Interestng thread. I started out reading thoroughly for the first couple of pages and skimmed through to the end. I have no interest in contributing to the debate about the risks (or not) of epidurals vs natural birth. I commend Dr. Grant for offering information and inspiring discussion on the topic, since I believe women are entitled to hear all views and to make an informed choice. (I also congratulate him for sticking with this discussion thread as it has heated up). I will offer my own anecdote about the guilt associated with the choice, though.
I have had 2 children, the first with epidural and the second without. They were both born in a leading teaching hospital in North America, recognized for its maternal and infant health programs. There was absolutely NO pressure from the health professionals to get an epidural. It was entirely my choice. I opted with the first, and was later very grateful that I had, since he was posterior facing. It was a tough birth for both of us and the epidural eased it somewhat (not completely though - it didn't "take" entirely). My second L&D was fairly quick and so I didn't have an epidural.
I have degrees in science and health care, was working in a hospital at the time of my deliveries and researched my optons before I gave birth. I understood the associated risks, and made a completely informed choice about the epidural. I am comfortable with my decision. Despite that confidence, I have encountered people who have worked hard to convince me that it was a bad choice and my birthing experience with the epidural was somehow "inferior". Some of these people are as "mainstream" as you can imagine, but on the topic of childbirth they are fervent advocates of natural delivery. With their fanatical devotion, they have been dismissive of any supportive discussion for pain relief during the birth process and derogatory toward any woman who opts to avail herself of it. Interestingly, a quite a few of them have been lawyers (both male and female).
I can understand how some women, confronting this kind of attitude, would feel a lot of guilt about their choice despite any personal beliefs that they made a good decision at the time. I have been gobsmacked to hear that I was less of a woman and a mother because I didn't fully experience the pains of childbirth and I unnecessarily risked harming my baby.
I'll also point out that this attitude isn't really something recent, as some posters have suggested. My son is 18 y.o. next month, and I heard lots of arguments against epidurals for years before he was born.