Have you decided if you will try and have a natural, drug free birth or have you ordered your epidural?
I had all 5 of mine totally naturally. I was more scared of the needle and the risks and side effects of an epidural than dealing with pain during labor. I did say that if I was in for hours on end, I might consider it, but the longest I was ever at the hospital was 3 hours (but I started contracting every 8 minutes at 32 week) and in all reality only 15-20 minutes of it was totally unbearable. I found the shower with the hand held jet to be beneficial.
I didn't want to deal with the epidural either. I found that once I had a childbirth class and actually saw how it all plays out that I could do it naturally. I did twice. I had a doula for support. Worth every penny. (and a doula is probably cheaper than an epidural - ha!)
You're probably right about the cost. I always think how much I have saved the insurance companies when it has come to my deliveries. No epidural and I only stay 24 hours. I didn't go the doula route, but I did have a supportive husband who held the shower jet on my back for hours (even though all my deliveries happened it the middle of the night.)
I aimed for a natural childbirth and the pain took over. The nurse said to me, "you don't get a good mother award for having no epidural". I struggled with the decision. Afterward, I felt like I could have made it through the birthing process without one.
In the end what really matters is that baby and mama are healthy. :) Doctors and nurses seem quick to recommend an epidural, likely because it creates a more predictable situation for them since some women who attempt natural child birth are totally unprepared. Since the med staff has no way to know who is really prepared, they probably suggest the option that has proven to give them calm and healthy mamas.
I had five children without anything and then my last required a C-section. We joke this is why he was our last. The recovery process was so much better for me without...not the healing, just that initial, "Welcome to the world." This is a personal decision and every body is different. With my first I was terrified...I probably would have taken an epidural because my fear was so great, but my baby come VERY quickly and it was unintentional. I learned the pain is forgotten when you see your baby.
I had all my kids natural and the fourth one the tide started changing. When I had my first 3 it was all about natural birth. When I was in labor for my 4th (keep in mind I had all my kids without one scream, not even an ouch, all were 3 pushes and out even the first) they kept trying to push drugs on me. I mean it was incredible. It was not that I was screaming like an animal, they just kept pushing and pushing them. The fifth one was a frantic one and was almost an emergncy C but the doc had my push at 8 cm to see if I could get him out before what he called the dash and slash. I did but he had a scary few hours.