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How I survived labor without an epidural—and found my new purpose

I felt invincible after giving birth; I had been through the fire, and could not be burned.

How I survived labor without an epidural—and found my new purpose

For #MotherlyStories |

I knew from the get-go that I wouldn’t be getting an epidural, so I can’t tell the story with any heroics.


It had nothing to do with my resolve or resilience: thanks to spinal surgery years earlier, the epidural space in my back was crowded with scar tissue.

Induced labors were more painful, I knew, so my OB/GYN and I were having a little standoff. Five days past my due date, I wasn’t sure the baby had been kicking quite as much as usual.

“Ask to see the anesthesiologist when you get to the hospital,” she said. “Maybe you can get one after all.”

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But the anesthesiologist looked at the gray and black image of my Franken-spine, held together with screws and bolts, at the space he’d usually fill with narcotics, and shook his head.

“It might damage something and give you a headache, but nothing’s going in there that’s going to relieve any sensation” was the gist of his message.

Minutes after synthetic prostaglandins was placed on my cervix, contractions started coming, hard. They went from the level of “isn’t this cute, I’m in labor!” to “somebody DO SOMETHING right this minute” within the space of a half hour.

A nurse pushed something into my IV that made me see visions of endless rows of doghouses, where endless rows of fuzzy little dogs went in and out, in and out. Isn’t there anything else you can do to make it stop? I bellowed.

The philosopher Elaine Scarry, in her book “The Body in Pain,” explores the isolating nature of pain. Because the experience of pain is bordered so definitively by a person’s own skin, it is something you do alone. Empathy, touch, nearness—these things can mitigate the sensation of pain, but ultimately, we each go it alone.

Never before—and never since, except when, two and a half years later, I gave birth to my second child—have I had such a keen sense of the profound loneliness of my existence; of my absolute sovereignty over the inner kingdom of my self.

Between writhing and shouting and crying, I realized that no one else could do this for me.

Later, I realized something else: that even if someone could, I didn’t want them to do so.

I wanted to do it myself.

When, after twelve hours of agonizing labor, I pushed my son into the world, I was triumphant, euphoric, a bloody, sweaty, grinning fool, nearly as pleased with myself as with the beautiful baby who was already kicking and waving his arms, whose nose and lips and coloration already looked familiar.

I felt invincible after giving birth; I had been through the fire, and could not be burned.

I could be a mother.

I could do anything, damnit, and do it myself. (With a few strategically placed shoulders to cry on and timely back-rubs and sips of water.) I don’t tell this story lightly. In mommy circles, I’ve often kept it quiet. It sounds self-congratulatory, but the truth is, I didn’t have a choice. And I didn’t feel strong when I was doing it. I felt like an animal.

I can’t say with integrity whether I’d have chosen an unmedicated birth again if an epidural had been available to me. I know that there are risks to the epidural that are too frequently minimized. I know that labors go long and inhumanly painful, and that pain can turn to suffering, and an epidural can then be an instrument of mercy.

But I also know that once my labor was over, my pain was over, and that joy and strength and a raging passion for my newborn son flooded right into the space the pain had vacated. I wasn’t numb, unable to move.

I felt exquisitely alive.

I stood up from the birthing bed, took a shower, and walked slowly down the hall to the nursery, a bruised and bleeding but triumphant woman.

A mother.


Rachel Marie Stone is a writer, editor, teacher and speaker.

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Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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