Seeing the best in life's challenges

Labor Pains

on March 17, 2012

The experience of giving birth is an amazing thing.

We all know that going through labor is the natural process that leads to the wonderful miracle that is the birth of a child.  When we think about it, it’s one of those things that is hard to wrap your head around.  Miracles are that way.  After we witness the miracle, we focus on how wonderful it is, and we naturally forget about the painful parts that got us there.  It’s just how human nature works.  And, no surprise, right now I’m thinking about this as a metaphor.

Let’s talk about the process.  I’ve had three children.  I can share my experiences of going through the process and the perspective I gained from this.  But I also understand that each experience is unique (which is an important attribute of the metaphor).

I am always annoyed by how the movies portray women going into labor.  They make it look as if there are no warning signs, that all of a sudden there is great pain and panic that surprises everyone involved.  The reality is that there are lots of signs that indicate this experience is coming.  Not the least of which is, you know you are pregnant!  Duh!!  With all the preparation we go through, with all the conversations we have with friends and family, all the expectations, all the classes we do or do not attend, I’m here to tell you no one is surprised that they go into labor.  Panicked, sure, but not surprised.

I’ve always thought, too, that part of the plan is that you get so big and can’t sleep and get so miserable, that despite the fact that you are afraid of the process, when you get to the point where the time is near, you are so done with the whole thing, you are just so ready, you just want to jump off that cliff and get the whole thing over with.

And the reality is, the process is gradual.  My sister-in-law just felt weird and off the night before she went into labor.  I know the first pains I was aware of, each time, were not so bad, and not so often.  I knew it was starting, but the whole process builds so that you can get a little used to what’s coming.

I wasn’t into taking the classes to try and have a natural childbirth.  I was all for the epidural and not having to deal with the worst of the pain.  It wasn’t until my third child, who came faster, during shift change at the hospital, when the anesthesiologist got called to do a c-section, the nurse disappeared, and I was left with the prospect of having nothing between me and hard labor.

In your head, you know what’s going on and that you will get through it and survive.  You know it won’t take forever.  But it’s scary as hell and hurts like hell.  In the middle of the pain of those contractions, you are thrown into the depths of the unknown, and in that moment you have no idea how you are going to get through it.  No one can make it better. If you’re lucky, you have someone to reassure you, to hold your hand. But they know, and you know, that this is all on you.  No one is going to go through this for you. We’ve all heard about the women that curse out their husbands, or the women that scream.  (My roommate in Maternity didn’t believe me that I was the one the entire ward heard screaming bloody murder.)   There is nothing that you can do to change what is happening.  No going back.  You logically know you will get through it, but you cannot believe that you will at the same time.  Really, it is quite an experience.

It gets worse and worse, harder and harder.  But then that baby is born.  Almost instantly, you forget everything.  All you see is the miracle.  Nothing else matters, it’s gone.  Sure, if you think about it, you do remember, but the weight of the memory fades very quickly, and it’s mostly intellectual, not emotional.  It no longer has a hold on you.  If this were not the case, nobody would have more than one child, I think.

So, about the metaphor…if we call it “spiritual rebirth”, what do we mean by that?  If it involves “labor pains” then I guess we can’t get through the process without the pain.  We aren’t experiencing the pain because we are doing something wrong – it’s just the way the process works.  We can try to numb it, but the real, natural way involves moments of intense pain, discomfort, fear/terror, hopelessness…and we can’t really know it until we experience it. No one can adequately describe it for you or prepare you for it.  When the time comes, you know you will get through it, you have to get through it.  At that point, it is too late to go back – you have no choice.  At least there are the periods of rest and recovery, in preparation for the next contraction.  You find yourself taking it one step at a time. The pains get more intense, and more frequent.  But, the natural consequence of the process, at the end, is a miracle.  And we know that when we experience the miracle, all the fear and pain will be forgotten, and seen as worth it, every little bit.

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