A male midwife in the U.K. thinks women in labor who ask for epidurals are avoiding a rite of passage and that skipping the pain isn’t preparing these women for the responsibility of bringing up a baby.
Epidurals as a gateway to child neglect?
Dr. Denis Walsh, a senior midwife and associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, writes in an article for the journal Evidence Based Midwifery, published by the Royal College of Midwives, that labor pain is purposeful and prepares “a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby.”
Of course this guy’s full of shit and here’s what bugs me: his miscalculation in equating the amount of pain endured with the quality of parenting discredits his other points — many of which are actually true. He thinks women should be better prepared for the pain of labor and that hospitals should be better equipped to help laboring women. He also thinks how childbirth is depicted in pop culture is scaring women away from non-medicated births and that normal, non-interventive birth, is in danger of no longer being possible.
But he’s blaming women for being too wimpy to abstain from pain relief, rather than a system that steers women toward epidurals and doesn’t fully and predictably support women who want to attempt birth without.
I know plenty of women who wanted to do a trial of labor without getting the epidural. They took childbirth classes, came up with techniques, got their partners on board, all of it. But for one reason or another — usually an induction with Pitocin but also being forbidden from moving around, the inability to really change positions, unsupportive nurses, too many internal exams — they wound up with the epidural. These women weren’t wimping out. And they knew a bullshit birth scene in the movies when they saw one.
But they got the epidural because, based on Pitocin or hospital protocol or being surrounded by scared or unsupportive people, they were experiencing pain the human body wasn’t equipped to help them endure.
Dr. Walsh’s mentality — that how a woman labored and gave birth says something about how much or how well she loves her kids– only makes everybody really defensive and, anyway, is just an opinion. Where’s the study that shows epidurals are a gateway to neglect?
And what does equating pain-free labors with responsibility for a child say about moms who adopted, fathers and step-parents? They should probably go shut their pinky fingers in a car door just to be in the game of good parenting.