I've found that there are two groups of thought when it comes to pain relief for labor and delivery. There are those who advocate for embracing the pain and those who advocate for embracing the pain relief. I've also found that this can be a really contentious topic, with people strongly advocating for one choice and often criticizing or dismissing the other.
When I was pregnant with Ryan, I took a childbirth class that used fear and shame to endorse a non-medicated birth experience. The instructor shared horror stories of dramatically delaying birth and being too numb to push. I admit that my insecurities about success and failure likely led me to dwell on the instructor's advice—but I left that class feeling like I would be cheating or missing out on something if I opted for medicated pain relief. It didn't help that words like normal and natural were used to describe an unmedicated birth, suggesting that a medicated birth would be something less fulfilling. Following that class I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do when it was time. I researched the pros and cons, and I also read about common epidural myths. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would be open to an epidural, but that it was a last option.
Fast forward to Ryan's labor; after a few hours of the most intense pain I have ever experienced, I opted for an epidural. It was a hard decision, but with Michael's support I knew that the pain relief would offer some much needed clarity and rest, allowing me to welcome Ryan into the world as a much more gentle person. I don't often use painkillers and what I wasn't prepared for was the strength of the epidural. When I watched the nurse move my unfeeling legs, I panicked and requested that we turn off the epidural. Shortly after, we consulted with the anesthesiologist, then turned off the epidural and my feeling slowly returned. Not worn off completely, I gave birth with the perfect mix of pain relief and control. More recently, while I was in labor with Connor, I requested that we decrease the standard dose, so the medicine would have less of an impact. This was the best decision, as it provided relief while still allowing me to feel the contractions.
The bottom line is this: in childbirth the goal should be a healthy mother and a healthy baby. And no woman should feel ashamed about her childbirth experience, whether vaginal or ceserean, medicated or unmedicated. To bring a child into this world is an incredible accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated—no matter what.