I don’t know if you all felt it, but there seems to be intense pressure these days for pregnant women to deliver without any form of painkillers. I remember a conversation with a friend when I was on my 8th month. I told her matter-of-factly that I wanted an epidural from the get-go, and she judgily said, “Oh I guess you also plan to formula-feed your child from birth.” Umm, first of all, that doesn’t compute, and second of all, putting formula moms in the ‘bad mom’ category does not really do anything to increase breastfeeding prevalence rates. The reason I wanted an epidural is a reason known to my dentist, my brazilian wax attendant and my eyebrow threader: I have a VERY low pain threshold. Physical pain is not a minor irritation for me that I can conquer through, I don’t know, meditation or thinking happy thoughts. It engulfs my entire being. And because I had waited so long and tried so hard to have a child (another story for another post), I did not want to risk having my childbirth experience colored by the trauma of pain. I realize that not all people are the same, and that for some moms, pain is a mountain to be conquered. Or pain only makes childbirth even more magical. Or pain makes you feel like a #supermama. More power, ladies, you do you, but that’s not me. As soon as I finished my research on the effects of epidurals on babies (#geekymama) and was satisfied that the risks are low — not zero, admittedly, but low enough — I told myself, as well as my husband, that there was no compelling reason to subject myself to pain I might not be able to handle.
But wow, I realized at that point that intense, competitive, I’m-better-than-you parenting really does begin even before the child is born. Google is a master-enabler at this of course. I’ve spent many a hormonally-charged morning reading about how this mom gave birth in a pool of water surrounded by tealight candles and a doulah singing calming songs. Or how this mom didn’t cut the umbilical cord for weeks after delivery, using essential oils to “annoint” the sacred connection (and if you ask me, probably also to mask the smell). Or how this mom makes placenta smoothies to help postpartum recovery. And somehow, the subtext is, all these moms are better at motherhood.
In the end, I delivered via emergency C-section. My OB-Gyne made the call. There wasn’t even a question of epidural or no epidural. Jan Andres was out of me in 20 minutes, and while they were extracting him out of his nine-month cave, the anesthesiologist — bless her heart — was applying lipstick on me so I would look good in the photos. My son is as healthy as the kid who was delivered via lotus birth or water birth, I only have fond memories of the operating room with my husband there to hold my hand and my baby made to latch on my chest, and I think I’m ok with doing it all over again.