Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Of Epidurals and Super-moms

I am a voracious reader. I can devour a book in a few hours. The German says that it is like crack or something for me. He is not completely wrong. When I need to make a decision about something, I always try to be as informed as possible. This leads to even more reading.

When I found out that I was pregnant, I immediately started reading pregnancy books. But about a month ago, I realized that, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies.”
Oh sure, I have a general idea about the birth process. But I need details, stages of labor, what is going to happen at every minute. Also, I believe that knowledge is a powerful weapon against fear, which often makes birth more painful.

What I have been reading is a bit . . . scary. My fear of child birth has been quelled a little bit, but I have to say that I am not opposed to drugs (i.e. pain relievers) during the birthing process. The German objected to this when we discussed it a few months ago.

German: Honey, I think that it may interfere in your bonding process with baby.

Claire: Sweetie, are you going to be pushing something the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon?

German: Well, no.

Claire: Then you don’t get a vote.

After relaying this anecdote to a German woman, she looked at me with disappointment and shame. “You cannot be serious! Why would you use pain relievers?” She shamed me. She made me feel like a crack whore. It was my first interaction with a Super-mom.

Super-moms do not need epidurals. They make organic baby food. They take their kids to “Mommy and Me” and know about all the latest research in childhood development. They are also very opinionated and not afraid to share their opinions. I have noticed this on some “mommy blogs.”

It never ceases to amaze me how vicious some people can be in their comments. Some of these moms will take another woman apart over things like breastfeeding or sleeping patterns. I thought women should support each other and offer helpful advice. Being pushy and condescending is not helpful.

I am probably not going to be a Super-mom. I have decided to take the epidural if needed. I probably will not make my own baby food. And you know what? As some of my books say, that is okay. In the end parenting and motherhood are very personal experiences. Each mother must find her own way through this labyrinth. Unfortunately babies do not come with a manual. Trust me, I have been looking. Thoughtful advice is welcome . . . just don’t get pushy.


Carol said...

Oh Claire... This is an issue I am passionate about! I am a Certified Childbirth Educator, a doula, and a former "childbirth expert" for AOL, and my constant mantra was (and is) that we all need to make the choices that are best for our own families and stop judging each other! I've noticed that mothers seem to be the hardest on each other -- and not just about birth, either! Wait until the breast/bottle, stay-at-home/work, etc, issues come! Women can be ruthless and so NON-supportive! Which means that it's even MORE important that you do what's right for you and your family and forget all the nay-sayers! My message to my moms was always "educate yourself and make the right educated decision for YOU"!

My suggestion is that you do what it takes to make the upcoming birth a good memory. The birth lasts a few hours, but the memory lasts a lifetime. If a non-medicated birth makes for the best memory, go for it! If a medicated birth makes for the best memory, go for it! If you don't know yet, have an open mind and follow your own body and your own instinct!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

I know the people you speak of. When you are pregnant they tend to be the ones most vocal...and rather annoying if I may add. I went into the birth of my son with the thought that I'd try to do it without drugs, but that I wouldn't rule them out. Since I had problems, once they turned on the potocin (sp?) I screamed for an epidural...and I don't regret it one bit.

There will always be "super moms"...but you are still the super mom to the little one you will be taking home :)

kim said...

i am SO glad none of my girlfriends is a "super mom". it's hard enough to have six babies born right in your circle of friends and family within a year but if they were all "super moms" i'd probably live in the U.S. by now.

also, i truly believe that said "super moms" raise seriously challenged kids - especially when it comes to socializing and just enjoying life.

i'm sure you will be a GREAT MOM, which is so much better for everyone involved than a "super mom".

good luck with everything! :)

christina said...

Claire-Dude! When it comes down to it, no one really knows nothin''bout birthin' no babies because every birth is different and you need to do what's right for YOU. Good for you for informing yourself about the options. I *cannot* stand those people (especially those German know-it-alls) who think there is only one right way to do things. All you can do is smile and nod and ignore them.

Whether or not to have pain meds is such a personal issue but you really need to discuss it with the hospital *beforehand* because it can vary as to what they will and won't give you. Some places will give you an epidural or all sorts of other goodies no problem. Others, like the hospital I had my two babies at (actually chosen because it was conveniently located right across the street from the in-law's apartment) make it clear right from the start that they DON'T offer epidurals or give any other kind of pain relief except for homeopathic stuff. We went with it anyway because of the location and because they seemed competent in other areas. Yeah, it hurt like hell (coconut and lemon just about covers it) but it was bearable since both babies were born in a couple of hours from start to finish so I was *really* lucky. I can imagine that if I had had 16 hours of back labour or some other complications that I would have totally regretted my decision. It really depends on your individual situation and your pain threshold. If you want pain meds, you *should* have them, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

As for the fear thing - yes! Informing yourself is the best way to dispel that a bit. It's a scary process, but it's way easier if you know what's going on and let nature take its course and realize that your body knows what to do and is working to get that baby out, and that the hospital staff are there to help you in that process if you need it.

E-mail me if you have any questions!

P.S. I mostly bottle fed my first baby, breast fed the second one, didn't make my own baby food, used disposable diapers and made the babies sleep in their own beds and lookie here, both my kids are still alive and pretty normal if you ask me. ;-) There's more than one way to skin a cat, I always say.

Maria said...

My long standing opinion and advice-- know your options. That's all you can do. I told a woman to get the f-out of my car because she told me that I wasn't taking my pregnancy and the pending birth seriously. Why would she say that? Because I was trying to go au natural, which of course, didn't happen due to having to be induced and then my body not progressing. Anyway, I had the epidural and my midwife allowed it to wear off in the end, and I had absolutely no problem bonding, the baby latched and all was well...mostly.

Arm yourself and trust your body to do what it needs to do, and when your body disagrees or your mind takes over, make the decisions you have to make for your health and the health of your baby.

Welcome to mommy-hood and the world of sancti-mommies! HUGS!

G in Berlin said...

I had my first in a birthing center with no drugs and was home within 12 hours, and my second with an epidural and stayed in the hospital two days and there was no difference in bonding. If I have a third, I will definitely go for the epidural again for many different reasons.None of these reasons may pertain to you, but for me: I birth my babies fast! With #1 I had mucho tearing and my daughter had significant bruising and then jaundice. In addition, I have milk production problems, as a significant number of women do, and I appreciated the opportunity to be in a hospital while starting pumping ( I pumped and supplemented for 11 months). Don't worry about it and know that mothers are often very cruel to each other! Ignore them and be very firm with the hospital in re what you want. PS, if you go 'natural' I highly recommend finding a hospital with a bath you can stay in until it is time to push. By the way, hi. I have been reading you for months now and thought I would de-lurk!
Good luck- Gail

Juanita said...

Just do what's right for you, Claire. I have two daughter-in-laws who are very, very different in the ways they gave birth and the way they raise their kids. And, imagine what, their kids are all doing just fine.

umarah said...

Claire i will tell you to go ahead with epidural.i have two children(the younger one is less than 30 days yet)and i had epidural both times and its fantastic.i say epidural and oxytocin are girls best friends.you dont have to show to the world that you are a champion mom just by enduring labor pains without any drugs.its your own choice.

Rositta said...

I still remember with horror for one and only birthing experience 42 years ago. Epidurals where not on the menu then and I was unlucky enough to give birth in a Montreal hospital where no one spoke English. No pain relief was offered. My first DIL gave birth three times with minimal effort and no pain relief and became supermom. My second DIL had a much worse experience and needed both pain med and C section. For sure neither myself or my son were going to judge, it's an individual experience. YOU do what you need to be comfortable but remember there is a time frame where it becomes too late for the epidural. Happy birthing...ciao

Anonymous said...

Claire, your last paragraph was insightful and proves that you have everything you need to face this experience. Please trust your instincts and do what is best for you. In that way, your baby will have everything he needs, a happy Mom who loves him. You have put so much thought into this, it proves you will be a great Mom. Good luck with your journey, and much love to your new little one. Pam

Christina G said...

I wouldn't have gotten through my birthing experience without an epidural (and I barely got through it with one), so don't worry about the au naturel people. Maybe your birth will be relatively easy and you won't need one, but if not, there is always the option. We did have big breastfeeding problems the first six weeks (possibly due to the epidural - he was a serious sleepyhead), and I had to supplement him until he started on solids, etc. Every birthing and childrearing experience is different. Oh, and maybe I'm sounding like I've had tough experiences, but they weren't so bad, especially when I look at my little guy and know that any trouble is worth it. Hang in there. And I was freaked out about giving birth too, then in the last week I was suddenly completely okay with it. Was strange.

hexe said...

When I wanted advice, I asked a couple people I trusted, did my eading and made the best decision for me and my family. There is more than one way to raise a healthy, happy kid. And making mistakes is part of it. There are times when a well thought plan backfires and my husband and I just remind ourselves of all the crazy stuff our parents did. If we don't make mistakes how will our kids complain about us the way we do about our parents!