In Defense Of The Epidural

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On Saturday night I celebrated a dear friend’s 40th birthday. L. is 26 weeks pregnant with her first and, towards the end of the night – following many bottles of Champagne and wine (excluding L.) and endless laughter – the conversation turned towards birthing methods.

L. is planning a home birth assisted by two midwives and a doula. She goes to weekly birthing classes, has a supportive husband who’s right on board with her wishes, and has even arranged for a birthing pool (which are actually considered illegal, if you can believe it. Apparently, the FDA wants them registered as medical equipment and has even seized an incoming shipment in Portland, Oregon – but that’s a whole other story).

For the first time in my adult life, I was outnumbered by a group of women who were so 100% into natural, drug-free, doula-assisted, home births – it was mind-boggling! I guess I’ve inadvertently surrounded myself over the years with people who hold the same view I do when it comes to childbirth (two key words: hospital and, more important, EPIDURAL). I’m used to having the sole home-birth woman in a crowd defend her point, not the other way around. But there I was, sounding like a complete drug addict with the mere mention of the e-word (and h-word, too, for that matter).

The conversation stayed pretty civilized, though, which I think can be attributed to the fact that I truly don’t care what anyone thinks about my decision to have had an epidural (and, truth be told, they didn’t seem to be judging me too much). By the same token, I completely support women like L. who are opting for an entirely different experience than what I had. Which I think is the whole point: we’re at a stage where women finally have choices – be it career, family or how and where they decide to bring a new life into this world.

Of course, I think of my friend A., who had a big scare right after her first child was born (they called a ‘code blue’ and, well, let’s just say she’s lucky to have been in a hospital, since time was of the essence; her baby was thankfully okay in the end). I also think of my friend M., who comes from a large, close-knit family, and whose sister delivered her baby – after two days of labor – right there in M.’s cozy guest bedroom (she could smell the scent of homemade pasta being cooked downstairs and, once the baby was born, everyone ate a celebratory meal and toasted this new mom with a giant bottle of Champagne).

At the end of the day, it comes down to the safety of both mother and child. If you ultimately deliver your baby exactly as planned, consider yourself lucky.

(Photo: Digital Vision)