“I’d rather you came in doubled over in pain barely able to walk instead of coming in early to get an epidural.“
These are the exact words that have stubbornly refused to recede into the shadows of oblivion even after the passage of nearly seven years.These were the words spoken to me by a midwife as I visited the hospital having had contractions for the last twenty four hours. These were also the words that instilled in my heart a frantic feeling of trepidation and an overwhelming, gnawing and increasing sense of fear as I stood on the threshold to give birth to my second child in what would be a matter of hours.
I will not be exaggerating one bit if I tell you that I came back home begging my husband to choose a different hospital at the ninth hour. What followed was trying to impress upon the midwife that night that I was actually in a lot of pain only for it to be followed by a precipitate delivery without any pain medication where I felt absolutely in no control of either my body or the pain surging through.
In the entire gamut and framework of life, 40 weeks can seem to be a small vestige of time. But, these 40 weeks are also perhaps the only time frame where we take the maximum number of decisions in the shortest possible time and all of which are tied to the tiny new life growing within and with whom it seems we’ve been bonded to for an eternity. A tiny little person who’s pitter- patter and heart beat we’d place over our own in the blink of an eye and in a fraction of a second.
Labor, is perhaps one of those only few journeys we undertake whose paths and hallowed halls can only be understood in their entirety once we have passed through them. We are told what it is like but no one can give the certainty that the offered description is what it shall eventually turn out to be. At this juncture of life I feel our birth plans and pain relief options offer some form of a safe anchor and harbor among the waves that can at times attempt to confuse and overwhelm.
We all know that nothing is set in stone when it comes to Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery. And birth plans and choices are no exception to this rule. Things and situations are often unforeseen and decisions and choices impromptu and on the spur of the moment. But keeping all of the permutations and combinations in mind, I still strongly believe that a woman’s choices need to be honored and she should be assisted in as much as is possible.
When it came to my birth plan and pain relief choices, my choice of an Epidural was met with a slight aversion and a sense of skepticism. Nothing apparent as an in your face blatant ‘No’, but subtle indications that perhaps I was jumping the gun, or perhaps I had stronger pain bearing thresholds than I believed possible or perhaps the fact that I was simply getting cold feet and opting for an ‘easy way out’ or the fact that I was being selfish and not thinking about my baby and that women had been doing it for hundreds of years before me and a woman’s body was designed to give birth. In hindsight and in retrospect, I believe that the attempts to brush my concerns aside with a sweeping gesture of saying ‘don’t be silly’ or the statement that ‘childbirth does hurt, you know’ have not really done any good.
This post is not an attempt to either deify epidurals or demonize pain free delivery choices. It is a voice to say that we need to equalize the respect we accord to both. Both these paths are the resultant choices of a perfectly logical, reasoning and capable mind. Instead of setting up antagonistic camps that seek to denigrate one another why not adopt an attitude of respecting both and accepting the fact that different mothers will have different choices and that every mother loves her child to the ends of the earth irrespective of the road she has to traverse to get the bundle of joy safely from her womb to being in her arms.
Having had three wholly different deliveries, I have come to conclude that:
I am not a ‘wimp’ or a ‘loser’ for choosing an epidural:
I believe that a mother’s pain relief choices do not deign to cast her into either the camp of a loser or winner. The true fact of the matter is that there are no losers or winners in this journey of motherhood. Each is an intensely personal journey whose paths, twists, turns and travails shall forever be etched in our hearts, minds and souls.
Our ultimate desire is to have the baby safely in our arms and the path we take to get there and the journey we undertake should be reflective of our choices. That is not to seek to assert that our choice shall always find complete implementation and application in all situations, but as far as is possible, I feel having an epidural does not relegate me in any way or portray me as a shirker of motherly responsibilities.
I have profound amount of respect for the women who choose to go natural all the way through and I have the same profound respect for women who like me chose to get an epidural. I don’t feel I cheated my way through child birth either.
Choosing to take an epidural does not make labor any less laborious:
In two out of my three deliveries, the epidural was a much welcomed relief from the intense pain that I had been having for many hours before. Prior to having my babies I would never have for a second envisaged that having a huge needle being inserted into my spinal cord could ever evoke in my heart a feeling of joy and a staggering sense of relief. The whooshing sound of the door being opened by the anesthetist to enter was the sweetest sound my ears could have heard at that moment of time.
Having said that, I was also acutely aware of the contractions as I pushed my babies out. However, I was in a much more calmer mode and saner frame of mind.
I know that there are many women who’d advocate one choice over another. But, that is exactly what these are – ‘choices’ which are accompanied by my right to choose. This post does not attempt to place any one above the other. Neither is it a way of according precedence. I don’t believe in handing out pedestals, thrones, tiaras and crowns just as I don’t believe in casting into the pits and random denigration.
There are no recipes to a so-called ‘perfect’ labor and consequentially there are also no prerequisites or preconditions. Each labor and birth is unique in its own way and pain tolerance levels do not make or break the mother in a woman.
In a world that strongly advocates against labeling and stereotyping are we not being hypocritical if we look at mothers who choose an epidural with a biased eye?
Having an epidural does not make me a bad ‘Mom’:
Yes,I chose an epidural and if an epidural is wrong then maybe deep down in my heart I do not really want to be right. But does my choice make me a bad mother? I believe the answer to that will be a resounding ‘No’.
Pain should not be the threshold which we must be forcefully made to cross in order to be recognized as a good mother. We are I believe trying to do as best as we can. And if mom guilt through all the years of child rearing is not enough, must we lay its foundation within the confines of the four walls of a birthing room, where its presence is least required?
A major part of my third pregnancy was over shadowed with the growing doubt, fear and anxiety in the pit of my stomach that this time round too I’d be left without having my choice taken into consideration. And no this is not how a woman in these times should have to spend her pregnancy. Fear should have no place and we must have the confidence that the people looking after us at our most vulnerable shall also be the ones to understand our fears and vulnerabilities.
I did get the epidural the third time round and my team of doctors and midwives were fantastic. I came away with a very positive birth experience. I believe that this is what each of us should have. A beautiful memory of an unforgettable moment when both time and the Universe seem to standstill as the sweet cry of our child pierces through the silence in the room, the heart feels like it could burst and emotions flow from the eyes as we finally welcome the tiny extension of ourselves into our arms.
I acknowledge the fact that things do often go unplanned during deliveries but a mother is a mother, irrespective of the path she has to walk to hold the baby in her arms. And no person, no choice and no journey could ever seek to take that from her.
Motherhood and the enormous responsibility of raising a good human is stressful enough. Must we add another pain and stress on top?