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.


As many of my friends and family know, I’m a huge proponent of natural birth. I’ve declared several times that I feel this is the best option for me. Part of having a natural childbirth involves finding ways to deal with or even embrace the pain. I never opted for a natural childbirth because I thought I’d be viewed as a stronger or more capable woman. Instead, it was a personal decision based somewhat on research and somewhat on desire. 
Research does show links between epidurals and c-sections as well as links to poor pushing abilities, longer labors, inabilities to move in ways that help labor along, poor breastfeeding/latching with your baby… the list goes on. The validity of these arguments aren’t as important, to me, as the mere fact that these arguments exist. That’s because the decision to go natural was also based on desire.
Yes, I said it. I desired pain. But not entirely. What I really desired was the participation. I didn’t want someone gently tapping me on the shoulder to tell me I was 10cm and ready to push. I wanted to be involved and I wanted to take away the pride in knowing that my body was capable and my mind strong. For myself. 
I also lucked out with my first labor in that it was only 8 hours and that at 6cm, when I was secretly hoping my nurse would offer me an epidural, she did not. I had asked her during my admission not to offer me one. An epidural was all that was on my mind at 6cm, but then I was 7 cm, and then I was 9cm and time really just whizzed painfully by.
I question how much about birth and labor I really ought to share on this blog because there are many decisions to be made in the process and they are all personal. In any event, this blog serves as documentation of my journey and these are just stepping stones along the way. For those that chose an epidural or are considering an epidural, this is a good article in support of epidurals. The closing statement is what I really like. It reads:
Woman shouldn’t cave to pressure from either side. They should make informed decisions based on their goals and priorities. I aspired to have a comfortable birth even if it meant being surrounded by nurses and doctors and tubes and incessant beeps; other woman may trade pain for a more intimate birthing experience. Each choice comes with its own benefits and unpleasantries. My unnatural childbirth left me with a memory that does not involve intolerable pain, and that’s exactly what I wanted. 
I agree, woman shouldn’t cave to pressure from either side. You can research things until you are blue in the face. If you believe in natural childbirth, you can find loads of information supporting your belief. This article goes to show that if you believe in medical interventions, then there is someone in your corner as well. Unlike the author of this article, my memory of Hooper’s birth is not tainted in the least bit by the pain I endured. In fact, the high I experienced immediately after giving birth is a rush I still crave. That overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and perseverance. There’s nothing like being fully present and alert in that moment, if you ask me. 
When it comes down to it, what I truly believe is not in natural childbirth over a medically enhanced childbirth, but in informed decision based on the goals and priorities of the mother.
photo source