Sunday, August 1, 2010

Birth is Life


As I have trudged through the last ten years of my life, through marriage, school, government programs, debt, poverty, broken cars, children, stains, fights and general malaise, I have often looked to the heavens and asked "WHY?!"

Yes, I have often wondered why life can not just be EASIER. Does it really have to be so difficult? It seems like struggle is everywhere. Two years ago I came to the somewhat sad realization that life actually does not get easy. It changes.

I might one day be able to go to the grocery store and buy what I want without counting every penny as I put things in my cart. I might be able to drive a car that I can also take on long trips. We may possibly pay off all of our student debt and even have a comfortable life. However, even if all these things happen, my life will still not be easy. It will just have different struggles.

When I realized this, truth be told, it depressed me. I had always been looking forward to the next thing because then, finally, things would be easy!!!!

"When hubby starts school then we will be happier...."

"When we finish school, then things will fall into place...."

"OK, when we start a practice things will be better...."

Well, that is just not how it works out. If you are older or just wiser than me you probably realized this a long time ago. I was in the grocery store a few weeks back with all three kids in the stroller. I had walked there (in the summer heat no less) because our car was not working. I ran into a mother from church whose kids are all grown. I mentioned what was going on and then said I was waiting for life to get easier. Her response, "Umm, I have bad news...."

Your point....

I know, enough about me. What does this have to do with birth?

Birth is so much more than a physical process. It is a lesson about life. It is a lesson that prepares you not just for motherhood and breastfeeding, but for all the the struggles to come. This is part of the reason it is so incredibly tragic when women are denied this process.

Think about labor. It starts, you know not when. You can not control when it begins or ends, it comes to you when it is ready. The contractions begin, mild at first and then rhythmically getting stronger, harder and longer.

It is not hard the whole time. Natural contractions rise and fall with breaks between them, but the contraction always returns again, usually getting harder with time. But, because they build gradually, you are always able to handle them, one at a time. You can get discouraged if you look ahead and think about how much harder it may get. A good coach will take the time to remind you to focus on the here and now, not what lies ahead.

Finally you get to a point where you think you really can not take it any more, and then, as if by a miracle, the contractions change, and you get to push your baby out! Things are not suddenly easy, but the change invigorates you for a new struggle that lies ahead.

With the birth of the baby there is joy! You have done it! You feel an amazing relief for accomplishing something that at moments seemed impossible. You treasure the first few moments in a euphoric bliss of hormones and baby spirit.

But any mother knows that birth is not the end, it is just the beginning. It is the beginning of breastfeeding, of motherhood, of years of lessons and changes and humbling experiences.

The beauty of birth lies in that the struggle of it prepares you for what challenges lie ahead. Now you know you can do it, because you accomplished something that seemed impossible. Of course, birth might just be one of the easiest parts of motherhood, it is quick and euphoric in comparison with the rest of your mothering life.

Birth doesn't just prepare you for motherhood though. It prepares you for life. Life has ups and downs just like contractions. Life sometimes seems like it is just too hard to handle. Things get discouraging when you start to think about how much harder life might just get, rather than focusing on the present and getting through what you need to right now.

And then, as in birth, just when you think you can't take it any more, it changes, you get renewed energy and push on through. There is joy among the struggle if you just take a moment to notice it. Those joyful moments help in the journey ahead. Those moments (like the euphoria of a natural birth) keep you going through the hard times, and they serve as a reminder that the best is yet to come.

Birth is not just the beginning of life, it is a road map for life. Treasure it.

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