Can we justify the use of epidurals? I am asking because I feel that for many mothers epidurals are an escapism from the challenges of natural childbirth. Also I have heard that epidurals can be harmful to either the mother or the baby, or both.
With anything like epidurals there are advantages and there are disadvantages. From a Toltec perspective I cannot say that epidurals are wrong, but there nevertheless are disadvantages to using them.
The disadvantage in administering epidurals lies, not so much in the fact that it may harm the child or the mother, but instead it lies in the fact that there is something very, very precious about natural childbirth.
In natural childbirth there is a bonding between mother and child, and even more so when the father is present. In this respect it is most important for would-be parents to understand the importance of the father being present at the birthing.
If the father is present, and watching the birthing, his feelings for both his wife and his child are greatly enhanced. But this presupposes that the mother is not half unconscious from drugs, for it is hard to share an experience with a semi-conscious wife.
In the case where the father is present at the birthing, and the mother is fully conscious, there are feelings, emotions and thoughts at work that are very different to when the mother is drugged. Needless to say, these emotions, feelings and thoughts are the very first things the child comes into contact with upon the moment of its birth, and they make a lasting impression on not only the child, but also on the parents.
There is another reason too for the father having to be present at the birth of his child, and for some time afterwards. If it is a natural birth, rather than a caesarean birth, the moment the child is born and before the umbilical cord is cut, the baby should first be placed on the mother's stomach for a little while until it calms down, and only then should the umbilical cord be cut . This gives the child the opportunity, whilst the umbilical cord is still connected, to recover from the trauma of the birth before it is physically cut off from its mother's feelings.
After the cord has been cut, and whilst the medical staff have washed the child, the child should be handed to the father whilst they tend to the mother. The child is now on the physical plane, and the first contact it should have other than with its mother, should be with its father. A baby remembers its father from pre-natal communication, and therefore that first moment of physical contact with its father is equally important.