You're Damn Right I Had an Epidural

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
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I’ll come right out and say it: I never, not even for a hot second, wanted a natural birth.

I figured if I was going to be squeezing a human being through my vagina, then I was damn well going to have some narcotic assistance. The good stuff, please. Gimme. I mean, I pop a few ibuprofen and crawl under a heating pad at the first sign of cramps – so there wasn’t much of a question that a natural, un-medicated labor would render me a ridiculous mess.

Just to be sure, I watched videos of women having babies without epidurals. There was lots of moaning and breathing and swaying and weird noises that sounded kind of like a goat trying to moo. And though I admired their ability to make a choice about what kind of birth they wanted to have, and stick with it, I didn’t feel any more inspired to try it myself. In fact, it just gave me an overwhelming feeling of how much it wasn’t the type of birth for me.

No. Nah. Nopity-nope-nope-nope and all the other ways to say hell naw.

Did I feel a little guilty about it? Sure, the first time around – for the same reasons I had fanatically avoided soft cheeses, litter boxes, sushi, microwaves, hot baths, caffeine, and anyone smoking within a two-mile radius. I didn’t want to do anything that could potentially cause the least little bit of distress to my developing baby. But my fear of my baby coming out a little lethargic was trumped by my fear of, I don’t know, the searing pain in my lady-bits as they stretched to accommodate the width of somebody’s shoulders.

During my first labor, I was pretty nervous about the actual process of getting the epidural – I’m not the biggest fan of needles, especially not when they’re approximately the size of a harpoon and being aimed in the vicinity of my spine, and I almost considered chickening out. But once I was on the verge of goat-mooing with pain, I was practically begging for it. I would have accepted a swift anvil to the head at that point, and when I saw the anesthesiologist come through the door, I swear he was illuminated in a heavenly light and accompanied by a hallelujah chorus. He introduced himself and said he was there to make my labor easier, at which point I may have tried to French-kiss him (the details are hazy). At the very least, I sobbed gratefully that he was my new best friend.

It’s hard to hold still when you’re in the throes of labor, and even harder to hunch forward the way they need you to when you’re sporting a belly the size of a Volkswagen. But let me tell you this: if it means the pain of labor will go away, you do it. And the temporary pinch of the needle is nothing compared to the feeling of your uterus wringing itself out. Because then – oh, blissful relief! – it’s a totally different experience. Before my epidural, I was groaning and huffing and hanging my head miserably over a bedpan because I couldn’t even hold my grape popsicle down. Afterward? I was chatting it up with my nurses and laughing at The Golden Girls on TV. And when it was time to push, I felt only the pressure – not the pain.

I’ve given birth four times now, and have (Gleefully! Gladly! Willingly!) gotten an epidural with each one. Don’t get me wrong: bringing a new life into the world is still an exhausting, demanding process, even despite the reduction of pain. And I’ve experienced a couple of minor side effects once or twice – like trembling, or a mild headache. But when I think of having a headache versus feeling every single second of labor and delivery, well … I know which one I’d rather endure.

Childbirth is an intensely personal experience, and only you can decide what’s best for your situation. But for me, choosing that type of relief made sense. I wasn’t delirious with the special kind of agony that only labor can bring – the kind that can steal your breath, your voice, and your ability to say anything without snapping. I was able to focus on the process instead of on the pain, and in the end, I reached the same beautiful result as the un-medicated moms: a new baby to love.

I figure my kids will cause me plenty of pain throughout my lifetime. Who says it has to start in the delivery room?

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