Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Truth About Epidurals

Just read this article on Slate called The Truth About Epidurals which I found enlightening and thought I'd pass on. When I read the title, I got a bit freaked out because I thought it was going to be one of those fear-mongering pieces that make you feel panicked and guilty and shamed about getting an epidural. But, in fact, it was an overview of the research on the modern epidural's safety which was pretty even-keeled and balanced, I thought.

I've interviewed a ton of moms, who've had all different kinds of births - at home, in tubs, hospitals and birthing centers. I've interviewed moms who've used hypno-birthing, moms who've used epidurals, moms who've had C sections, moms who've used acupuncture, moms who used Lamaze, moms who've had births lasting 36 hours and ones whose births took an hour. It is very clear to me after hearing so many amazing stories that -- you guessed it - there is no one right way to have a baby. In many ways (those of us with insurance and without pertinent health considerations, at least) are lucky enough to choose what kind of birth we prefer, which is pretty freaking amazing. So its a shame that we tend to get so defensive about our choices and judgmental when other women go a different way.

I had two amazing childbirth experiences, both in a big teaching hospital, both with big, juicy epidurals. From my perspective, the epidural was one of the best parts of the experience. I remember the childbirths in two parts - BE and AE - Before and After the Epidural. I got the shot at about the same point both times - when I was 6-7 centimeters dilated, which meant I had hours and hours before of what they call a "natural" childbirth (this vocal doesn't annoy me the way it does some women, but it does crack me up. What did I have -- an unnatural childbirth, a supernatural one? Did I bear a cyborg on a UFO?I mean, come on, its silly). My point is, I had pleeeeenty of labor pain. Not the worst of it, not the ring of fire, but plenty. A few minutes into transition, and I got the idea. Totally not for me. Which I knew, going in. I never thought I'd go without an epidural. I was raised by a doctor dad, grew up around hospitals and things like medicine and shots make me feel better, more comfortable, more relaxed. So, getting the epidural was always in the works and boy, did that morphine cocktail deliver.

After Epidural I was relaxed, open, happy. My husband, sister and I listened to Beatles music, and I brushed my hair as I waited in joyful anticipation of meeting my baby. I could feel my legs and the urge to push and I had no problems dilating the last few centimeters after I got the shot. Before Epidural was nice, too, I guess, the way diamond mining must be nice. Greuling, not fun, but gratifying because at the end you know there's a diamond waiting. Yes, its probably the shittiest metaphor about the birth experience you've ever heard and you heard it here, folks, at a mom amok. In conclusion, I loved my epidurals. They injected a big surge of Smiley Happy People back into my birth experience. Can't thank those epidurals enough.

But I also understand that hospitals give a lot of people the heebie jebbies, or maybe its just the idea of shots that freaks 'em out, or a lot of people are curious to experience every moment, unmediated, of childbirth. Hell, there's any number of reasons someone wouldn't want an epidural and that's cool, too. Its like that theme song of that pivotal 80s sitcom used to sing, "Different strokes, it takes different strokes, it takes different strokes to rule the world." Yes it does.