Archive for January 15th, 2012

To epidural or not to epidural

As I mourn the passing of the Packers’ glorious 2011-12 season, I am trying to keep my mind occupied with other things. After drying my eyes and taking out some crankiness on Aaron, I watched the Golden Globes. This effort was only moderately successful as the show wasn’t quite as entertaining as I needed it to be (though I probably expected too much by asking it to raise the bar in the wake of the worst Packer game of the season). As that’s now over, and I’m still feeling pretty morose (and AO is sleepily breathing quietly next to me), I’m going to try my hand at a blog post. A Blog Post to Move Forward with Life in the Offseason.

Lately when I hear the word ‘epidural,’ I find myself singing — to myself, in my head — “Epidural, Epidural, Ep-i-dural,” which is sung to the tune of ‘Rock Me Amadeus.’ Is this because epidurals and Mozart are two peas in a pod? Or maybe because ‘epidural’ and ‘Amadeus’ are the only four syllable words I know? Whatever the reason, the song in my head is quite catchy. And its existence also — not surprisingly — coincides with my rapid approach to the finish line. I’m staring down the barrel of under eight weeks until Baby Girl Sweet Potato makes her post-womb debut and I generally prefer to talk and think about and research mobiles on Etsy and Pinterest than read about what’s actually going to happen on The Day o’ Birth. I don’t think I can be that unusual in this regard. For one thing, I have always loved design and decoration more than human anatomy. For another, mobiles are cute and sweet and — to me, at least — gobs of goo and blood and who-knows-what and a baby coming out of me are anything but. This is not to say that I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to birth; it’s just more that I’m not in love with the idea of what I need to do to get the Sweet Potato from one side of my body to the other.

For a long time now, well before I was with child myself, I thought, “Why not have an epidural?” I went through a period, when I was a child, when I would refuse pain medication or allergy meds — for things like headaches and, you know, my eyes swelling shut and things like that — because I thought that I was *strong* enough to just deal with it and that being so — strong enough — somehow meant something. I’m not entirely sure when I grew out of that stage, but I am so glad I did. I now take Advil when my head or uterus hurts (not while I’ve been pregnant, people – calm down), I take Zyrtex (the brilliantly affordable Costco variety) daily and in the last month I’ve been popping Tums — for the first time in my life — like nobody’s business. And I am glad that I feel comfortable and am able to take these brilliant examples of modern medicine. So, maybe not naturally but certainly not unnaturally, I also thought I’d go for an epidural and never look back. I had long been confused by women who rail against the epidural as somehow dangerous for the baby. Granted, I am obviously no doctor and, frankly, have a fifth grader’s sense of my own anatomy, but I still wasn’t sure how there would be nearly enough time for any harm caused by the epidural to reach an about-to-be-born baby. I now understand, though, that I was being too simplistic and not appreciating that anti-epidural women, or even women who are trepidatious about drugs and childbirth, have a range of concerns with medication at the time of birth. Of course there’s whether the baby will be affected, but also — and this seems to be the concern I hear most often — whether the drug will affect the woman’s experience with childbirth. It seems there are serious concerns about whether the epidural will prolong labor, increase the likelihood of a c-section, or cause the woman not to have the full range of her sensations and mental capacities so that she isn’t fully aware of what is happening.

I do think there is another component to the current and common aversion to epidural-y-ing it during the child’s birth. I think there are a lot of women who feel like I used to feel when I got a headache as a child; women who feel they *should* be able to labor without drugs or, “naturally” as they fancy calling it, and that they are a stronger or better or more womanly or certainly more motherly person for doing so. I think, though, that there are also a lot of women who choose to go drug-free for all of the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, and probably a million more I don’t know about, and because they simply want to know and feel what it is like to bring their child into this world uninhibited by any alteration.

I admit that this last possibility only recently occurred to me as I began to really think, for the very first time, about what I wanted to do when the time comes. Because, it seems, that the time is coming no matter how many mobiles I look at, no matter how many Packer games are won or lost, and no matter how much I worry about whether we are ready. And as I think about whether to epidural or not, I realize that I just don’t know. I definitely want the epidural as an option on the table, and I still tend to lean toward making the whole experience the least painful that it can be, but I also admit to a curiosity about what it will feel like, how much I can handle, and whether Baby and I would fare better meeting face to face, for the first time, drug-free.

So, I continue to read things like this. And I appreciate hearing from my friends who made the choices they made — I have friends who have epidural-ed, c-section-ed, vaginal birthed sans meds, and home birthed and I think they are all amazing. I try very hard to understand and respect women who feel very strongly about these issues, while recognizing that I cannot manufacture concern for issues that don’t worry me so much and that it doesn’t make me an insta-bad mom for concentrating my worry on things other than whether Baby Girl will be affected by an epidural.

The thing is, I don’t have to please or impress anyone else. Life is hard enough without adding unnecessary pain and stress. So, I think I’ll just keep reading and thinking and listening and, in the end, make a decision that I think is best for me and for Baby. And maybe even Aaron.