I was not expecting to have to answer any questions about my pregnancy and delivery, which happened nearly 15 months ago. But in a section labeled “Part Four: Pre and Post Natal,” there were a few shocking questions including one that made me stop in my tracks: “Did you have any anesthesia or medication during delivery?”
Really?!? What does a day care need with that information? Here, I thought I was moving past my birth experience, enjoying my daughter walking, talking, and climbing, and day care was throwing it back in my face, effectively saying: you may have damaged your child with an epidural.
Oh epidurals. For my entire pregnancy, this decision weighed on me. I took a childbirth class in which the instructor endeavored to make us believe in the power and beauty of natural childbirth. We held ice cubes, practiced breathing, and watched films of glorious natural births. This all should have inspired me. Instead it scared me: scared that I couldn’t handle the pain, scared that my doctor wouldn’t support me, scared that I didn’t have all the resources I needed. An epidural seemed like a much better solution then all of this other stuff, and according to a peer reviewed research study that my OB referenced, it did not make having a c-section any more likely.
The night I went into labor, things did not go as planned. I thought I would have time to labor at home and spend some time on the exercise ball, but because my water broke, I was in the hospital the entire time. When my contractions got more painful, I got the epidural and it was pretty magical. My body relaxed and I was almost able to get some sleep in the middle of the night. If those nurses didn’t keep adjusting my monitors I would have. But I also got a pitocin drip without any explanation. Then the midwife on the floor discovered that my water had only partially broken and she broke the rest of it. All of the interventions that I had been told to avoid in my childbirth class happened to me and I didn’t fight them.
Then when it was time to push, I couldn’t feel anything. After very little progress I was told to change positions and started screaming in pain. I was on my knees leaning against the bed, feeling the contraction about to come on and being able to do nothing but lean my head against the bed and cry. My epidural was redosed and I was able to pull myself together but almost everyone left the room. They had given up on me.
After three hours of this I was sent to the OR for my C-section. I felt like a total failure. I couldn’t birth a baby the way that I was supposed to. This combined with hormones and breastfeeding problems lead to some very difficult weeks for me. There were many times the thought went through my head, if only I hadn’t gotten that epidural I would have been able to push that baby out.
Now, 15 months later, this form is asking me if I had pain medication during labor. The implication of the question is that a mother who used an epidural has somehow caused ongoing damage to her baby. While it is relevant for a daycare to ask about developmental delays or health issues, asking what a mother did during pregnancy is not relevant to the daily care a child needs to receive. It’s only a reminder to mothers that we are held responsible for everything related to our children and we are too often judged for our choices.
My daughter is a cute little bundle of energy. She’s hit every single developmental milestone early. I know that she doesn’t care one bit about how she was born. I hope that one day I can also be as carefree about it, but it certainly would help if everyone else was as well.