Shop the fall collection ➔

I intended to go all-natural, but I ended up getting an epidural. That doesn’t make me weak. 

There’s this stigma when it comes to women who end up getting an epidural. Don’t get me wrong, if you were able to have a baby naturally, that’s amazing. I mean that. You were able to show true strength.

You know what else is amazing? Growing a human being inside you and giving birth are amazing things. Those things also show true strength. 

I had planned and decided I was going to do my best to have my baby naturally. I wanted to show strength and to be able to say I was strong. 

I was induced on the evening of June 9 of this year. I went into the hospital with my husband, anxious yet super pumped at the same time. I was 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I was so READY to get that baby out. The baby’s head could not have been any lower, and he had been like that for a few weeks.

I was induced around 5 p.m., and my water broke somewhere between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Up until that point, I was able to joke and laugh. Then 10 p.m. came. I started to cramp. My body started to shake. My husband thought I was freezing, but I wasn’t. I tried to stop shaking but couldn’t.

He tried to tell me to get an epidural, but I said no.

A couple of hours went by, and I was still shaking. I was still having horrible cramps. At this point, I was sobbing, and he told me again to get it. I said no, I can’t. I know it sounds dramatic, but I felt like I was literally about to faint.

RELATED: You’re Allowed To Be Disappointed in Your Birth Story

He then looked at me and said, “Baby, it’s OK, you are strong. You getting an epidural doesn’t make you weak. You’re doing something amazing and hard. You’ve carried him this far, and you are not weak. You are strong.”

The nurse came back in and asked one more time if I wanted it. I shook my head yes, feeling disappointed in myself. I felt like I needed to apologize to my baby for not being strong enough. I felt like I had failed myself. They administered the epidural, and it took my husband and a couple of nurses to hold me because I could not stop shaking. Then the strangest thing happened.

I waited for the relief to come. It did. But just for half of my body.

What?! I had never heard of this. This was not in my birth plan! Was this even a thing? Well, it was happening to me. It was only working on the right side of my body. Sobbing even more, I didn’t understand what was going on. It was the weirdest feeling. There I was not feeling the right side at all and able to move the other. The pain then started to concentrate all on the left.

Would the doctor even believe me? Well, he did. We were so blessed to have the sweetest anesthesiologist. He quickly explained that it rarely happens and was sorry it was happening to me. He made a second attempt to administer the epidural a little higher up. Crying even harder, one of the nurses came around and stood in front of me. She embraced me as I sobbed into her arms.

At that moment, it wasn’t just about the pain anymore.

Due to COVID, I was only allowed one person in the hospital, and of course, that was going to be my husband. He did so great throughout the whole time for me and was really there for me. I had never imagined not having my mom there with me. There was literally a rule that I couldn’t have a second person or any visitors. As strange as it may sound, it’s like that nurse allowed me to act as if she were my mama. She allowed me to cry out my pain and frustration over all that was happening. She’ll never know how much that moment meant to me. Thank God for nurses.

RELATED: There’s Nothing Quite Like a Nurse

I believe the second epidural attempt happened around 1 a.m., and it seemed to work for both sides. And, oh my, IT WAS GREAT. I was able to talk clearly again, I was able to take a nap. I had forgotten about feeling like I had failed to have a natural birth experience. I felt like I had made the best decision for baby and me.

The night went on and then something else happened. Morning came and at 6 a.m., the epidural wore off on the left side again. At this point, I was not even upset with the anesthesiologist. All of my frustration was on me and my body. 

I was so frustrated with my body and myself. Why couldn’t I just take the pain? Other women have been able to do it. This was my thought process.

Getting an epidural isn’t backing down. Let’s stop the comparing. I didn’t back out. I had a baby. I would like to say I wasn’t comparing myself to others during one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. That wouldn’t be the truth. 

The epidural wore off, and it was time to push.

So during my birthing experience, I didn’t get to have the build up of contractions. I would hear that the “ring of fire” was the most painful part. I mean it was pretty painful, but that wasn’t it for me. My pain went from 0 to 10 in a matter of seconds only on my left side when I was 10 cm dilated. When it came to the pushing process, I was so confused. I could only feel pain on the left. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I STILL don’t know how to push. I wouldn’t be able to explain it to you. 

RELATED: A Traumatic Birth Almost Killed Us, But it Couldn’t Weaken My Love For My Baby

I’m able to laugh about it now, but I was so frustrated. There were so many feelings from frustration to feeling empowered in so many ways. There was frustration, but then came the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life.

Here was the person I had carried and had been preparing for. He is my love at first sight and my favorite “nice to meet you.” I did what I had to do to get him here, and I would do it again for him. 

Even though the epidural didn’t work fully on me, I’m glad I got it. It allowed me to take a nap. Some may think that sounds lazy, but I knew I hadn’t slept well in months. My body needed that rest. Not that he needs to. but my husband could testify to thatI was exhausted.

Everyone’s body is different. Every baby is different. Every labor is different. This was my experience. I didn’t take the easy way out. I had a baby.

All I’m trying to say is mamas who chose to get an epidural right off the bat or ended up getting one, we are strong. You are just as strong. We, women, are strong whether we had a vaginal or c-section delivery. Epidural or not. We are strong. Let’s get rid of that kind of mom guilt. We carried a human being. You are strong. 

Don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise.

Originally published on the author’s Instagram page

Estephanie Phelps

I am mama to a sweet and wild boy. Being a mom is hard enough without all the expectations. We all have our own stories. Being a mom is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Maybe if I share my good, bad, and the ugly I can help at least one person. That would be good enough for me.

No One Will Ever Call Me Mom

In: Baby, Motherhood
Negative result digital pregnancy test

This is going to be a tough one. Another seemingly innocuous situation that should be easy, but for me is anything but. It comes in different forms—a conversation, a moment in a TV show, a scene in a book—but it always has the same effect. Some reference to motherhood makes me flinch.  Today, it’s in an English lesson I’m teaching online to a 7-year-old boy in China. I’m supposed to be teaching him to say, “This is my mom.” Slide after slide in the lesson shows a happy mom cuddled next to her child. Mom and daughter hugging. A toddler...

Keep Reading

To the Nurses Who Loved My Baby In the NICU

In: Baby, Motherhood
Woman smiling at newborn in hospital chair

I wish I could remember your face. Your name. Something. But I only had eyes for the tiny baby in front of me. My whole world was about to change and I think you understood that more than I did. He was so tiny. Impossibly small. I had never held a baby so little. He made up for his teeny size with an impressive mop of jet black hair that stood straight up on top of his head. He also had hair all over his body and you reassured me this was normal for a preemie. There was so much...

Keep Reading

My Last Baby Changed Me

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother and baby touching foreheads

I was already a mom of two teenagers. I thought I’d move to a city and join corporate America in a few years. But my last baby changed me. There would be no law school or big city living. Now, I write about life in my little country home. And I don’t see that changing. I thought I’d be that old lady with 10 cats. I already had three I snuggled and loved on. I never cared about the litter box, the clawed couches, or the meowing. But now I find myself disliking pets. I hope that might change. But...

Keep Reading

Real Life Maternity Photos Are Beautiful Too

In: Baby, Motherhood
Pregnant women on floor next to toilet, black-and-white photo

As a maternity and newborn photographer, my feed is full of radiant moms and seemingly tidy spaces in the families’ homes we work in. We always want you looking and feeling your best in your photos, and to avoid clutter that can distract from the beautiful moments we’re capturing. An unfortunate side effect is that it creates the impression of perfection, which can be intimidating for anyone interested in booking a photography session. In our consultations, we frequently hear concerns from pregnant moms like, “I’ve gained so much weight,” “I have nothing to wear,” “My home is a mess,” or...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

You Used To Fit In My Lap

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler
Toddler lying on mom's lap in rocking chair, color photo

Hi Love, Remember when you could fit comfortably across my lap in this chair? I do. We’ve done a lot of sleeping and feeding and reading and rocking and laughing and crying (yes, both of us) here these last few years. We still manage to make it work for all of the above, but these days we most often sit side by side. When we don’t, I’m fairly certain we both wake up sore the next day from the necessary contortions. (OK, probably just me.) It’s true, there is a larger chair waiting for us in what will soon be...

Keep Reading

We Don’t Get To Know You, but We Will Always Love You

In: Baby, Loss, Motherhood
Couple holding baby announcement

Dear baby, There is still so much about your dad and me you don’t know, but that takes time. Parents aren’t the only ones watching loved ones evolve. Over time, kids meet new versions of their parents too—we change, we make mistakes, we grow. I often think about what an adult relationship with you would look like, how we might bond or argue, the inside jokes we might have, how we’d show each other love. I hope we’d be close. I don’t know if you’d be loud and goofy like your dad, an empath like me, or something else entirely....

Keep Reading

5 Ways Being a NICU Mom Changed Me for the Better

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding up smiling baby, color photo

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was panicking inside. A multiples pregnancy would be anything but a breeze. At our 20-week scan, my husband and I were told that our baby girl had a life-threatening birth defect that could lead to serious complications like heart failure and even death if left untreated. In addition to interventions during the pregnancy, she would require lung surgery immediately after birth. This diagnosis coupled with the fact that our babies were born at 34-weeks earned us a NICU stay of nearly three months.   I could write a whole book...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Your Baby Starts Out Feeling Like a Stranger

In: Baby, Motherhood
Newborn feet

Rolling over in bed, lights off and covers pulled high, I whispered to my husband, “It finally happened. I feel bonded with Bubba.” Our sweet 3-month-old slept peacefully in the cradle beside us as I shared the happy news. I laid back on the pillow and smiled up at the ceiling in a silent prayer of thanksgiving and joy. Motherhood feels like the most instinctual journey I have ever walked, but bonding doesn’t come naturally to me, and it never has. When I pulled our firstborn onto my chest for the first time a few years ago, I expected the...

Keep Reading

Becoming Someone’s Mother Can Feel Foreign

In: Baby, Motherhood
New mom holding baby

For my little girl—I’m so blessed I get to be a part of her world. My life changed in a minute. She came into this world so perfect and innocent. I heard her cry and then they handed her over. I held her in my arms and thought I would know her. I longed for that feeling, like I finally felt whole. But the longer I held her, the bigger the hole grew in my soul. It wasn’t long after, in a room full of people, I felt so alone. Motherhood can be evil. I just wanted to go home....

Keep Reading