The response to some of my other posts about un-medicated childbirth has lead me to clarify some things. There’s this assumption that natural childbirth is this terrifying, horribly painful experience that will haunt you and I’d like to suggest that it can be the very opposite of that. Women who deliver babies without pain meds are not big tough women. We don’t get a magic ticket into the “I’m-a-better-mom” club. In no way do I consider myself superior to a mother who gets an epidural or who has a c-section. Any woman who does feel this way is giving our cult a bad rap. Oh yeah, it is a cult though. You were right about that.
See, I’m over here like HEY! this is the COOLEST thing ever and I want you to know about it because I LOVE YOU ALL. And you’re all like-I’m not tough, I like drugs and you’re making me question stuff I don’t want to. And I’m all like-that’s kind of the point, seriously this stuff is good. And you’re all like: hmmmmm, *offended* possibly questioning our friendship (or accepting that you’re just going to hear about this stuff if we stay together) I don’t know, April…
Why do you want to join our cult? I’m going to tell you.
1. You’re going to feel awesome.
I’ve experienced both and I would do my un-medicated births over my epidural birth every time. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of delivering a baby. I felt so empowered, so strong and so on top of the world and that feeling has stayed with me every since then. It was awesome. Why would I keep you from knowing about this?
I felt really beat up after my epidural birth and my un-medicated births left me feeling less that way. Getting an epidural is a trade-off. You can choose to have some pain now (during labor) or some pain later (after).
2. Your partner is going to look at you differently.
I find myself as an assistant often looking at women differently after they deliver-they’re just so incredible every time. And it’s rough. Watching someone you care about zone into themselves and work through things is a sight to behold. Laboring un-medicated also provides an opportunity to grow closer to your partner. One of my biggest pet peeves as a photog is watching husbands on their cell phones playing games while their wife is laboring with an epidural. It’s just another day. They go hold a leg for the main event and then all done. Husbands have to hold up their wives, massage shoulders, squeeze hips and walk away just as exhausted as the women their assisting when you labor un-medicated. I love that.
3. You get to put on your own mesh panties.
You keep just a shred more of your dignity that way. There’s just something about being able to do that for yourself instead of watching someone else move your useless legs for you. This article offers a great study about this very thing. You also won’t suffer the soreness and swelling that many women (I did!) have after and epidural and tons of IV fluids.
4. Epidurals often lead to additional intervention.
For some women, an epidural is given as a last resort to relax the body so that the cervix will dilate. For many others, though, once an epidural is administered, an unfortunate domino effect occurs. Epidurals often lead to additional intervention. You can’t move, so you can’t get into a productive birthing position. Labor is longer. You can’t feel the natural pushing urge, so your pushes aren’t doing the job. Baby gets stressed out, so everyone gets impatient and nervous. A c-section is performed or other measures (pitocin, suction, etc.) are taken to get the baby out already! (Is a c-section the worst thing to happen to your baby? You know I don’t think that! I do think, though, that it should be avoided whenever possible.)
5. With an epidural, you turn off all of your body’s natural cues.
I like looking at women to see where they are in labor. Based on the sounds they are making, the movements they’re using and where it hurts, it’s really easy to assess what’s going on. As soon as the epidural is placed we have to start looking at monitors to see these things. I once watched the father of a woman in labor (with an epidural) arguing with her about whether or not she was really having contractions. The monitor had moved and they were no longer showing on the screen. I walked over and asked if I could put my hand on her belly-it was immediately obvious she was contracting. I also hate watching how often they check women with epidurals. Being checked in labor is PAINFUL and I can only imagine the damage and soreness they are causing by rummaging around in there so very often! You also are left unaware if you’re sitting on your hip funny or stretching your legs weird-contributing further to after birth soreness.
6. You can move.
It also makes you and gravity best friends. I watch some women curl up in a ball on their side and others up on their tippy-toes through contractions. The best part about all of that is that they chose to be that way. I never anticipated wanting to be in a semi-reclining position delivering my third. I stayed on all fours with my second and I thought for sure I would love that again-I was wrong! Different births-different positions, and that was just for me! Without an epidural you’re able to find what is working for you and it might surprise you!
7. The Medical Side-Effects
This is a great article covering more about some of the medical side effects of epidurals-all of which you just don’t have to deal with if you don’t get one! I recently had a good friend suffer from an epidural absess and infection and it was awful! It’s not that epidurals are SO BAD-it’s that we need to look at them as less of a standard and more of something to be used if you really need it.
MORE: THE BIRTH OF FOX
Ultimately the deciding factor for me was that I wanted to experience the WHOLE thing. Believe me-you experience plenty being pregnant and every birth is an experience, no matter how it’s done, but you don’t get THE WHOLE CRAZY EXPERIENCE like you do when you deliver without meds. Birth is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing for our babes and only a few-in-a-lifetime kind of thing for us mamas. I want it to be the best it can for everyone! I think if more women knew that it isn’t just painful-that it was deeply spiritual, brought me closer to my husband and left me less damaged they would be more likely to entertain the idea. I’m not just trying to get more followers for my cult! I really am just trying to tell you about how to do this super cool thing and why you should consider it!
So continue with me on this saga that is #birthweekturnedpossiblebirthmonth. And comment below if you’ve got anything to add!