In Defense of the Epidural

A week or two after M was born, I clicked on a link for one of those “how to give birth the right way” posts on Pinterest. I laughed aloud (waking a baby in the process, but still worth it) at the line where she described, with pride, the extreme discomfort she felt as she was driven to the hospital during transition because it meant that she would avoid all the medical interventions they force on every woman that are completely unnecessary and actually work against labour. Oh, what she must have thought of my labour.

Despite joking on my way out of the office on a Friday on my way to a doctor’s appointment that I’d see everyone in a year, I had no idea that I was going to be induced the next day because I had cholestasis (PSA: extreme itching is NOT normal in pregnancy and can be very dangerous to your unborn child!). While we did decide after C’s birth — which I had labelled a failure due to my high level of self-doubt and anxiety I experienced, and my attitude that accepting an epidural made me weak, compromised my daughter’s ability to nurse, and made me a bad mom — to hire a doula, having a completely natural birth was not one of our top goals for this labour. Obviously, a healthy mom & baby was our first goal. Not losing my mind was my second. But there was a part of me that still believed “good moms” had natural births, even if that was never something I verbalized.

And, of course, as the internet will remind you, there is nothing natural about an induction.

After labouring for about 4 hours on syntoncinon, and having virtually no progress from when I came in, I knew that I needed an epidural. I needed it because the pain was starting to get intense. I needed it because it would allow them to increase the amount of syntocinon so we could really get this labour going. I needed it because I needed to stay positive, which was especially hard in a high risk labour ward, with very public rooms with giant doors which rarely closed, and a toilet that flushed every 16 seconds (I credit our doula with keeping me as sane as I did for as long as I did! Even though inductions with epidurals are not the usual scenario when you think of a doula assisted birth, I think it was the best decision we made!)

As I waited for the anesthesiologist (who looked to be about 22, for what it’s worth, putting me right in the “older than I think I am” category), I realized the irony. I was requesting an epidural in order to maintain a positive frame of mind, after months (nay, years) of attributing that same medical procedure for the negative frame of mind I experienced after C’s birth (Scott says I can’t call it baby blues, even if I refuse to call it postpartum depression). I rationalized that it was easier to ask for the epidural this time, since I had already lost all hope of a “natural” birth due to the induction, regardless of how medical necessary it may have been.

But I also realized how arbitrary the definition of “natural birth” is, and how, really, unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. We all want our children to be healthy and happy. We want them to live long, prosperous lives. And yet, we fixate over what comes down to an insignificant period of time over the course of their lives. Even if I could prove the epidural had impacted C’s and my health — both physical and mental — two years later, you would never know the struggles we had in those first few months.

I had two labours involving epidurals and syntocinon (C’s labour having been augmented many many hours after my water broke). So yes, I underwent medical interventions. Yes, I ended up labouring in a hospital bed strapped to monitors because of those medical interventions. Yes, these were all things that the blogger was willing to endure great pain for in order to experience her version of the ideal, natural birth. Yes, in her books, my labours were likely failures.

But I have two healthy, beautiful daughters who make me smile, laugh and love harder than I ever thought possible. And how could I view those births as a failure?

Categories: The new identity | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “In Defense of the Epidural

  1. I am pro “labor how you need to in order to get the baby out”. So if it’s an epidural, you do it. If it’s a csection, you do it. Healthy mom, healthy baby. There is no room for failure. And also, I have heard that contractions are SO much more intense when you are induced. So again, no shame in it! And doulas are amazing human beings. I still have the phone number for mine even though we’ll likely never need her again.

  2. How did I miss the fact you had a doula?!? Such a worth while thing. It was nice to have someone to turn to who wasn’t as intensely emotionally invested. They kept losing M’s heartbeat, and then towards the end, it would slow down dramatically at times. I knew nothing Scott said would be able to calm me down, and if I talked to him about it, I knew it would stress me out even more to know he was worried too. But it was great to be like “I’m worried about this” and have someone being like “no, there’s no need to worry. The nurse is keeping an eye on it, but she isn’t worried enough to call the resident or the doctor. If it was a big concern, the doctor would have been in here 5 minutes ago.”

  3. shaunaceyb

    I was induced AND had epidural with both and i truly had amazing birth experiences. So, it is what it is.
    Also, I missed the birth announcement post (I’m looking for it) but CONGRATS!!!! Sorry I’ve been MIA… as you now know, life iwth two littles is CRAZY lol

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