I've noticed an interesting pattern among friends and acquaintances who are having babies these days. It seems like almost everyone says "yes" to the epidural as soon as the second pink line shows up on the test. Which in itself is perfectly fine - I'm not going to criticize women who choose a medicated birth. It's their body and their choice to make. Everyone needs to do what she feels most comfortable with.
My issue comes in here - almost everyone (at least among those I know) who opts for the epidural ends up with a c-section. Earlier this month two friends of mine each had their first baby within a week of each other. Each opted for an epidural to help her with the pain. Each pushed for an extended length of time, but was unable to push the baby out, and each had to have a c-section in the end.
My (oh-so-scientific) theory goes like this: if you can't feel what or where you are pushing, can the pushing really be as effective as it might otherwise be? You know, when the midwife pokes you in the perineum and says "Push here," how do you know where to push if you can't feel your ass? It seems to me like the ability to sense the baby moving down, and to feel the progress being made with each push can be very helpful for a successful vaginal delivery. Maybe the pain is really there to help you and guide you...
Now, before anyone thinks I'm some sort of saint or martyr, let me just say that I may well be the biggest wimp I've ever met. I cursed, shouted, and pleaded my way through 18 hours of unmedicated labor, and it wasn't even by choice. I was ineligible for an epidural due to a nonexistent platelet count*. So I sucked it up because I had no choice. It wasn't fun, or pretty. But, in the end, I had a successful "normal" delivery. And I'm so grateful that, for whatever reason, I didn't need a c-section.
Maybe these friends of mine didn't mind having surgery. I, myself, however, have a mortal fear of knives and needles, and would have totally panicked if I had to have surgery. It hurts when they cut you open! And you have scars!
The upshot of all this is that, even if I am "allowed" to get an epidural this time, I'm not going to take it. Looking back on it, I actually kind of enjoyed my birth experience. I don't want to risk having a c-section if I don't have to**. Besides, there's something sort of empowering about knowing that you can endure some of the worst pain life can throw at you without cracking. I like knowing that my body, while not manifestly beautiful, is capable of producing miracles.
*Did you know that if you have no platelets, and they stick a needle into your spine, you can bleed out into your spinal column and become paralyzed?
**And who knows... maybe there's no connection whatsoever, and it was just a coincidence. Or I have very unlucky friends.
***This may well be the most poorly organized and written posts I've put up in a while. Sorry - very distracted here. Please ignore.