Do you think you could never give birth without an epidural? Labor without an epidural is possible – even for people like me with low pain tolerance!
Note: I sincerely hope that no c-section moms, or any moms who have recieved epidurals for one reason or another, feel that I am in any way implying that their experiences were somehow less than mine. That is in no way my intent. I admire the fact that c-section moms have to survive major surgery and a far more difficult recovery – and I hope I make it clear in this post that I definitely *wanted* an epidural for myself! I am simply trying to communicate that natural labor, if it is possible for a mama, will be a blessing to her – and it’s not just for “tough” or “strong” women! I also want to add that now that I went through labor a second time, and it was SO much easier – if you can keep your water intact until the very end, DO IT!!! My water broke on it’s own with my DD in the early stages of labor, and the pain and intensity of that labor was WAY worse than what I had with my son, when I didn’t have my water broken until it was time to push! Yes, breaking the water speeds labor up, but keeping it intact makes for far, far, FAR more manageable pain!
I am not tough. Seriously. A friend once volunteered to give me a deep-tissue massage, and a few minutes in, I was begging her to stop. I’ve decided I wanted to start running several times, then quit because I hated that scraping feeling in my lungs and that soreness in my legs. Also embarrassing is how frequently I burst into sobs when I hear even the most cliched of country sob-songs. Yeah. Not tough.
It was truly baffling, then, to have so many of my far-tougher friends respond with dropped jaws when they found out that I’d delivered K without an epidural.
Women I highly admire – women who have run marathons (a.k.a. “the worst form of self-torture”), women who’ve survived major surgeries (the very thought of scalpels and needles sends me twitching), women who handle stresses and trials with a grace I truly hope I can someday approach – all astounded at the thought of going through labor without an epidural. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words, “I could never do that.”
Yeah, me neither. Seriously.
In fact, if I hadn’t had a homebirth, I’d have definitely had an epidural – or, like, fifteen. I’ve heard of mamas that did the Bradley Method, or hypnosis, or Lamaze, and had such lovely, peaceful labors. A friend of mine raved about how “beautiful” her natural labor was, and what a great experience it was spiritually. Our midwife did recommend these classes and techniques to us – but we couldn’t afford them, so I decided to try to skate by based on what I learned from Youtube videos.
I do not recommend that. Take the classes.
If you’ve read my homebirth story, then you know that I did *not* enjoy the experience of my first labor. I was unprepared for what was happening. I was worried. I hated the pain. I informed my hubby that we would not be having any more children (I meant it, too – but that obviously didn’t work out for me, did it?) I definitely didn’t see anything “beautiful” or “spiritual” about it – at least, not until the end.
It may sound strange to find beauty in pain, but it was there. Enduring pain – and not just any pain, but the greatest pain that a human woman can endure – for the benefit of another human being is a way of truly experiencing sacrificial love. To Christians, sacrificial love is the ultimate goal – the thing we all hope someday, somehow, to achieve. True love, according to my faith, is to be able to truly love others so much that we would be willing to endure just about anything for them (which is why Christians the world over cherish the outwardly grisly events of Christ’s death by crucifixion).
Not that anyone would ever want to endure any kind of pain for any reason - but if you want to grow, it’s going to hurt. The body must endure the pain of exercise in order to become stronger. The brain must endure the pain of study in order to learn (oh, college. I can still feel the migraines). Pain makes you stronger, if you accept it and don’t quit.
Somewhere in the worst part of my labor, I lost awareness of what was happening around me, and only knew what was happening within. I couldn’t have heard or focused on anything anyone around me was saying - but I could still hear that quiet voice of God whispering, “Stop fighting the pain and accept it. Someday, you will need to know that you did this – that you were capable of accepting this.”
I know I will, too. Someday, K will do something that hurts me – so badly that my heart will break. I don’t mean that she’ll do something terrible and wind up in prison or something; I mean that she’ll break my heart just by growing up. It’s heartbreaking to think of her leaving for college, as proud as I’d be. It’s heartbreaking to imagine her deciding she wants to apply for a job in Venezuela or Madagascar or something. I always wanted to be off on crazy, not-always-safe adventures when I was younger, and she’ll probably take after me. It’ll be heartbreaking to watch her go, and to know deep down inside, “She’s not ever going to come back to me, is she?” Someday, I’ll be someone she comes to see on visits. It’s the most heartbreaking thing I can think of.
That day is still a long way off. I would much rather live in this moment and enjoy her now, when she loves my kisses and cuddles and doesn’t even get embarrassed by them, than dread the coming of that awful day. I love this time she and I have – but in the back of my mind, I always know we don’t have forever.
And I know I’m capable of getting through it, just as I was able to survive the physical pain of bringing her into the world.
This isn’t to say that moms who never feel the pain of labor, for one reason or another, love their children less - I only mean to say that recognizing my opportunity to suffer for her confirmed something my heart needed to know. I endured because I took comfort in knowing, without a doubt, that I am strong enough to survive. Therefore, I am strong enough for all the pain that is yet to come.
I’ve heard so many good reasons for epidurals (not the least of which was my SIL’s reason – a 72 hour labor that just wore her body out too much. I’ve told her repeatedly that she DID her time. Several times over, in fact), but the only reason that saddens me is how many women simply don’t think they can do it.
For any mama in good health without complications to doubt her abilities to endure pain just makes me so sad. Why aren’t we women a little more empowered? Why don’t we even believe in ourselves enough to try? How is it possible that our “girl power!” culture is also telling women that they just “can’t” get through the pain of labor without an epidural?
This is going to sound really stupid, and I know it, but here goes: If I can do it, anyone can (Anyone who is low-risk, in good health, and has an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, I mean). So many of my strong, fierce, otherwise-confident friends never even tried to deliver without an epidural because they were so sure that they’d fail – and hey, maybe they would have. I almost definitely would have. But going into anything expecting failure doesn’t seem like a very wise idea – it seems like a sad one.
I would give any mom who was in my smooth-pregnancy shoes the same advice: Try it. Try natural. Your body CAN endure the pain (even if it turns out that it can’t endure the labor without intervention). You will never regret surviving the pain of a natural labor. Rather, you will come out on the other side cherishing the opportunity God gave you to learn how strong you and your body are.
You can do this. You’re a mama-bear. You are strong – I can almost guarantee you’re stronger than me. Trust that you were made fearfully and wonderfully, and can birth that baby, no matter how much it hurts.
I hope more mamas give natural labor a try! Don’t be afraid to do things you were born capable of doing!