Today I am thinking of childbirth, such an odd thing to wake up to. A few bloggers have recently had babies and a common theme there is that nothing could have prepared them, we just don’t speak plainly about this stuff, often enough. Also, give me drugs, massive amounts of drugs, which gave me a chuckle.
I’ve written before about my first child, Baby Huey we’ll call her. She was a downright spiritual experience, not altogether unpleasant at all, much in the way a near death experience could be called beautiful. I went on to have three more.
We’ve come a long way in assisting women medically, from trying to knock them out completely and intervening way too much, to developing some gentler forms of pain relief and trying to honor the natural process so as to first do no harm.
Childbirth is an interesting thing because it is such a paradox. Women like to say, “it was the most beautiful experience of my life” and yet we all know it is more akin to being drawn and quartered over and over again. Beautiful because you have this wonderful little baby and you are still alive. Often the joy of having this tiny fruit of your labors and having survived the whole thing, trumps the reality of what you have just been through.
So, pain, it is like no other! You just gently breathe your way through each of those lovely contractions as they peak and ebb and flow…..uh hm, r-i-g-h-t. Just put on some gentle whale sounds, find your focal point, and allow the “labor” the come up from your toes and gently wash over you, flowing into the interconnectedness of the universe…you are now in your happy place…there could be some mild discomfort…
It’s a bit more like being drawn and quartered, except you do not get to die. You cannot even pass out. For somewhere around 18-36 hours, over and over again. Also, it gets worse. Most pain will ease somewhat, childbirth builds. Usually you can tell yourself, “if I just get through this is it will get better, it will ease off and pass.” In childbirth it is more like “if I can just get through this, it will definitely get even worse….” There is no escape.
People tend to think that the final act, the pushing is the worst, a bit like trying to expel a watermelon. I don’t think so, not so much, at that point you are already half dead and approaching the finish line. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still excruciating, it’s just that the intensity of the pain that has already gotten you to this point, makes you rather cheerful about the idea of now only having to try to pass a watermelon.
Excruciating. A pain like no other. There just aren’t words to describe it. We don’t like to say these things. We want children to believe they came into the world gently, we don’t want to frighten other moms, and if we plan to ever do it again, we must tuck those memories away, because to voluntarily seek out that kind of pain again is not exactly rational. Denial, it works and serves a vital purpose in the world.
It is not the same for all women. I have attended a couple of births that were astounding, weathered with much calm and grace and hardly a complaint beyond “oh that’s somewhat uncomfortable.” Understatement of the year. My own daughter barely made it to the hospital and very nearly delivered in the waiting room, her childbirth experiences being much gentler than mine, although nothing to sneeze at.
These softer experiences are somewhat rare, so if you have bounced something off a doctor’s head or gleefully torn off a husband’s fingernail, you are in good company. Screaming is not uncommon and a rather good sign. It means the baby is probably getting enough oxygen because there is still enough left over for you to formulate a proper scream.
Something that is rather interesting about childbirth, submission makes it easier. The more you can submit to the experience, the gentler it will be. That is why those of us assisting say silly things like, “just sink into the bed and embrace the pain, welcome it, surrender to it and relax.” Relax??! “Walk towards that pain, welcome it, do not resist, not even your little pinky finger.” Breathe. Pant. This is sound advice, your ability to submit and surrender, to relax all your muscles, eases the process. The worst thing you can do is to resist, to struggle against it. However, that is far easier said than done. It requires some major mind over matter at a time when you are exhausted and your mind no longer matters.
I managed moments of this myself in all four births, so I know it is true, it is possible, it will make it better. Unfortunately I could only pull it off for about 10 minutes at a time, before the resistance, the urge to struggle against the pain set back in. Did I mention it is excruciating, panic inducing even? Bit tongue in cheek here, but do not panic, you are only dying, all will be well!
During my last childbirth, they now have these little hot tubs designed to relax you or perhaps to scald you half to death and cook the baby. I jest, but if all is going well, they put you in the hottest water you can stand and the scald is quite delicious because it takes your mind off the pain of contractions. You cannot really give birth in boiling water however, so at some point you will have to get out.
Today we have some drugs, epidurals, some medications that can ease the process. For many women, they provide a bit of relief from the worst of it, for some a great deal of relief. Wouldn’t you know it is just my luck that these things do nothing for me? The doctor is not quite sure what it is, but pain meds of the opiate kind seem to serve no purpose in my body. Tylenol tends to brings me more relief. This is somewhat unusual however, so don’t worry about it if you seek an epidural.
Those bloggers who have written about childbirth and complained about how nobody really seems to speak plainly about the truth of the pain, make a good point. I tend to agree.
From a Christian perspective, childbirth it puts an interesting spin on submission. Submission, rather than being an unfortunate and unpleasant thing, is actually designed for our own comfort, to alleviate our own suffering. We see this play out in childbirth and we see it play out in many other areas of our lives. To struggle and resist against things we cannot control is somewhat foolish and sure to make life even more painful for us. Surrender is no picnic either, but it is designed to bring us some ease, some peace, some comfort. There is time to resist, to struggle, “to rage, rage against the dying of the light…” Childbirth is not one of those times.
There’s a bit of Divine justice written in there, that I mention with all good humor, but those of us who are a bit feisty, those of us who rail against the idea of submission, do not necessarily displease God, we simply fail to avail ourselves of His good advice, advice given with great love and intended to ease our own suffering.