Back when I took that one birthing class at the hospital a billion years ago, we were asked to envision the ideal births of our first children and share our visions with the class. My classmates conjured up beautiful pictures of giving birth in water accompanied by the dulcet tones of mixed-tape soundtracks and sweet murmurings of husbands lovingly wiping the sweat from their brows. When it was my turn, I said, “I would like enough medication to subdue a wild horse.” My statement was greeted with condescending head shakes and muttering by my fellow group members. For the record, I was the only one in that room who didn’t have to have a c-section, but that’s neither here nor there.
I’m a big fan of the epidural. Huge. And let’s dispense with the discussion of the risks involved, etc. etc. Because I will readily admit that it is because of one reason and one alone: I am a huge, tremendous wuss.
I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t really like physical pain. In fact, I hate it. Hell, if I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I don’t even like being mildly uncomfortable. I’m definitely a look-at-nature-through-thick-glass-window sort as opposed to let’s-go-for-a-seven-hour-hike-then-sleep-on-rocks-with-the-ever-present-threat-of-bears.
You know that endorphin rush that people get from a good hard workout? Well, I get that rush from reading in a soft chair or window seat, preferably with a glass of recently refilled wine next to me. I see people training to do marathons all the time–it seems to be a rite of passage of sorts at my age. I watch those people and I think, “Thank God the world is such a diverse place that it can hold both you and me in it!” After all, someone has to be on the sidelines of the marathon holding the supportive signs and spiked cider–and that someone is me.
So it didn’t even occur to me to attempt childbirth without the benefit of a skilled anaesthesiologist, if I could help it. And since so far, three out of three of my children have had to be forcibly evacuated from my womb (apparently they all like warm comfy places too–like mother, like children!), there’s always been plenty of time for that nice person to come in with the big needle.
Don’t get me wrong–the epidural didn’t always work for me. On Kid 1, it worked too well. I could barely feel my legs, much less what was going on in my pelvis. “Push!” the doctor told me. I pushed–or at least I thought I did. “Raising your eyebrows and making a face is not pushing,” the doctor told me. You really do learn something new every day.
Kid 2: the epidural worked…but only on the right side of my body. So the right side of my body was the “you go, girl!” sign-holding, spiked-cider-drinking observer to the awful, excruciating pain on the left side. I’m convinced that if you’d listened closely, you’d hear my left side yelling things at the right side like, “Shut up! I hate you!”
For Kid 3, the epidural worked for a while and then got bored and decided it just wasn’t worth it to continue. In that last hour before the kid was born, I felt I got enough of a taste of pain to conclusively determine that the epidurals had, in fact, been the right decision after all.
There are people who will tell you that the epidural is not necessary–your body was designed to push out a baby. And good for those people. I, however, will argue that bodies were designed with minds, and minds are capable of life-altering, amazing innovations, like air conditioning, caffeinated beverages, and epidurals. I salute that power of the human mind.
Also, here’s the thing: who cares? If you gain some sense of personal satisfaction from having pushed out your kid with no painkillers, that’s super. But I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t feel that way in the least. I also know that childbirth, as dramatic as it is, is nothing compared to the real marathon of parenting that lies ahead. Focusing on the birth is like focusing on a wedding–at the end of the day, who cares? It’s the marriage that counts–and the parenting marathon is the one I’ll be running, happily, for the rest of my life.