Sometimes there is a bit of a “mommy war” between women who sign up for epidurals as soon as they get those two pink lines, and women who plan on avoiding pain medication in labor. I’m not intending to say anything inflammatory, because I understand why women choose epidurals. But I frequently hear the comment, “Why go through that when you don’t have to?” And I wonder if these people have ever “gone through” something they “didn’t have to.”
One might ask a marathon runner why he or she “goes through all that” when it is obvious that they really “don’t have to” — after all, races exist just to prove who is the fastest or best; nothing else is accomplished — in fact, in many races (especially car races), the starting line is also the finish line, with the racers going around in a circle, but really going nowhere. Nobody “has to” climb Mt. Everest or any other mountain, nor go cave-diving, nor sky-dive, nor play a football game, or many other activities in life that exist merely as sport, or amusement, or to give the one who conquers it a feeling of accomplishment. Many of these things alluded to are very taxing on the body — a lot of exertion, and even a lot of pain. But no one questions those who undertake these things, which are really very self-serving (look at me and see what I can do) or else pointless (or only for financial gain), asking them why they go through that unnecessary pain.
Yet when women announce that they are planning a home birth, or are planning to give birth without an epidural or other pharmaceutical pain relief, they frequently have to defend their choice, with people being sometimes very rude. But a woman who declines an epidural would typically have a much better reason for “going through unnecessary pain” than a person undertaking a marathon, namely, to avoid giving her baby drugs unnecessarily, among other benefits. There may be other elements as well, even self-serving elements of “look at me, I gave birth without drugs!” But few if any racers compete with such altruistic motives.
Take a look at the following pictures. All of these show some great physical exertion. What about these people? Anybody want to offer them an epidural? Anybody want to tell them that they shouldn’t go through all that pain? Anybody want to tell them that running a race without an epidural is as stupid as getting a tooth pulled without anesthetic?