By the time I was admitted to the maternity ward and lashed to a bed with an IV line, my labor had progressed. With each contraction I felt as though the pain would suffocate me. When the nurse suggested she should call the anesthesiologist, I reluctantly agreed.
I hadn’t wanted to have an epidural. I wanted to have a natural childbirth and, what’s more, to have a spiritual experience. But the fierce woman who had dared her body to go into labor by weeding in 90-degree weather had disappeared. By the time the anesthesiologist arrived, I was whimpering for relief.
The epidural numbed only the right side of my body, leaving me with half the pain still at full strength. In the last moments of my labor I was groaning groans of biblical proportions. Then a baby girl was born, and the excruciating pain ended.
Katherine Willis Pershey is associate minister at First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. She is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change (Chalice), which is also the name of her blog.