Assume We Were Pressured Into Having An Epidural...
I understand that many hospitals pressure laboring women into unnecessary interventions, using fear tactics to convince them to alter their birth plans. That, in a word, is horrific. I'm not downplaying those experiences or how often they actually happen.
However, not every woman who has ever had an epidural did so because she was somehow coerced or forced or "talked into" one. I didn't plan on having an epidural, but after 10 hours of painful back labor and after being awake for over 24 hours, I knew that if I didn't get some rest and relief my birth was going to end with an emergency c-section. I didn't feel pressured to get a needle in my spine. I didn't feel like I had to have an epidural as the result of pitocin or some other medical intervention. In fact, I was asked more than once if this change in my birth plan was exactly what I wanted. Trust women to make their own choices and trust them when they say that the decision to get an epidural was, in fact, their decision.
...Because While That Does Happen, Most Of Us Wanted One And Asked For One
Again, I'm definitely not saying that some women weren't pressured into certain interventions. However, hearing those horrific (and very sad) stories only to blindly apply them to every woman who has ever had an epidural, isn't helpful. Many women go into labor knowing full well, after careful research, that they're going to be asking for an epidural.
We're Informed. Trust Us.
I can't tell you how many times I've been told that the reason I chose an epidural is because I wasn't informed and, as a result, didn't know the risks involved. False. I was very informed, and I can't tell you how hurtful it is for someone to automatically assume that I am naïve, just because my life choices don't mirror their own.
I knew that getting an epidural would probably prolong my labor and make pushing more difficult. I also knew that if I didn't get some rest, I wouldn't have had the strength to push at all. I knew that having an epidural increased my risk for a c-section, but I knew I was at risk for a c-section if I wouldn't physically be able to push my baby out of my body. So, in the end, I made an informed decision that I knew was best for myself and my baby, and for someone to automatically assume I didn't just because I didn't give birth in a tub is not only wrong, it's offensive.
We Still Experienced Childbirth, In All Its Painful Glory...
I've also had some people tell me that I didn't really experience childbirth, or that I didn't get the "full" experience, because I chose to have an epidural. Yeah, that's a big ole false.
I went through ten hours of active, painful, drug-free labor at the hospital, on top of the few additional hours I labored at home. I walked the hospital hallways, I got my pregnant, laboring ass into a tub, and I used a birthing ball. I swayed back and forth and asked my partner to apply pressure to my lower back and I moaned and cried through contractions that were less than two minutes apart. Trust me, I experienced childbirth.
...So We Don't Feel Cheated (Or Like We Cheated)
Which is why I don't feel cheated out of some "magical" experience, and why I definitely don't think I "cheated" in order to make childbirth "easier" for me. It wasn't easy, my friends.
Furthermore, I don't think I need to suffer in order to prove that I can "handle" childbirth. Women shouldn't be made to suffer, period; especially in the name of motherhood. These wonderful medical interventions exist for a reason, and my epidural helped me experience the childbirth I wanted.
Our Epidural Didn't Keep Us From Bonding With Our Kid
This was by far the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me when I shared my birthing experience, and it was said by a friend which made it infinitely more hurtful. I had a hard time bonding with my son directly after he was born, thanks to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), postpartum depression and the loss of a twin when I was 19 weeks pregnant. I was deathly afraid that my son was going to die (in fact, I was almost sure of it) so I was terrified to bond with him, only to inevitably experience the heartbreak of losing him.
A friend equated my inability to bond with my son with my choice to get an epidural. I was devastated. There are thousands upon thousands of women who have epidurals, and feel an instant connection with their child. They are able to breastfeed right away; they're able to feel that instantaneous and ever-lasting love; they're able to do what I wasn't capable of doing, even though I had the same epidural they did. An epidural in no way keeps you from bonding with your child. Nope. That's not a thing.
For Many Of Us, Our Epidural Is The Reason Why We Were Able To Have The Birth We Wanted
So many women attribute their epidural to the reason why they were able to have the labor and delivery experience they were hoping to have, and I'm one of them. If it wasn't for the relief and the rest that my epidural afforded me, there would have been no way I would have found the physical and mental strength to push. My epidural gave me the ability to fall asleep for a few essential hours so that, when it came time to bring my son into the world, I had the power to do so.
Most Of Us Don't Regret Our Decision. Like, At All.
Nope. Like, not even a little bit. If I could go back and do it all over again, I probably would have asked for that damn epidural earlier. Going through 10 hours of back labor was the most unnecessary, and something I don't plan on ever doing again.
We're Really Tired Of Hearing That We Didn't Experience A "Natural Birth"
I can't stand the term "natural birth" to begin with. Honestly, unless you gave birth to a toaster oven or an alien, you had a natural birth. It doesn't matter if you were in the woods somewhere, in your own home, in a hospital with an epidural in your back or on a surgical table and having a doctor cut your baby from your body; your birth was natural. You're a human and you're producing another human. Natural.
So, please, all of us mothers who chose to have an epidural would really love to never hear that we didn't have a "natural birth," ever again. If you want to say we didn't have a drug-free birth, have it it. But natural? Yeah, our babies were birthed naturally.