105. Yes, I’m Still a Superstar
"I see feminism as the space created so that women can make choices, but instead of feeling empowered, many of us find ourselves ensnared in fear and judgment. If we pursue professional careers, we're often unfairly judged as inadequate mothers. On the other hand, if we choose to be stay-at-home parents, society sometimes perceives us as burdensome. While "Breast is best" is a well-known slogan, the reality is that what's truly best is whatever ensures the physical health and emotional well-being of both the mother and the baby. This same principle applies to childbirth."
I had an epidural for each of my seven deliveries, which even included a set of twins. I was quite young when I had my first child, I had just turned 21, and I did what the doctor advised, as any young mother would. He was an excellent physician, and I trusted his judgment. So, when he recommended Pitocin and an epidural, I didn’t hesitate. I was in a foreign country with socialized healthcare, and having a private doctor for delivery wasn’t common. Given my high-risk pregnancy, we chose to have one of the world’s best professionals in the room with us. Looking back, I have no regrets—especially when I held my healthy, beautiful baby girl, who is now expecting her own child. No stitches either! I considered it a win on all fronts… until I realized how many unnecessary competitions I had unwittingly entered.
Over the next few months, I found myself questioning my experiences. Could I truly call myself a survivor if I hadn’t endured a 40-hour labor while bouncing on a ball and enduring contractions without pain medication? Did I really understand what it meant to deliver a baby without “muscling” through it? Did my pain and delivery count enough to earn me a spot in the “club?”
These intrusive thoughts led me to decide that I would deliver my second baby naturally. After laboring all day, when I finally arrived at the hospital, I was utterly spent. The excruciating pain was more than I could bear, so I pleaded for an epidural before it was too late. I even made my husband promise never to let me consider going through childbirth without pain relief again. I had developed a fear of being in intolerable pain and being told that it was too late for the drugs! It was then and there that I decided epidurals were the right choice for me. There, I said it.
Contrary to common belief, having multiple babies doesn’t mean you’re destined to deliver in a bathtub or an Uber, at least not in my case. In fact, my first birth was my shortest. I’m not a home birth enthusiast, nor do I care about music, lighting, or a birthing tub. I don’t yearn to roam around during labor, and I don’t bring a host of equipment. I actually enjoy checking into the hospital, making my way to the delivery room, and relaxing in my hospital bed. It feels like a date night/day with my husband (though I could certainly do without the catheter.) It’s a calm experience, there’s plenty of time, all the kids are sorted elsewhere, and what could be a better backdrop than the reassuring sound of a baby’s heartbeat in utero? And, just between us, I always eat; I mean, I’m still a hungry pregnant woman at that point, right? For me, this slower process feels less traumatic.
So, here’s my go to: When I arrive at the hospital in labor, I request my epidural right away. Since I’ve chosen to have one, I prefer it sooner rather than later, knowing it takes time to prepare. What I hadn’t fully anticipated was the epidural headache.
That was an experience I could have done without. It was miserable, and, to be honest, I thought it was the end. I even started discussing post-demise arrangements with my husband at one point. I’m not kidding! It was probably the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt (although when you’re in a lot of pain, it often feels that way which is why I never say I’m at a 10 on the pain scale; I believe it can always get worse). After undergoing a procedure to address the issue that caused the headache, and yes, it was unpleasant, and yes, I had some back pain for a few days, I still chose to have an epidural for my subsequent pregnancies.
So, that should clarify where I stand on the subject. However, in case I wasn’t clear, please remember that this is my humble, non-professional opinion. Take it or leave it. We all need to do what’s best for ourselves and our families. If someone else feels uncomfortable with our decision or judges us, that’s on them. Why should anyone care about how I choose to approach something that has no impact on them? If you’re confident in your own choices, there’s no need to bring others down. I won’t delve into doctor’s incentives, hospital policies, or insurance preferences. It doesn’t matter how your mother-in-law or sister delivered. You, your partner, and your medical professional get to make the decisions that work for you.
I see feminism as the space created so that women can make choices, but instead of feeling empowered, many of us find ourselves ensnared in fear and judgment. If we pursue professional careers, we’re often unfairly judged as inadequate mothers. On the other hand, if we choose to be stay-at-home parents, society sometimes perceives us as burdensome. While “Breast is best” is a well-known slogan, the reality is that what’s truly best is whatever ensures the physical health and emotional well-being of both the mother and the baby. This same principle applies to childbirth. It’s disheartening to witness women who feel ashamed because they underwent C-sections, as if their experience was somehow less genuine. Every birth is a miraculous event, regardless of the method employed. The entire process is already fraught with fear and self-doubt, so there’s no need to heap more stress onto it.
So, let’s give each other the opportunity to thrive, just as we want our children to. You do you and I’ll do me, let’s leave judgment out of it. I’m immensely grateful for my healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and children. I’m starting a new club where we’re all superstars: whether you had medicated or natural births, c-sections or vaginal deliveries, breastfed or bottle-fed, whether you’re a stay-at-home or working mom. You’re all welcome to join. When someone asks you how you manage it all, you can honestly say, “I have the support of my network, in a judgment-free zone where we’re all superstars.” Because we are all superstars.
This post is written in memory of my superstar OB, Dr. Jay Goldberg. Like many of his patients, I considered him a cherished friend. His days were too few, his accomplishments many, and his loss devastating to those who knew him. He helped bring my lights into this world all the while emanating his own bright light and he is missed by many, every single day.
Sarah Goldberg is a licensed life coach in private practice. She is on sabbatical while she immerses herself in the joys of raising a toddler and a family of 10. She lives in Los Angeles, where she can be found at a different public playground every day! She welcomes any questions or opinions on pregnancy, labor, or child raising and can be reached through email@example.com.