A Discussion on Epidurals

San Clemente Family Photographer-3758With the rise of influence via social media in conjunction with the over abundance of glorification of natural births, epidurals have – in my opinion – gained some weird association with turning your back on the ‘real experience’. I remember a family member telling me after my birth with Hooper that women who give birth naturally don’t deserve some special trophy. It hurt my feelings some at the time because I felt like she must have inferred that I chose to give birth naturally because I had some crazy notion that doing so would win me some prestige. It was quite the contrary, actually. I was scared to get an epidural. So scared, in fact, that the idea of giving birth screaming and yelling and feeling every single contraction somehow seemed more appealing. I didn’t want a c-section and I understood the connection between having an epidural and ultimately needing a c-section. And, in hindsight, had I gotten an epidural with Hooper I can almost guarantee that I would have ended up on the operating room table. I mean I delivered him on the operating room table anyway but was luckily afforded that final opportunity to push, something that would have been more challenging had I been numb from an epidural.

Some use the argument that those that receive an epidural aren’t fully present for their birth but as someone that has given birth three times now sans an epidural, let me tell you, neither was I. I don’t even recognize the person on that video on Willy’s phone pushing out that baby. It’s not me. It’s not sounds I make. All I wanted to do in that time was escape myself.

Had it not been for my fused spine, I may have just opted for an epidural this third time. In fact, when I got to the hospital, even in my rushed state, the nurse asked if I wanted something for pain. And my answer was quite different than my first birth with Hooper where, in my sober, non-labor-land state, I told the nurse to kindly not offer me an epidural. This time, instead, in my full-on-labor-land-state and between rapid and strong contractions I said, “what can you give me?”… By the time the exchange of info was made – they learned of my fused spine and I learned that the anesthesiologist was in the OR assisting another patient – it was time to deliver Sonny anyway. But the point is, I wanted a way out and dammit, if given more time and opportunity, I would have taken it.

My sister recently sent me a link to this blog post, via Scary Mommy, which serves as a hysterical pat on the back for anyone that may be leaning toward an epidural but feels like there is a certain degree of scrutiny associated with such a decision.

Final point being, you have to do what you feel comfortable with. I wasn’t initially comfortable with the idea of an epidural and now that I am, it’s not an option for me. Ho hum. Fortunately, Sonny came fast enough that whatever pain I experienced is already a fleeting memory… but not really, cuz – I mean – ouch.

I’m curious to hear from any mamas that have given birth both ways – with an epidural and without – and what your experiences were like when compared. And, of course, any random thoughts on the topic are also invited… if you chose not to have an epidural, what was your reasoning? Would you do it again? And for those who had an epidural, did you experience any complications? Also curious to know what it’s like watching your baby come out in the absence of the hysteria that comes with a natural, un-medicated, birth… I imagine it’s pretty surreal. I mean it’s surreal anyway… but I digress. I’m rambling now.

Support a woman's right to chose.

Image by Mexico Rosel
Today I have a beautifully written post from Ama. I don’t even have anything to add because homegirl took the words right out of my mouth. So with no further adieu…
My name is Ama, I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina, and I had my son, Lane, a year ago at a birth center in South Carolina.
We had to cross the border, which sounds kind of exotic, because our options for birthing outside of a hospital in N.C. are extremely limited. Home births are illegal here, and there is ONE birth center in the state that’s too far from my city.
My reasons for choosing natural birth aren’t all that important to this story. I am basically a stress case and my dating ultrasound at my OB sent me into a frenzy of worry when there wasn’t a heartbeat at 8 weeks (only to see one at 12 weeks after I’d googled so much my fingers were bleeding). I knew that if I continued there, getting blood work, counting heart chambers, pregnancy would be a crazy uncertain time where I was constantly on edge.
So I toured the closest birth center I could find and chose my midwife at Carolina Community Maternity Center based on credentials alone, but the relationship soon became much more personal.
She calmed me.
For every prenatal appointment, I would work myself into a frenzy with a thousand first-time-mom questions and every appointment my midwife sat there with a beautiful understanding smile and listened to my concerns and hung out with me for an hour putting them all to rest. When we left the birth center each time, we were reminded why we were choosing natural birth, and we felt prepared to face a world that wasn’t sure what to make of our choice.
If you feel like delving into the specifics of our birth story, you can do so here.
My midwife was also there after the birth when I got mastitis at 2am and thought I was going to die and didn’t know what to do. I called her. Like a friend. She gave me a crazy off-the-wall remedy, something like drinking salt water and taking lecithin, but really she just told me I could beat it and assured me I wasn’t going to die.
Almost a year after Lane was born, we went back to the center and took him to his “place of origin” that had since been turned into a lactation room. My husband held Lane over the spot he was born and said, “Soak up the energy!” in this hippy dippy way and I smiled at them, thinking that if we had to have him in a hospital, we would never be able to do this….to go to the very spot he was born and pretend it could give him super powers.
I’m sharing this because that center needs help right now, and I feel like it’s the least I can do, after the beautiful experience I had, to try to help it.
Exactly a year after my son was born in a bedroom style room with only my husband and midwife present on a day where it was sunny and raining at the same time, the South Carolina DHEC suspended the birth center’s license.
The reason, taken from our local paper, the Charlotte Observer:
“The center claimed the state was enforcing a regulation that had never been previously enforced on any S.C. birthing center – that a physician be on call and available to provide medical assistance at the birthing center at all times.”
During pregnancy and childbirth, when everything is distorted and new and strange, a woman should have the right to choose what calms her.
For some of us, it’s the OB. It’s the blood work, the ultrasounds, the backup doctors and the hospital sanitation and the IVs and pain medications, and for those people there is no skepticism, no difficulty to follow that path. The US medical system supports that path.
But for some of us, we need the woman sitting there telling us we can do this when we aren’t sure if we can…telling us that we are powerful, and she will be there to help. For this path there seems to always be a fight – whether it’s with your parents who look at you like you’re crazy, or with the state who is narrowing your options.
My support group has put together a donation website for the center, to help them “pay the rent and bills” while the suspension is in place. Anything that isn’t used towards the reopening of the birth center will be donated to the South Carolina birth coalition.
You can donate towards our birth center here.
You can tour their website
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here.

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