No Pain, No Gain - The Epidural Dilemma

I have always believed that some suffering is necessary to achieve something, so one of my birth plan statements was definitely: "No Epidural" (bold, underlined, whatever!). The biggest pressure for mothers-to-be is to make sure they do everything possible for a normal and pain free delivery (yes, you might even be fed food with gallons of ghee in the hope that the baby will slip out with ease). Everyone will tell you that shortcuts like pain medication are never the easy way out and the side-effects! They will rattle off a list of the many they can cause. 
The first time I paid attention to pain medication; specifically the epidural was at my antenatal class quite early in my pregnancy. The pamphlet was crushed and I was certain I wasn't going to take that route. The husband was in awe, could not stop praising my choice and nevertheless chose to support my decision (come what may). That was a big mistake because knowing and yet choosing to ignore, this so-called attitude of not wanting to care, was indeed a cardinal sin I could have avoided.
The epidural is rife with controversy. Research and statistics may give you a bigger picture but will leave you even more confused about whether you want it or not. Pamphlets and online sources will tell you that it's the safest form of pain medication and then some extremely valid researcher will slash that claim to state that it's not what it really seems. Some of the immediate cons include: a severe headache, fever and a rash (or itchiness), increased blood pressure which can slow the baby's heart rate, breathing difficulties (in some cases) and delayed bonding with the baby. 
In my case, it was a combination of everything I heard and the fact that well-meaning people discouraged the idea of pain medication. After hearing some of those side-effects and the fact (read myth) that epidurals result in permanent back problems later on, I was quite certain I did not want to endure all that. Labour, however was a different story and at the first mention of "epidural", I was eagerly shaking my head (maybe even yelling, who knows) for the nurse to stop the pain. It took me a second to flush out all the well-meaning advice and warnings I had received.  I am glad I chose to have it and with my experience (and this article), I do not wish to play devil’s advocate but simply ask that you take more time to be aware of everything. Right from your birth plan, to whom you’d prefer to have with you in the labour room, to the topic of this discussion: pain medication and whether you will choose to have it or not. The aim of the birthing experience should not require that you endure pain and pressure with the motto “no pain, no gain”. The ultimate decision should be yours and yours alone after deliberation, discussion and research. Talk to your doctor, to friends who can list out the pros and cons that they have faced and when people do advise you, be sure that they have experienced the ill-effects themselves and are not advising you based on myth (or what they’ve heard from someone else).
Moms, it would be helpful to hear about your thoughts and experiences with delivery pain medication. Thanks for taking the time to read.
Source: The Mayo Clinic