It begins innocently enough. “You’re pregnant. That’s so exciting!” I smile and nod, glowing with that pregnant and slightly nauseated look I just can’t shake. The conversation moves to the baby’s sex, the due date, and whether or not we have decided on a name. And then it happens—the conversation nosedives into the deep terrain that stinks of judgment and antagonism.
“Have you thought about how you’ll deliver the baby?” Or my personal favorite, “Do you have a birth plan?”
Anyone who has already birthed a child knows that these are pretty baseless questions. I have yet to hear of a person whose birth went all according to plan, which is why I normally nod it off when the question is asked by someone who’s never had a child. How would they know? But it’s the folks who have had children you have to watch out for. Because I’ve noticed that for many of them, ulterior motives are in full force.
For whatever reason (usually it’s because they’ve had a natural birth themselves and haven’t had enough opportunities to share their story), some women have made it their mission to make other people strive for this “going natural” goal. But aside from bragging rights, I’m not sure what their motives are. Is this some new pyramid scheme I haven’t yet heard about? Will I be getting a Facebook invite tomorrow to buy birthing aromatherapy or breathing tapes?
I’m tired of people asking me about how I plan to deliver my baby. First of all, why do you need a visual for how this will go? Second of all, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. You want to hear about my Lamaze classes and my Kegel exercise routine. The fact is, I want an epidural. And when I tell you this, the mood shifts with a jolt, and you look at me with a mixed look of disgust, disappointment, and sympathy.
“Oh, I see” you say, oozing with condescension. “Have you considered natural alternatives?” And here’s where you really get me: “You know, your body was made for this. You should embrace it.”
OK. I’m going to stop you right there. Now you’ve crossed the line. If that’s your main argument, you can go sit in my son’s time-out chair and talk to the wall for all I care. My body is meant to do a lot of things—pass gas, endure menopause, and ultimately, die. Should I embrace these too?
And you continue, “Women have been having children since the beginning of time. Anesthesia is only a recent development. Our ancestors went through the pain of labor and did just fine!”
Have you ever met my great-grandmother? Are you seriously telling me that my sassy, “I don’t take no shit from no one” great-grandma, screaming in agony with back labor, if given the option to have an epidural, would have turned it down because it wasn’t “natural”? Back to the time-out chair, lady!
The only way I’m going to have a natural birth is if they can’t get me to the hospital in time, if the anesthesiologist takes the day off, or if my husband handcuffs me to the bed and masochistically shouts, “No epidural for you!” Hey, it might happen. Like I said before, you really can’t plan the birth, and sometimes labor makes people a little crazy.
Besides, this is the baby’s party, and I’m just an (important) guest.
I admire people that have natural births, though. I absolutely do. I experienced childbirth once already, and the pain was so agonizing and intense I was crying in defeat and asking to die. Literally. I was glaring at my husband with beads of sweat on my forehead, saying, “I want to die. Kill me.” Like I said before, crazy. I needed that epidural more than I’ve ever needed anything in my life. People who were able to go through that kind of pain without seeking help amaze me.
And while I sometimes humor myself with the idea that maybe the second time around will be less intense, less excruciating, I’m not sure why I wouldn’t afford myself the luxury of modern technology that is available us to today. I face enough battles in my life; I don’t think this needs to be one of them.
There are so many things to embrace in motherhood, but for me at least, skipping the epidural intentionally will not be one of them. I guess my body just wasn’t made for this the same way as yours.