Reflections on my chaotic life of minivans, tantrums, deadlines, and diets ... a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Epi Guilt

(To the new-mama friend who may be reading this, I am so happy for you and your beautiful son. I do not begrudge you the natural childbirth you so wanted. It simply brought up feelings of sadness, guilt, and regret around my daughter's birth.)

I recently received an email from a friend who'd just had her baby naturally. The email was from her doula, describing the birth. It was such a beautiful story to read, having gone through childbirth relatively recently. Then I came across the part where the doula expressed relief at my friend's not choosing an epidural.

My heart sunk.

Image from Epidural Without Guilt.
My daughter, J, was born in 7 hours, start to finish. She was late and induced. Compared to my son's birth, hers was a cakewalk. We checked in at 6am, and the Pitocin drip started at 8. I progressed quickly and asked for an epidural around noon. It was downhill from there. I pushed for only 27 minutes, and my beautiful girl was born around 3.

Maybe nature has erased my memories of pain, but there is a big part of me that wishes I had "sucked it up" and gotten through the strong, quick labor without drugs. My husband reminds me that the outcome is what is important--our healthy, happy little girl. But that's not what society seems to focus on, and I can't seem to let it go.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, a hotbed of everything organic, local, or home-grown (preferably all three). This mindset extends to childbirth. My friends and I all hoped for natural births with our children--all born in the past 2 years--and about half of us succeeded. When asked about their experiences, the faces of those friends who'd had an epidural fell. They felt as though they'd failed somehow, despite their healthy children.

A quick Google search will reveal dozens of forums centered on the same topic--epidural guilt. Mother after mother trying to justify why she needed an epidural, as though justification is needed. We don't ask root-canal patients to justify their pain relief. Yes, childbirth is natural, not clinical, but technology has provided us moms with a way to really enjoy the process rather than praying for it to end. And let's be clear--even with an epidural, childbirth is no walk in the park. It still requires a woman to dig deep to find every ounce of strength to get that baby out.

So what's with the guilt? Dr. Gilbert J. Grant wrote a book called Epidural Without Guilt, which supports the idea that epidurals are safe, and debunks the myths about their effects on labor and breastfeeding. His research shows that epidurals can in fact reduce the risk of post-partum depression--something I was at high risk for anyway.

I am not convinced that the facts are in about the effect of epidurals on labor, and whether they lead to more cesarean sections. I do know that, in both of my experiences, the end result was two amazing, healthy, breastfed children (more on formula guilt later ...). The same goes for the friends whose babies were born "under the influence" of epidurals.

We are all strong women, having gone through 9 months of pregnancy followed by endless hours of childbirth. So if you're reading this, trying to convince yourself that you did the right thing by seeking pain relief, know this: no pain, no gain does not apply here. :-)

1 comment:

  1. I have epi and formula guilt too. So annoying . . .