Why I Didn’t Want an Epidural


Earlier today, I read something like the following:

Why in the hell would you not have an epidural?

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. I’ve seen questions like this before, sometimes harshly phrased. Do you think you’re going to get a medal for experiencing pain? If you’re going to give birth like they did in the old days before pain meds, are you also going to shit in the woods like they did in the old days?

Well, no. I didn’t think I’d have a medal bestowed on me for dealing with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. No, I don’t shit in the woods (although, full disclosure, I will pee in them if we’re hiking).

These posts always need a disclaimer: I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about whatever choice she makes or whatever birth experience she has or whether things go as planned or are completely different from what she wanted or expected. I was incredibly fortunate to have an awesome pregnancy and the (painful!) birth experience I wanted.

So, all due respect to everybody who has a different opinion on the issue, here are some reasons I didn’t want an epidural.

  • First and most important, I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital, so an epidural wasn’t even an option for me. (You can read more about why I had a home birth here.)
  • The idea of having a needle inserted into my spine freaks me right the hell out.
  • I didn’t want the risk of side effects.
  • I didn’t want to be on monitors and an IV during labor. I wanted freedom to move around.
  • I didn’t want someone telling me when to push.
  • I didn’t want to swell up like a giant balloon and feel like crap after giving birth.
  • I didn’t want to focus on medical procedures that freak me right the hell out instead of on giving birth and my baby.

The main thing is that I wanted to be in control of my labor and delivery experience, to the extent it was safe for the baby and me. I don’t mean that in a micromanagey way at all — like, it’s not that I wanted to exert my iron-fisted control over every aspect of everything that happened. I mean that I wanted to trust myself and my body to do what it needed to do on its own. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like I wanted to be in power, but I wanted my body to be powerful and do what it needed to do with as little interference as possible.

Even though I’m a pretty anxious person by nature, at some point during my pregnancy, I came to completely trust my midwife and myself so I was able to let go of my fear and be ready to do what I need to do to, well, birth a baby in my living room. It was good to learn I’m capable of that (letting go of my fear more than giving birth in my living room, which I suspect is not a skill I’ll frequently need in the future).

It’s funny because during labor, I felt anything but powerful. I felt weak and tired. It hurt. A lot. I mean, I expected labor to hurt because, well, duh, but I had no idea. And it went on for 25 freaking hours. And I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. And it was just as awesome as I could’ve ever imagined it would be.