I know I shouldn’t feel like I have to justify my decision to get an epidural during this upcoming birth, and no one has really specifically made me feel horrible for choosing this path, but I have a lot of friends and family members who have been blessed to be able to give natural child birth and have loved the experience. They seem somewhat disappointed when I say that I’m absolutely planning on receiving pain medication to help me through this process. So, I decided that I’d post a blog about my thoughts on the subject and would share the reasons behind my decision.
There are a lot of people in the world that believe that having an epidural is a selfish decision. I’m subscribed to a pregnancy updater on facebook that I’m fairly certain believes that epidurals are a tool of Satan. I thought I’d share their little quip about epidurals so you can see what I mean:
”In terms of labor and birth, studies show that getting an epidural greatly increases the risk of needing an emergency c-section & can delay labor if given too early on.”
It then continues for several paragraphs about how labor pain is good pain and that women need to embrace it and let their bodies experience this natural process and how fighting the pain goes against nature. This is a short version of the long version of what some people believe about epidurals. I’ve heard some other very scary arguments against them from different sources. I’ve heard that there are risks involved for the mother and that they can cause on-going medical problems if administered incorrectly, they limit your mobility during labor, they slow labor, they cause the baby to come out drugged and unresponsive and unable to breast feed immediately, etc… There are many more.
First, I’d just like to establish that I am in no way trying to argue against these beliefs and studies. I’m sure that all of these things have happened as a result of receiving an epidural during some medicated births. I have nothing but respect for mothers who choose to birth naturally. I admire them and respect their decisions and the reasons behind them. All I’m asking is that they do the same for me.
I’d also like to point out that everyone is different. (Hi, I’m Captain Obvious and I’ll be conducting this portion of the blog) Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Every mother has different pregnancies. Every birth is slightly different. Every mother handles discomfort in their own unique way. Some people (like my Chelsea friend) have a very high threshold for dealing with pain. Some people (like yours truly) have a very low threshold for handling pain.
One last point to make before I explain my decision to receive an epidural: Receiving an epidural does NOT make the process of labor ‘labor free’. There will be a great deal of laboring before the epidural and there will be pain involved (albeit slightly more muted) during the actual delivery and there will be pain involved for weeks after the delivery while I heal. I am not making the decision to get an epidural based on the fact that I have an unhealthy desire to avoid pain. Pain is a part of life. I acknowledge that. I’m not trying to avoid it by receiving medication. I don’t consider receiving an epidural to be ‘chickening out’ or ‘taking the easy way out’. Anyone who believes that the process of having a baby can be made ‘easy’ by being numb for a portion of labor is kidding themselves. I do not believe that getting an epidural will make me less of a woman or will make me numb to the experience. I will still experience contractions that I will have to figure out how to handle and breathe through and labor through until I’m far enough along to get the epidural and AFTER the epidural is administered, I will still have to push the child out of me. Granted, it will be a more muted sensation, but it does not make the process pain-free.
Having discussed these three points, we have now arrived at the moment wherein I will try to explain my reasoning behind my decision to have a medicated birth. The reasons are thusly:
1. 1. PEACE OF MIND:
I have never had a high pain tolerance. In fact, I’ve had a very low pain tolerance since I was a wee, tiny child. I don’t see this part of myself changing in the next five weeks. When I experience a great deal of pain, my body tenses, my mind shuts down, I become unable to process ANYTHING around me but the pain that I’m in. My mind zeros in on and focuses unrelentingly on the pain. In high school, I actually developed a phobia about pain and have had therapy specifically to deal with my anxiety surrounding medical procedures. As a result, I am now to a point where I can mentally wrap my mind around the fact that I have to get this child out of my body without experiencing a debilitating amount of fear about it. One of the tools that I have that are keeping me relatively grounded about this upcoming task, is the thought that I will be able to receive an epidural to help me deal with the pain later on in the process.
2. 2. MOTHER KNOWS BEST:
My mom has had four children. Of the four, three were brought into the world using an epidural. Andrea came too quickly for her to receive one. My mother’s birthing experience with Andrea was horrific for her. The birthing experiences that she enjoyed the most were the ones that she’d been medicated for. She was able to bond with the baby afterwards because she wasn’t overwhelmed with the pain and exhaustion of delivery.
3. 3. SLEEP:
Receiving an epidural will mean that I will be able to sleep during part of my labor, thus enabling me to regain a little strength that will be needed later during the pushing process. (which, for those of you who don’t know, can last for hours. I did not know this prior to being pregnant. It shocked and horrified me. Hehe)
4. 4. RELAXATION:
Remember how I said pain makes me tense my body? Guess what the number one thing you’re not supposed to do during labor is? (Okay…other than like…shooting yourself in the face or smoking a doobie or something) Oh yeah, get tense during contractions. It slows the process. There will be a certain amount of time during labor that I’m convinced that I’ll have the mental capacity to stay relaxed and in charge of my body while it’s contracting. But after 6-12 hours of this, my mind will undoubtedly become exhausted and unable to allow my body to cope as well with all of the pain. At that point, I believe it will be beneficial to me to have the epidural so that I can relax and let my body do its thing.
I am sure that there are very well-founded arguments against each and every one of the reasons that I'm deciding to have an epidural...but let's just say that I really don't care. This has been a decision that I've put a lot of thought and prayer in to and I feel good about deciding to take this course of action. Now, I'm aware that birth plans can sometimes be changed. Maybe Luke will decide that he's going to come way faster than anyone is expecting and it'll be too late for me to get an epidural. Maybe I'll go into labor and realize that I really don't NEED one and I'll decide instead to do it naturally. I am open to these possibilities. If it does happen that I don't or can't get an epidural for some reason, I will be okay. I will make it. I will survive. My child will come out just as healthy and happy as he would have with the assistance of the epidural and my body will heal. If I GET the epidural and end up hating it, I will have the option of doing it naturally during my next birth. I'm not against natural birth. I just haven't experienced either and so am trying to make the best decision I can about something I've never experienced.
I'm planning on laboring without the medication for as long as I possibly can. I have a pretty good ability to stretch myself past what I think my limit is. (That's one thing I love about running) So part of me is really excited to see how long I can make myself go without receiving the epidural. That being said; the comfort of knowing that those drugs will be available to me when/if I need them is highly valuable to me and my mental health and I will be clinging to it with a vengeance come my son's birthday.