Why does society treat labor pain with such reverence—and its relief with such scrutiny?
Not long after wheeling me into the room where I would eventually give birth to my eldest daughter, the nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management. I didn’t have much of an answer. I had just completed my second semester of graduate school, a feat managed largely by underpreparing for parenthood. My only birth plan was to listen to my doctors and nurses. “What do you think I should do?” I asked. The nurse walked me through my options and then suggested the common approach of at least attempting to give birth without medication. If I felt I needed pain relief, she told me, I could start with less invasive methods, such as nitrous oxide and morphine, before considering an epidural.
I followed her advice to the letter. The nitrous oxide did little to dull the pain but made me high, which I hated. The morphine, as far as I could tell, did nothing at all. The epidural, when I finally got one 19 hours in, almost immediately erased any trace of pain, and I fell asleep. It was awesome. My only regret is not getting one sooner.