Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Painful Birth- Loving it, Embracing It, Accepting It
I live at the top of a hill. After I have a baby I try to get back into shape by running. The easy part is getting DOWN the hill. But, inevitably I must come home at some point and that includes going UP hill.
Sometimes, since I am tired and at the end of my run, I try to avoid the hills. I see one coming up and so I turn before I get there. But then I find something awful. ANOTHER hill. Then I try to turn again. Surely, I can get home without going up a hill, right?
As it turns out, NO. I live on the top of a hill and to get back home I must go up a hill. Trying to avoid the hill is simply going to drag out the inevitable and possibly get me lost.
When it comes to birth, I think all of us have done women a disservice, birth nuts included. We have told women over and over that birth doesn't have to be painful. It can be painless and easy. You don't have to sweat! You don't have to scream!
Different groups go about this in different ways. The doctor set says to get the epidural or even a c-section to avoid the pain of natural birth. The natural birth set says to learn to relax, hypnotize, comfort, doula, or dance your way out of the pain. But often the focus is simply on AVOIDING PAIN.
I am not advocating that we all going into birth expecting it to be excruciating and scared to death about the prospect. I realize that some women insist that their birth was painless. I have even had a birth that I never felt was painful, so I GET IT.
But I would say that even natural birthing mamas who say that their babies birth was painless are often using different words (like intense, rushes, pressure, surges, etc) to describe what some call the pain of birth. And even those painless birthers will admit that the final moments of birth are overwhelming and all encompassing and convulsive and powerful. I guess what I am saying is some of this is just choice of words.
But back to the subject at hand.
Over and over again I see women actually ashamed to admit that they felt like natural birth was painful. It is like it is some kind of badge of honor to have a painless birth.
Guess what. I think that is lame. I think we have sold women a bill of goods and we are not adequately preparing them for the realities of birth when we act like they can have a painless birth if they just "do everything right" and "have their mind free of fear."
There. I just said it. I think the idea of painless birth is a little lame.
Let me explain.
The most beautiful thing about birth to me is what it can teach us about real life. I think that is why the journey of birth is so intense and beautiful and multifaceted- it is teaching us a lesson about the rest of our lives when we are fairly young and when we are embarking on parenthood.
That lesson is this- Real joy requires some pain.
I don't know how much of my life I have spent avoiding the hard stuff, but I can tell you that it was far to much.
Too many a year was spent waiting for things to get easier and hoping that THEN I could really enjoy life. I missed out on enjoying the hard times and learning from them. I dragged out the misery and I didn't appreciate what I could have been learning at the time. I told the universe to keep trying like mad to teach me the same lesson, over and over again, because I didn't want to learn it.
I don't believe birth is supposed to be easy. I don't believe it is supposed to be painless. I think, in fact I KNOW, that the people who first said this, were men. The idea of modern and painless natural childbirth belongs to Grantley Dick-Read. A pioneer for sure who did a lot of good for childbirth, but still, not a woman and not somebody who ever actually experienced BIRTH HIMSELF.
What should you love, embrace, and accept about the pain of birth?
Love that it is telling you how to move your body in such a way that will get your baby out sooner.
Embrace that it is teaching you that you are strong and the only way that it can teach you this is by having you go through something that you didn't think you were capable of.
Accept that it is bringing your baby closer and closer to you.
Love that when it is over you will feel intense joy and satisfaction because the change- from the intensity of transition and pushing and the ring of fire, to the joy of a slippery baby, will make you euphoric when it is over.
Embrace that birth makes you a mother that knows she is capable and willing to sacrifice for her child.
Accept that it is something you must, no- are BLESSED- to go through. It isn't a punishment, it is a journey and it is great one.
When we try to avoid the hills of birth we short change ourselves, we fight what was meant to be and make longer a journey that, though it includes difficulties, gives us an amazing prize at the end. When women fight this, avoid this, or are surprised by this it simply makes that hill harder to climb.
We need to stop avoiding the pain of birth and we need to love what it teaches us, what it does for us, and what it means to us when we have gone through it. The pain of birth is your teacher, your lover and your friend. It is not something to be feared. It is what makes birth so magnificent.