According to my nightstand, it’s about time to have a baby.
Before #1 was born, I read the book Birthing from Within, which was very helpful at getting myself in the right frame of mind before, well, giving birth (I’d love to give a longer review, including that the artsy stuff at the front of the book was lost on me and I skimmed over it). The week before I was due I found myself with a free Friday night so I meandered around the Stately Raven and came home with Pillars of the Earth. These 2 books got me through 12 hours of labor; one that helped prepare me and focus me, and the other that I read between contractions to help forget how much it hurt.
I just returned BfW after a brief re-read and now World without End (PotE sequal) has been started. All this to say, it’s about time I realize that I will soon be laboring.
You’d think that because a person does such a thing one time that the second time wouldn’t seem so daunting. Not true. I’m completely shaking in my proverbial booties. But something in me says that it’s supposed to be that way.
Most people who know me and want to hear birthing stories know that I had child #1 completely natural. Yes, I felt the whole thing. It’s not necessarily a badge I wear (at least, I hope I don’t) and there’s nothing wrong with taking other courses of action (*any following statements made are not meant to be a personal reflection of someone who chose to have an epidural. I’m 98% sure each of those individuals did not give the decision the depth of theological consideration as I have, and those 98% are probably considered by their peers a bit more normal than I). I had someone tell me recently that an epidural was the best thing God ever created. I won’t argue it’s effectiveness. But something in me has led me to attempt to go without.
When I think about life and birth and motherhood, I like the idea that it all starts with a whole lot of pain. My friend JE said after having her baby that epidurals should be outlawed for those under the age of 18 as a way to discourage similar future occurrences. I laughed, agreed, and then pondered the deeper ramifications (because that’s what I do).
It’s not just having a baby that’s difficult. Raising one has a lot of tears and challenges as well. Labor and delivery, in the worst case scenario, is typically over by at least the 3rd day. We get to keep these children for at least the next 18 years (though as our society continues to lengthen the term of adolescence there’s a good chance we’ll be responsible for them until they’re 30).
In our society there are lots of ways of dealing with pain and troubles. Everybody has their version – whether it be socially acceptable or not. Drinking, drugs, power abuse, sarcasm, outright denial, workaholism, or just blogging their opinions to the free world. Mental health professionals would tell you the best of those coping mechanisms help you work your way through the issue, not just cover up the effects of it.
Yes, I could just “turn off” the pain of having a baby. And perhaps this next time I’ll find myself doing just that (though I’m mentally preparing myself by saying it’s not an option). But when heartache comes later in life, I can’t just turn it off. I can’t just pop a pill to make it go away. I’m sure that at some point in raising my children I’ll come to the point of having to dig deep to find the strength to make it through.
I learned in my “naturalist” book that the body has natural endorphins that kick in when it feels pain to help take the edge off; when the body no longer senses the pain, it turns off the message to release these little friends and your body is back to feeling it all. So when the pain meds wear off, it’s like walking out of a warm, cozy house into below freezing weather, but without a winter coat. By avoiding the problem, you’ve removed all the tools you have at working through it.
After having my first, you could say that I was in some pain. In my first attempt to go to the bathroom there was some significant hurt, especially because I’d sat on the bed for so long. The nurse then tells me that the quicker I got up and the more often I moved around- though initially painful- the faster I would begin to heal.
And, I think, so it goes in life. We can turn to those epidurals of life that temporarily turn off the pain we feel, but at some point those wear off and we’re left with the same problem on our hands. Pretending it doesn’t hurt doesn’t make it hurt less, it just prolongs the pain. Sitting there and avoiding it doesn’t bring healing. But walking through it will.
So as I walk into this world of motherhood again, there is a force that says this is “good pain.” Like when you just finished a really long, hard run and you’re tired and sore. But you know that this run was one of those building block moments of being able to finish a larger race that is the ultimate goal.