I've been thinking about this a good deal lately, observing as my wife decides about her "birthing plan." It's our general impression that hospitals (and presumably, physicians) have gone a little too far with regard to pushing anesthetic. I've heard more than one person say, "Hey--we can make the pain go away; so why should you feel any?" But there are a number of recent books like this one, Birthing from Within, that suggest or imply that dulling or removing the pain somehow diminishes a near-universal human experience that has long been a kind of rite-of-passage for women. In this view, getting an epidural would be like refusing to show up for the college freshmen hazing ritual that your baseball team invites you to.
But lest anyone think I'm not thinking carefully about this--or worry that I'm sounding judgmental--let me say very explicitly: I'm not qualified to make the case laid out in the book cited above. And I get really nervous about getting a cavity filled at the dentist; so I can definitely understand a woman's choice to avoid the pain. And, I think my freshman baseball hazing night was one of the dumbest nights of my life.
But, so, here are two paths: one with a sign that reads, "The way out is through," and another that says, "The way out is anesthetic."
Interestingly, I have a cousin who is an anesthesiologist. She's currently 8 months pregnant with twins. When I asked her if she was getting "the meds," she said, "Given my career choice, I think it would be in bad form for me not to get an epidural."
How should a person make this decision? Especially with a first child? Giving birth seems one of those fundamentally incommunicable experiences--you've either done it or you haven't.
Is it crazy to choose pain when unfeeling is a possibility? Or is the vague promise of "spiritual growth" a reasonable motivation to choose pain?