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Jul 23 2012

Epidural or Not, Giving Birth is the Easy Part

By at 11:56 am

labor & delivery roomI loved Jordana’s piece on epidurals so much that I wish I had written it! As a matter of fact, my son said he kept checking the byline because it sounded so much like me! I am with you, Jordana!

I was luckier than Jordana was, though, because my epidurals worked perfectly for my four deliveries. I was able to push out my babies, felt fine afterwards, and my kids suffered no ill effects (which would surely have shown up by now, decades later.) Like Jordana, I, too, dislike being “mildly uncomfortable.” I even dislike sweating.

Note: Please read the post below as my own opinion based on my own experience. I am not judging!!! (That is a really loaded word with Kveller readers.) To each, her own. To those of you who do not want pain relief during labor and delivery, and those of you who do, I wish each one of you a satisfying experience.

I have often thought that there is something anti-woman about the emphasis on the poorly named “natural childbirth.” It seems to me that over the years, labor and delivery without pain relief has been glorified to the point that I always expect that those women will receive a medal from someone, somewhere. It also seems patronizing and denigrating to imply that giving birth with pain relief is “unnatural.” Actually, there is nothing “natural” about choosing to be in pain. As a matter of fact, most people think it’s “natural” to make every effort to avoid pain. 50 Shades of Grey notwithstanding, sadomasochism is considered downright unnatural. So maybe we can rename labor and delivery, taking “natural,” “unnatural,” and their implications out of the lexicon.

I have also been intrigued for a long time by the fact that there is no instance in which a man would be presumed to have his insides taken out, or a limb amputated, without anesthesia. (When one does, James Franco gets to play him in a movie.) Expecting a woman to undergo pain to have a baby, and extolling the virtues of no anesthesia, implies that women should suffer pain in a way that no man would ever be expected to. I know that some women don’t think of birth pains as “suffering,” but surely it hurts most women most of the time.

It has been said that, in the early days of anesthesia, religious leaders decreed that its use for childbirth should be forbidden so women would continue to “suffer the curse of Eve” as described in the Bible. In 1847, the first woman in the U.S. received anesthesia during childbirth, and in 1853 Queen Victoria gave it her imprimatur when she insisted on chloroform during her son’s delivery. By the early 20th century, women were demanding anesthesia during labor and birth. Think of that–in those days, pain relief for laboring women was a feminist issue!

I really do hope that all moms have the birth experience they want and plan for. But in the same way that there is often a sly, not-so-subtle disparagement of the mother who does not breastfeed, there seems to be the same attitude towards moms who deliver with an epidural. Is it really a good idea to start the mommy wars in the labor room?

Believe me, though labor and delivery are both hard no matter how you do it, two of the easiest parts of being a mother are giving birth and feeding an infant. And, in a developed country like the U.S., you have good choices in the delivery room and with baby formula. Anesthesia in major medical centers is very safe and the water used for formula is potable. Of course there are risks with anesthesia. There are risks giving birth. (And I might mention that in my own experience, I know of no mother or child in over 30 years since I had my first baby who had complications from an epidural.)

I am of the firm belief that how one delivers and feeds their infant is a choice in which different ways work equally well for different mothers and babies. Mothers who deliver without an epidural and nurse their babies deserve no bigger “mazal tov” than those who choose an epidural or do not breastfeed.

I guarantee you–the hard stuff comes later. And you have a lifetime to work on being the best mother you can be, regardless of how you give birth or feed your newborn.

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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