I never allowed myself to promise that I was never going to get an epidural. My preference for both my births was to go unmedicated, not for any philosophical or judgmental reason but because I'm more of an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" kinda gal. ButI didn't know just how much labor would hurt, so I was perfectly willing to believe that it would hurt so badly I'd want to numb the pain. Hint: it did! There are are things an epidural can "fix" during labor and delivery and, to this day, I'm so glad I got one (twice).
In the never-ending, obnoxious epic that is "The Mommy Wars," epidurals are an early, hot-button issue. Some moms experience a lot of pressure not to get an epidural (often for dubious reasons) or are shamed for getting one. Other moms get an immediate eye-roll when they say the chose not to get one. "You know they don't give out medals for that, right?", as though the woman in question didn't know that and wasn't influenced by any number of other reasons about how she wanted to experience her own damn birth.
Get an epidural. Don't get an epidural. No one can tell you the best decision for you except for that little voice in your head that gives you all your best advice. I do, however, think that voice can be more confident and clearer after research, including listening to the experiences of others. So, for anyone's consideration, these are the things that an epidural helped me with:
I mean... duh. And the importance of this one cannot be overstate because there's a trickle-down effect (and, unlike trickle down economics, this actually works).
Worrying About Whether Or Not To Get One
Obviously, choosing to get an epidural solves the whole "waffling about whether you will or won't" ting, so there's that. And most people who get epidurals are happy with the decision. This isn't to diminish the negative experiences of those who did, indeed, have negative side-effects or epidural horror stories, but statistically you're going to be good. And it's nice to waffle, make a decision, and then realize that you made the right decision.
It's amazing how much you can relax when you're not in debilitating pain every minute or two. There's a definite body/mind connection and I hear a lot of "natural" birth moms talk about it, but I feel like we don't talk about the negative side of it that can also happen. When your body is in pain, your brain can sort of freak out a bit, right? Even though you're not in danger, your body can very easily be tricked into it and slow down the whole labor process.
Getting an epidural allowed me to shut that down (or at the very least quiet it significantly) and focus on what I needed to do to get through.
I hear a lot of women get to catch a few Zzzs after they get their epidural. I did not (I could still very much feel my contractions and, as time went on, they were never as painful but they got increasingly uncomfortable) but I did get to rest to the point that it was rejuvenating. So, you know, kind of like a nap. A Nap Lite, if you will: all of the flavor of a nap but none of the actual sleeping.
And, girl, I needed it both times. My first delivery I had an emergency C-section and I needed all that stored up energy to heal (while caring for a newborn). Second time around I delivered vaginally and that baby was over nine pounds, so I definitely needed to send some strength down to the ol' pelvic floor to get 'er done.
Talking Through Worries & Excitement With My Partner
I'm one of those people who thinks with her mouth. I process my world and the situations I find myself in by talking through them, and there's no one I'd rather talk things through with than my husband. It's sort of why I married the guy, in fact. Being able to process labor in my own way was absolutely invaluable.
Making Clear-Minded Decisions
Having an epidural made me feel as though I was not being held hostage by my body. I could make decisions that were not influenced exclusively by the desire to end my pain. In other words, my epidural ensured that none of my choices were made under duress. And that's not to say that people who forgo epidurals are not making clear-headed decisions, because everyone is different and processes labor (and pain) differently, but I felt more in control with an epidural and I'm really thankful for that.
Some say that it's important to be "in your body" while you're giving birth and that an epidural inhibits that. "Be present." This may be true for them, but I also think there's also being too into your body to the point that you aren't really in the moment anymore... that was true for me. The epidural cleared that up.
Getting Up To Pee
Because you don't have to get up to pee because they give you a catheter so all your pee just goes in a little bag on your bed! So convenient.
Seriously, though, the thing that scared me most during labor the first time around was the possibility that I would wind up catheterized and, honestly, it was such a non-worry. First of all, you get the epidural before the catheter, so you're already numbed. And secondly, it wasn't a big deal.
Waiting Forever To Get This Over With
I know some people bop through labor quickly and give birth in the car on the way there or whatever, but that wasn't me. My first labor was over 18 hours. My second was over nine. That's a lot of time to wait around, much less be in tremendous pain!
But, Seriously, Did I Mention Pain?
OMG, you guys, it was downright blinding. God bless epidurals.