A mother in labor and getting ready to have her baby.

Ode To An “Unwanted” Epidural

I wish I had a permanent scar
where an epidural was planted
deep into my body.

Two small scarlet spots
remained along my spine
in your first few days,
when my body and my brain were
shocked and haunted by your birth.

Two, because the first time
didn’t take just right.

Two teensy dots,
more foreign to my plans for birth
than a tattoo implanted in a Jewish grave.

They weren’t “natural” enough,
or so said Ina May,
who had mongered fear to me,
when she gathered up every intervention
and tossed them all away.

She made me think
that losing the pain
meant losing all the magic,
that it would make you and me and our birth
less perfect.

As if.

As if there’s anything unnatural about
wanting agony to end
or wanting rest after
a day of exertion,
a week of losing sleep
over losing the home birth I’d dreamed of,
after nine months of feeling like death

in my effort to produce new life.

It was an epidural I never wanted
until it was the only thing I needed,
to bring you through me, to me.

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Natural, earthly pain in my sacrum
stabbed like a sword on fire.

The epidural’s needle went in smooth
and the tube it left inside sent delicious meds
streaming in, flowing through me
like a cleansing river

and I was enraptured

sworn in to a society of women
who offer to name their firstborn child
after their new favorite anesthesiologist.

It was fine, really, it was, I explained,
to the midwife, the doula, my mother
— whoever was there to listen
as they tucked me in for a rest.

I got to try birth
both ways,
all in my first shot,
I thought.

And yet, this poem’s hard for me to write.

And yet, I can’t contort or force the word “epidural”
to sound like poetry, to me.

And yet,
those tiny red spots
quietly fade away and each day
I’m less haunted by any noise that sounds
like the monitor blasting your elevated heart rate
through that magical room
where me and you, finally,
became two.