**(disclaimer: I know natural birth isn't for everyone, this was specifically written from my POV of the experience. So no one go off and get offended now)**
I've had a lot of people express doubt when I proclaim, "I'm having a natural birth" because, well, they know me.
If I have a headache, I take an aspirin. When I suffered from migraines, I took Imitrex (and, on occasion, Demerol). I've popped Percocet for juvenile arthritis (thanks, pointe ballet) and Xanax to help me sleep. Now that I'm pregnant, I still take Celexa to combat bi-polar disorder and I recently filled a script for Zofran because I had hyperemesis with my previous babes and I'm not doing that again.
So, why on Earth would I avoid medication and pain relief during childbirth?
Because it's not a medical condition.
I don't need Pitocin or Cervadil because my baby and body know exactly when they're ready and at what speed my labor should progress.
I do need Zofran because natural methods don't work and my body needs to maintain the right nutrients in order to grow a healthy baby.
I don't need Penicillan because the risks of another thrush infection are far greater than my risks of passing GBS on to my child.
I do need Celexa, because the risks of my bi-polar disorder not being controlled are far more dangerous than the possibility of the drug passing through my placenta.
I don't need Stadol because all it does is make me loopy and forget what's happening.
I do need the occasional Tylenol because it helps me focus when my head isn't killing me.
The biggest "are you crazy?!?!?" question, of course, comes from people asking why I would choose to not get a needle dug into my spinal cord. Not only that, but I am going to be giving birth at a location where I won't even be able to get the epidural when I ask for it, because, of course I'll ask for it. You know, no woman in her right mind likes pain.
I'm no exception. Obviously, I can't stand pain.
I often hear the analogy "would you have a tooth pulled without pain meds?" (especially from my mother-in-law, who, ironically, was the oral surgeon's assistant when I was having my wisdom teeth taken out). So, she knows this answer. No, I would not go without pain medication to have my teeth pulled. I had twilight anesthesia and popped every pain medication they gave me after the fact. I had to return to work and I wasn't going to be talking to customers on the phone while wallowing in pain.
So, why is birth different?
BECAUSE IT'S NOT AN ILLNESS.
I don't think God (or Nature or the High-Elf Priestess, or whatever you believe) intended for us to have our teeth pulled. He/She/It however did intend for women to give birth. Our bodies were designed perfectly to create, form, grow, and deliver an infant. The pain of childbirth is not without purpose - it was put there for a reason. Pain tells you how to move and where to apply pressure. Women with posterior babies feel relief when they rotate their hips, which helps turn the baby. Pain tells a woman when to push, and when she feels those sensations, she can help prevent herself from tearing.
It's also fair to say that, of course, there are dangers involved with getting pain relief when in labor. Doctors will often say, "There aren't many risks to an epidural" - and they're right, there aren't a lot of direct risks related to an epidural. However, they forget to tell you that epidurals increase the likelihood that you'll have Pitocin - which carries its own risks. You'll have an increased chance of a forcep or vacuum assisted delivery - which carry their own risks. You're at a greater chance of fetal distress and, of course, Cesarean delivery - which has a multitude of risks.
Considering I am pregnant and not sick, diseased, or dying - I feel that the pain of childbirth is very much so worth every second that I have the ability to move throughout labor, every second that I avoid induction, every second that I get further away from a scalpel, and every second that my newborn baby looks into my eyes - alert and awake.
Childbirth can not be compared to an illness, because it isn't one. It is not something that needs to be "fixed." It is something that needs to be felt. Especially by those who want it.
Ricki Lake says it best in her movie The Business of Being Born.
“I love pain medication, I love numbing myself. I don't want to feel even a headache. I'm that person, too. But when it came to giving birth, it wasn't an illness, it wasn't something that needed to be numbed. It was something to be experienced.”