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The Cave Woman and the Epidural

I make no secret of the fact that I’ve had three c-sections and zero vaginal births. Sure, I made a valiant effort to push my first daughter out “the old fashioned-way,” as I jokingly call vaginal deliveries, but the fact is, were it not for modern medicine, both Lauren and I would have died in childbirth. Had we lived in the 1800s or early 1900s, maybe one of us would have survived at the expense of the other. This is why I offer you some retorts to anyone who talks about childbirth, labor, epidurals, cesarean sections or even breastfeeding in anything less than a respectful and tolerant tone. “Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without pain meds or epidurals.” This is true. You can’t deny it. And yet, those cave women also didn’t have a choice. You can’t speak for the cave woman who after three hours of agonizing back labor, probably would have jumped at the chance for an epidural. Not having the option of an epidural is not the same as choosing not to have an epidural. Just because women have been giving birth naturally for centuries (because they had no other choice) doesn't mean they would do the same thing today. “Too many women are having labor induced so their doctors can make their tee times.” This also may be true. It depends on if your OB plays golf. If it’s something you are worried about, be sure to ask your doctor, “Do you play golf? Because I don’t want to be induced just so you can make your tee time.” Or, you could also say “No thank you, I’d rather not be induced and I’d rather let nature take it’s course.” But back to our friend the Cave Woman. We can’t be sure she didn’t use her own primitive methods to stimulate labor. Just because she didn’t have modern medicine at her fingertips, doesn’t mean she wasn’t just as anxious, uncomfortable and sick of waddling around like the rest of get when we know we are about to “pop.” We do know that women have been trying various methods of stimulating labor since, well, forever--like eating spicy foods or engaging in certain rigorous activities--all in the hopes of trying to get the inevitable started sooner rather than later. “Breastfeeding is the way nature intended women to feed their babies.” Well, you certainly can’t argue with that. But, if you have any tact, you should refrain from saying it to a bottle-feeding mother. I actually did end up nursing all three of my children but because of my extremely stressful three-plus hour attempt at pushing out Lauren, followed by an emergency c-section, my body was so “out of wack” that my milk didn’t come in for almost a full week. We supplemented Lauren with formula but I continued to try to try to nurse her. She lost a lot of weight in that first week and I was on the verge of giving up. Hours after I left the pediatrician’s office in tears, my milk finally came in. Breastfeeding is the way nature intended us to feed our babies, that is, those mothers and babies who weren't killed off during the birthing process. Nature is efficient but that efficiency is brutal. There was nothing about the process that was "natural," especially since we both lived! Judging mothers who are bottle feeding is the same and whether it is by necessity of choice, if both mom and baby are healthy and happy, it's really no one else's business. As mothers preparing to give birth, the best we can do is to educate ourselves and to make ourselves aware of the different options that exist when things start to unfold. There are a lot of things that you simply cannot know until you are in the moment. This is true whether you are in labor with your first baby or your sixth. If you hear someone who means well, or maybe someone who has really wide birth canal and a super-high pain tolerance (not to mention a superiority complex and a competitive attitude about giving birth) remind her that there is no shame in using modern medicine during childbirth—and because of it, the mother and infant mortality rate has dropped A LOT in the last century. Besides, that cave woman might have really appreciated an epidural.The Cave Woman and the Epidural by Elizabeth A. McKenzie
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  • I think it’s a good idea to prepare for all the options. For example, even if you don’t want to get induced or get an epidural, it’s still important to learn about them because sometimes they really are the best option. But then again if you were planning on getting an epidural it’s a good idea to learn some other coping techniques because sometimes they don’t work or things move too fast. I really don’t see why we need to compare or feel judged about how we had our babies. There are so many other more important things to worry about.

    Marcelaine on
  • Really love the way you approached this topic. I agree with previous posters about the wonders of modern medicine in reducing the mortality rate among birthing mothers.

    Christin A. on
  • Thanks for the this post. It is really too bad that there is a competitive atmosphere out there with regard to giving birth. Every human body is different. I always appreciate those who listen and who are supportive rather than judgmental.

    Elizabeth on
  • Totally agree. I so wanted to EBF my son but I ended up having a low supply. I felt so guilty and spent hours crying over the fact that I had to supplement. I think a lot of that was because of the pressure put on mothers to breastfeed. Yes breast is best and the most natural but as I learned it’s not always a given for every mother. I haven’t given up yet though and do my best to give my son as much as my body will allow but he still eats more formula than breast milk.

    Larissa K on
  • I have to tell you that I loved this post! Especially the comment about the cave woman probably jumping at the chance for an epidural :) I had one and was so happy that I did. My delivery was not complication free and I am so happy that the epidural was available to me.

    Amanda z on

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