When I saw Jordana Horn’s piece about epidurals come up in my Google Reader yesterday, I had to read it. After all, I’d just given birth to my second child six weeks ago and have some strong feelings about epidurals. Against them, that is. Let me start by saying I really, truly believe that birth is an individual experience, and I want each woman to make the decision that is right for her. So I totally support Jordana’s decision to have an epidural. And another one. And another one. And probably another one at the end of her current pregnancy. But that wasn’t what I wanted.
Six weeks ago, at 41 weeks pregnant, I went to the doctor and was told that I would have to be induced (too MUCH amniotic fluid–I had no idea that was a problem). I promptly burst into tears, and didn’t really stop crying until I got home and had to pull it together for my 3-year-old daughter. As you might have guessed, I am a proponent of natural childbirth, as much as possible. And that was what I wanted for my births. But when my doctor told me the potential side effects, I knew that induction was in my immediate future (look up polyhydramnios and you’ll see why).
My tears were for my dreams of another unmedicated birth, just like my last one three years prior. I wanted no epidural, no pitocin, no nothing. But that wasn’t what was going to happen. I knew that I didn’t have a choice here–I was going to do what was best for the baby and medically necessary–but I still felt a profound sadness, and a true sense of worry about the potential for more and more interventions.
And I still didn’t want the epidural. I knew of only one woman who’d been induced and made it through the pitocin-laced contractions without the epidural. So that meant it was possible. Even though everyone else I knew who’d ever been induced had gotten the epidural. Probably about 20 births. So a 20:1 ratio in favor of the epidural. Crap.
But I was really determined. And I had incredible support from my husband and my doula. I know it wouldn’t have been possible without them. I was made even more determined by stories of friends and family who’d had epidurals that went horribly wrong (we’re talking months of needing to be on percocet because of side effects of the epidural). And I’ll tell you the truth–in the throes of the most horrific pain I’ve ever faced, I told my husband that we needed to talk about the epidural. Because I wasn’t sure I would make it much further. As it turns out, the pain was that bad because I was in transition and ready to push–so I made it. No epidural!
I have never felt more powerful or more proud of myself than on the days of my children’s births, knowing that I was able to push them out of my body and into the world, with as little medication as possible. I know it’s what was best for them, and what was best for me. Was it painful? Certainly! But I made it. I could do it. Giving birth was one of the things my body was made to do.
When I found out I had to be induced, I cried on the phone with my mom for the whole cab ride home. I said to her that at least I’d already had my perfect birth with my daughter. My mom disagreed–to her, a perfect birth is any birth that results in a healthy baby and a healthy mom. She’s right. The perfect birth is different for every woman–but for me, it doesn’t come with an epidural.