As many of you know, I planned for my pregnancy and birth for over a year before I conceived! I had known for a very long time that I wanted an unmedicated birth, cared for by midwives, in a birthing center or at home. The reasons were many, but NOT ONE of those reasons was to "prove how strong I am". I actually wanted to experience the sensations of labor, not because I wanted to be a martyr, but because I wanted to feel my body work at its utmost potential...the pinnacle of living by bearing LIFE! How cool is that? Was I nervous--yes! But I didn't feel fear at all.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in how things turned out, however. During labor, my LO's heart rate repeatedly fell into 60 bpm range. My midwife and doula worked with me for hours, encouraging me, moving me into different positions, all the while protecting my baby's health, and the sanctity of the birthing experience. When it became clear that things were not safe for the baby (meconium, prolonged decels, and a cervix stuck at 3 cm for hours and becoming morbidly swollen), my MW gently suggested an epidural to allow me to lie down and prop my pelvis up to reduce the cervical swelling. It was such a difficult decision, but I decided to accept the epidural to save me from having a possible c-section. And sure enough, within 15 minutes of lying down (after the epi), the cervical swelling disappeared and I opened to 5 cm! Unfortunately, things went downhill further, and an emergency c-section was necessitated because of a prolapsed cord, which was likely causing all of the problems in the first place. I never felt frightened at the time (I grieved later, but I'm doing better now), and I don't regret making the choice to accept an epidural. For my next birth: I am preparing for an unmedicated VBAC, hopefully at home, but I will accept whatever path I need to take to bring my baby safely into the world.
I had negative "opinions" about mothers receiving epidurals before I gave birth, but I don't anymore. I respect every woman's decision, and especially if an epidural can help to avoid a c-section, I say go for it!