Sad fact: Until recently, I never felt compelled to share the birth stories of my two children because my choice to opt for epidurals made me feel less-than as a mother.
During my first pregnancy, I can remember an abundance of links to gripping, beautifully-written all-natural birth stories popping up on my Facebook feed. I read enough of these personal narratives to convince myself that I, too, needed to go the natural route in order to achieve supreme motherhood. As my due date grew closer, I wrapped up the last chapter in my Ina May Gaskin book and mentally prepared to go au natural.
I’ll make a long story short: intense pain led to panic led to my sweet nurse whispering next to my sweaty head that an epidural does not equate to failure. I abandoned my “natural” plans and received the epidural (a little late, unfortunately) which did take the edge off (but back labor stops for no one, amiright?). After hours of laboring, I was too exhausted to make the final push so my doctor resorted to using the forceps and our little melon-headed boy finally entered the world.
I can distinctly remember hoping that no one asked me about my labor because I was embarrassed and ashamed. Memories of all the birth stories I had read came rushing back like a pointed finger to the chest and the feeling of failure silenced me.
I mom-shamed myself on day one.
No one got to know my water broke. Or that the song, “Best Day of My Life,” by the American Authors, broke the reverent silence in the car on our way to the hospital. Or that my obstetrician was out of town, but the one who stepped in for him was so kind that he stayed six hours past his shift to see us through to the end.
It’s not necessary for these details to mean much to anyone else, but combined with my entire journey through labor and delivery I now think they make up a story worth sharing.
For the birth of my daughter this past summer, and with the memories of my battle with back labor suddenly very vivid, I went in knowing I would likely ask for an epidural. This decision came after several conversations with my obstetrician reassuring me of the pros and cons of medical intervention. This also woke the Shame Dragon I fought the first time, but as soon as I felt that first sledgehammer to the back I almost went looking for the anesthesiologist myself.
Needless to say, that delivery room was ethereal. The anesthesiologist must have prepared my “spinal cocktail” (gross, sorry) just right because while I was still very uncomfortable and ready for it all to be over, there was a levity to the entire thing. We made lighthearted jokes, I sent a Snapchat to my best friend, I pushed strong, powerful pushes with each contraction, and when my daughter made her grand entrance all I could do was laugh. I kid you not, everyone in the room was laughing.
From day one, our Maggie has been an easy laugh and quick to smile. She is a sweet spark in this world and I like to think our experience in delivery had a little something to do with that. These are the kinds of details that bring me joy to share, that are worth sharing, that shouldn’t be stuffed away because of my decision to get an epidural.
Labor is a unique and usually unpredictable experience. Whether you labored naturally, utilized an epidural or had a C-section (scheduled or not), your birth story deserves to be honored (namely, by YOU!). Giving birth to a tiny new human should unite us as mothers and give us reason to join together in celebration of something so magnificent. The fact that there is ever any comparison shame surrounding the gift of new life is a crying shame in and of itself.
So, instead of diminishing ourselves, let’s find the joy in our different journeys. The next time I find myself in one of those juicy, wine-infused mom convos where it’s no holds barred on the sharing of our delivery room chronicles, I will tell my stories with confidence and without comparison because, let’s face it: we all end up with the same under eye circles, soft tummies and sleepless stretches while trying to navigate life with a new baby and there is nothing weak about that.