I bumped into an acquaintance of mine who is attending medical school. Although I hadn’t seen him in some six months or so, and I don’t know him all that well, he started talking to me about how great epidurals were because they made the ‘pain of childbirth‘ bearable. It was a bit awkward going from “Hi, How are you?” to talking about something that happens primarily from between your legs, but anyway…
I was so confused
a) because he had never and WOULD never have to push a baby out, himself, so how would know of this pain he was talking about?
b) because I never think about childbirth as being ‘painful‘.
When I think of pain, I think of stepping on legos in the middle of the night and getting lemon juice in a paper cut. I think of the time in 8th grade when I badly jammed my finger while I was playing basketball. I think of migrains and broken bones. When I think of pain, I remember the time I was racing sailboats for Salisbury University and a boat t-boned us and the nose of the other boat nailed me right in the spine. (Did you wince, because yeah, that HURT!).
When I think of labor and of birth, I might think of being uncomfortable, of wonder and of mystery. I think of excitement and endurance and sensations. I remember the longing for relief, as if I was running a marathon. I remember how I was uncertain of what was happening to my body, of divinity and Godly-like things. I probably wished that I could have just put it off and done it tomorrow… When I remember the birth of my daughters, I think of a lot of things, but pain is not really one of them.
My mother told me how it would sting like hell when the baby’s head came out. When my baby’s head finally did come out (after 36 hours of back labor), I laughed and thought, “Holy sh*t, so this is the burn she’s talking about!” But, was it painful? I don’t know… it was something, that is for sure. I wouldn’t call it pain.
The afterbirth pains and the tearing/grazing, yeah, that hurt and I was happy when the midwives handed me some codeine laced painkillers, but that was well after the birth, so I don’t really count that as the ‘pain of childbirth‘, more like the ‘side effects of birthing a human being‘.
When you scare people about ‘worst pain ever‘, a woman starts putting her confidence outside of her body. You start to instill fear.
A woman stops believing in herself.
But, I’ve talked to countless women who have said the same thing: “Childbirth is not painful, it’s a sensation unlike any other.” It’s BIG. It’s POWERFUL. But, it’s not painful…
This post is not to preach about natural childbirth, because there’s no point in having a natural birth if you also feel bullied into having a natural birth and are scared of it. The fear runs deep and it comes from years of hearing scary stories about childbirth. But, not all births are painful and scary. Many are beautiful, light and fun. Yes, even FUN!
Yes, doctors and hospitals and pain relief are a blessing to have around if we need them and they saves lives, without a doubt. But, those forms of medical technology should only be there to assist if necessary, not as the first way to ‘manage‘ labor. Because, in the majority of cases, birth is nothing to ‘manage‘ at all. Birth is a beautiful design of nature and of love.
I have to admit, I was SCARED during my first labor. And, I’m 100% certain, that because of that fear, it was long. I was uncomfortable and I had no idea what was going on. I really felt like I had little support or understanding of what was truly going on. The more scared I got, the worse my labor progressed. I was scared because all I had heard from other people was about how bad it hurt and how it was near impossible to get through it without any pain relief. (I also didn’t like the way the midwife on duty smelled, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) But some voice, deep inside of me said, “You can do this, you were designed to do this, just see if you can.” And so I did. When it was over, I tried to imagine why everyone had only told their horror stories or birth. While my labor was insanely long and uncomfortable, it wasn’t horrible-worst-ever! It was amazing and I felt empowered. It was after my second daughter’s birth that I fully understood how deeply rooted the fear had been in me.
Second time around, I was so comfortable and at ease. I was surrounded by people I loved and in a comfortable place (home). The birth was lickity split and pain was the last thing on my radar. I was laughing and smiling and crying all at the same time. It was intense, it was powerful… but not painful.
Emotional pain is way worse. A birth that doesn’t go as planned is probably far more worse than any physical pain a women can endure. And, sometimes there are injuries from birth that truly are painful and that require healing from. In fact, just today, my friend was telling me today about her own harrowing recovery from a c-section. But, just because something ‘can‘ happen doesn’t mean that it will. If we lived our lives this way, we would be too scared to even walk down the street!
We need to treat birth with all the respect and reverence it deservers, but without capitalizing on fear. Birth is sacred. In the majority of cases, it is nowhere near a medical emergency that it’s made out to be. The belief that doctors and medicine know more about birthing than a birthing mother does, is old fashioned. Even my own doctor told me that! Ok, I know it might hurt to birth a baby… but can’t we call it ‘The Joy of Childbirth‘, or something more positive? After all, it is a joy to bring a baby into this world… isn’t it?
This post is coming purely from my two natural birth experiences, which were without complications. I do understand that many women have traumatic birth experiences that include pain, drugs, surgery and loss and I’m not undermining those women’s experiences, just trying to balance the scales to write about a more positive experience.