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So I’m about to do something very dangerous. I’m going to talk about child birth from a male perspective. Yeah, I’m crazy… I know. I think I might be putting myself in greater danger than the guy in wartime who walks first through landmine infested jungles! :P But before I do, here are some important disclaimers…
- I am not telling anyone not to have a natural birth. Tons of women have incredible natural births (here’s a beautiful example I saw posted on FB and here’s an amazing birth story from one of my best friends). If you are one of those women, awesome! If you are one of those women who want to be one of those women when you give birth, awesome again!
- I am not telling anyone to have an epidural. I really don’t care what people do — natural, epidural, in a bath tub, on your roof, at Denny’s… I genuinely believe that people should have their children how and where they want. Nothing is off limits (maybe the “on your roof” bit as it could be dangerous ;).
- I was not born in a hospital. My mom didn’t have an epidural (endured something like 50 hours with me!). I never received a single shot or vaccine until recently. I come from a family who believe strongly in natural approaches in just about everything. So I am very familiar and comfortable with all things natural ;)
- Never lose sight of what the REAL amazing thing about childbirth is. It’s that a human life (that you will become OBSESSED with) is being created! The MOST amazing thing about childbirth is being completely in love with and dedicated to your child in a way that only a mom can be. And THAT’S something ANY mom can do — mom’s who have had C sections or who forgo biological children entirely and adopt :) Raising children, having them change your life, the feeling you get when they reach for you… THAT’S the truly amazing thing. Moms who had C sections or mom’s who adopted shouldn’t be made to feel like they have done anything less amazing (having your stomach surgically opened up and delivering that way OR choosing to take in a child that isn’t your blood are both freaking amazing in my book). The true wonder is HAVING your children with you — how you got them is so incredibly secondary ;)
Lastly, I am writing this because on facebook, twitter, blogs, baby boards, and so on, I regularly see stories specifically about the beauty of natural child birth. That’s great and I don’t want that to change! But I haven’t seen even one similar type of post about epidurals — and I think that should change. Because of this imbalance, too many women are (often unintentionally) left to feel like they are lesser mothers because they didn’t have a natural birth. That they missed out on something incredible or weren’t selfless enough to go through that pain. That’s just not right.
Both natural and epidural births are legit, great options. And as beautiful and incredible as I know they can be, natural births do not have a monopoly in the arena of absolute beauty, empowerment, serenity, and so forth. I know that many women have incredibly empowering, beautiful, emotional (and so on) experiences with natural labor. However, what I feel is missing is a more balanced account for the alternative. I want people to see that these two ways might be different — but just as the natural approach has it’s beautiful, unique qualities only found in natural births, the epidural approach also has beautiful, unique qualities only to be found in epidural births.
So please read this post as it is — a story of how choosing to have an epidural can help ensure an incredibly powerful, bonding, beautiful, and peaceful birth, and how it can also be the greatest gift you could ever give your husband. And please keep in mind, again, that I know that there are tons of men and women out there who have beautiful experiences with natural births — that I am only adding our personal account into the blogosphere rather than trying to take away from anyone else’s ;)
The birth of our son, Clive, was the single most awe-inspiring day of my life. It is so difficult for me to articulate something that seemed almost too divine or magical for words, if that makes sense. For me, I know that a major contributing and necessary factor to the indescribable joy I felt that day was because my wife chose to have an epidural over a natural birth. An epidural is so much more than a woman simply opting for less pain in labor. I truly believe that it’s also making the choice to give your husband one of the best gifts he will ever receive. Let me explain…
From the moment I met Lindsay, I had that “protector” drive immediately kick in. Just as it now exists with my son, it too has existed with Lindsay since the moment I fell in love with her. Often times, when it comes to labor, the popular view is that men are free from pain and worry when it comes to childbirth. I think it’s a great mistake to discount the serious and real pain that exists for a man watching his wife suffer through severe trauma — torture like pain. Ask any parent if it would be more painful to have your hand cut off or more painful to watch your little child’s hand cut off. I can absolutely guarantee you that I would gladly have my hand severed from my body over watching my son’s hand removed from his. Many of us feel the same protective feelings about our wives. Knowing that the woman you would do anything for will experience severe, torture like pain — and there’s nothing you can do to take her place — is absolutely dreadful. That is NOT to say that guys have it worse than woman — please don’t take it that way. But just as watching your child experience severe pain is agonizing for a parent, so too is watching your wife in a similar situation. This is a real, genuine pain that should be considered in any loving relationship.
That evening, in the hospital, after Lindsay was a few centimeters dilated, she opted for her epidural. At this point, I was already stressed about her lack of sleep up until then. It was in the evening and she hadn’t eaten since 4am that morning. Because of this, I couldn’t eat either. Lindsay was already alone in the fact that only SHE was going to be pushing this baby out — I did not want her to feel alone in being tired and hungry. So no naps or food for me. And it wasn’t some difficult choice. I genuinely didn’t care to sleep or eat knowing that she was still hungry and tired.
The glorious epidural.
Within 15 minutes, the relief was incredible. She laid back, felt completely coherent (as the epidural only targeted her nerve endings in her waste — nothing to do with her mental faculties), and just fell asleep. This is when the beauty of childbirth started taking place for me. As a parent now, it was akin to seeing my baby in pain all day — unable to get any sleep during his naps — and FINALLY getting to see him in a sweet, deep sleep that night. Parents can relate to how incredibly comforting this feeling is. It’s as if every other problem ceases to exist. This is very much so how I felt upon seeing Lindsay drift off into some much needed, pleasant sleep. This was truly an invaluable benefit of the epidural. I never thought I could be so at ease in the middle of my wife’s labor!
Lindsay slept restlessly — she was so exhausted from no sleep the night before that she even slept through the nurse checking how dilated she was! They woke her up at 9cm. Again, she slept from like 3cms until 9cms!!! I did NOT know that this was possible! She woke up as if it were a lazy Saturday morning that we both chose to sleep in on. Refreshed. Happy. Excited. I cannot overstate the joy that this added to my experience. Seeing my wife not terrified about the pushing to come. Simply looking each other in the eye with that glow of “I can’t believe we’re about to do this!!!” It felt like we were 5 years old — about to open Christmas presents. There wasn’t an ounce of apprehension or uneasiness. Lindsay had long been nervous prior because she had no idea how freeing the epidural would end up being (we hadn’t spoken, at that point, with a lot of women who had epidurals as we wanted to keep our hopes high and our expectations low — so as to not be let down) — and she was completely taken back with how normal, pain free, calm, and happy she was — MOMENTS before beginning to push!
The following is from my personal account of Clive’s birth…
What happened next was like nothing I could have ever imagined.
Lindsay is as calm as if she were having her nails done. No signs of pain. No signs of grogginess. Completely alert, even able to move her legs. Dr. Kohatsu walks in and immediately continues on where our nurse (Charis) had left off. One big push and his head is showing a tiny bit. I am jaw-dropped and I look back and forth at Lindsay, Deb, and Leslie just saying “this is insane!!!” Between pushes, Lindsay is focused, but totally with the three of us. She isn’t squeezing my hand to death while she goes off to her own little happy place. She pushes again and now I can see so much of his head. I tell Lindsay that “he’s got dark hair!!” Lindsay just smiles in between pushes. I cannot — CANNOT — overemphasize how enjoyable this made pregnancy for me as a man. To know my wife was with me — and not in the greatest pain of her life? Priceless. The next push was a BIG one. I was helping her posture by lifting her shoulders — but I was still in a position to where I could see Clive perfectly. This led into Clive’s head coming out. That was a big push. Still, Lindsay was as calm and normal as can be. I couldn’t decide what was more amazing. The fact that my son was being born or the fact that Lindsay was enjoying this experience with a smile on her face!
As I posted back then, I still feel the same today. I cannot describe the feeling that exists in looking into your wife’s eyes on what was meant to be the most painful day of her life, instead seeing only joy and zero pain or anxiety. If Lindsay were going through pain and mental anguish, since I have that drive to protect my wife from such things, I’d be focusing on how I could somehow alleviate her pain (which, of course, I wouldn’t be able to do). I’d be dealing with the pain of seeing my wife in torment. Yeah, she could be breathing properly, finding a “happy place” to deal with all the severe pain, going over things she learned in her classes, etc. — but I still know that no matter how great her poker face, odds are that she would be in serious pain (as women who have relatively painless natural births are quite rare). I’m sure I’d have the presence of mind to where I’d be paying attention to the childbirth, of course, but it would have been immediately after going through all of the stress and trauma of seeing my wife in pain for hours with contractions. And it’d still be mixed with knowing that with every painful squeeze I received from my wife, the pain she was feeling would be so much worse. Instead of having to mix my focus with any of that, my incredible wife gave me the gift of having a completely uncluttered and free mind — fortunate to have the privilege of focusing solely on two things. First being the birth of our son. Second being how incredibly awe-inspiring the moment was as it was happening. If Lindsay were going through severe pain, a major chunk of my focus would have obviously been dedicated to Lindsay’s pain and anguish.
Lindsay, as beautiful as ever, moments after delivering our son :)
As far as empowerment, Lindsay felt exactly that by the fact that she was given the option to do what SHE wanted to do and she chose to take not just herself and our baby into consideration when making the decision– but also her husband (which, again, was one of the greatest gifts she’s ever given me). She felt good about the fact that she was already confident in herself as both a woman and mother to where she didn’t feel that proving anything to herself about her ability to endure childbirth pain would result in any real benefit (for her — not for other women). She educated herself about the risks involved for the baby and felt there was nothing compelling there (a couple good articles on the myths of epidurals can be seen here and here). All of this was very empowering for her. She went through childbirth, in my admittedly VERY biased opinion :P, more elegantly, peacefully, beautifully, and confidently than anyone I could imagine. And she had an epidural. She had a lot of pressure around her to do otherwise (God bless ‘em, but nearly every woman who asked Lindsay “so what’s your birth plan???” appeared immediately let down when Lindsay told them she would be having an epidural in a hospital with normal, boring nurses), but Lindsay is the kind of confident woman that doesn’t really let what other people think influence her decisions. And having that sort of gusto, in my opinion, is probably as empowering as anything for a woman…
It should be clear that other women will feel extreme empowerment and a sense of achievement going the natural route — and that’s GREAT! Some will feel that there are health risks they don’t want to put their baby into. Some will feel that it isn’t natural having a needle go into your spine. But since every woman is different, every woman will come to their decision in different ways. And there is no wrong approach. Again, women should be allowed to make a pressure-free, guilt-free decision without agenda driven people on either side forcing their views on anyone :)
Here’s Lindsay. Calm as can be moments after delivery :) Here’s a link for feedreaders and FB’ers.
So in closing, I understand fully that men have no idea what it’s like for a woman to go through the entire process of creating a human life and then going through the process of childbirth. But please know that for many of us men, watching and listening to our wives writhe in incredible pain is almost exactly the same feeling you have when watching your child in pain — knowing that you’d do anything to stop it if only you were able. For some, this won’t inspire any additional consideration when making the choice of natural or epidural — and that’s totally fine :) But for some of you, possibly those who never thought of it this way, knowing that you can have give your husband such an incredible gift — and I know first hand that an epidural is the most loving gift my wife could have ever given me — it just might be something that helps you in your decision. And that would make my day :)
p.s. No matter what you decide, never let anyone make this decision for you. Never be bullied into getting an epidural or into going natural. And never let anyone make you feel like you are somehow less of a woman or achieved something less noteworthy because you went epidural over natural — or vice versa. We should never lose sight of the fact that the actual incredible thing about child birth is that you created a little human (hopefully with someone you love) who will forever change your life (for the better!). THAT is the achievement. Doing that naturally or with an epidural makes no woman better than another. Having an epidural makes you no more amazing than someone who gets a root canal and receives anesthesia — just like having a natural birth makes you no more amazing than someone who gets a root canal and forgoes that same anesthesia. The fact that woman sacrifice their bodies, go through that nine months, deal with all of the hormones, and then deliver a brand new human to the world — that’s amazing. And the most amazing thing is being completely in love with and dedicated to your child in a way that only a mom can be. And that’s something ANY mom can do — mom’s that have C sections, moms who go natural, moms that forgo biological children entirely and adopt, or moms who have epidurals. Raising children, having them change your life, the feeling you get when they reach for you… That’s the truly amazing thing ;)
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