I've had several people ask me recently if I thought labor was painful. One of them being a mother of 6, who underwent 6 C-sections because she had decided long before the labor started that the pain would be too much. I can just imagine her growing up from a young age with her grandmas, aunties, mothers, and all those around her complaining about the woes of childbirth. When people ask me about pain in labor I usually to tell them, "Gosh--it's such a subjective experience, I really can't tell you what you're going to feel. How one person describes pain, can be another person's pleasure." But I realize that's probably not very helpful. I would like to be a more positive influence on girls and women, so they don't have to grow up scared to give birth like that Mom I met. So I've come up with other descriptions like INTENSE. HARD WORK. MASTERING. REWARDING.
Although still subjective to my experience, I think these descriptions are more accurate than painful.
Yes, labor is intense. It's probably one of the most intense physical and emotional experiences I've ever felt in my life. Once those contractions start, you become part of a process that overcomes your entire being. You become totally consumed with each contraction, as it explodes and bursts within your body. It can be a feeling of total vulnerability and loss of control, or you can become in charge of it--the master who controls the intensity of it all, takes on the hard work, and chooses to experience it fully.I opted for the latter, with all 3 of our natural childbirths.
When my contractions began this last time, I started to lose control at first. They came on so fast and so sudden that I wasn't ready for them. I remember putting the kids to bed, then sitting on the couch watching "Dr. Who" with Micah, when all of a sudden powerful contractions overcame me. I started crying hysterically, arching forward in pain. I couldn't remember what to do--I felt overcome.
Micah quickly stepped in and reminded me what to do. I can still hear his soothing words, "Relax your entire body, relax every part of your body, except your Uterus. Let your Uterus do all the work. Just let it work-let it start bringing our baby here. Relax your head, relax your arms, relax your legs, relax your back, and so on...but let your uterus work."
Once I was able to relax my body and realize what I needed to do, I took charge and went to work. I swayed and rocked through each contraction, moaning and sounding as loud or soft as I wanted, saying what helpful words I wanted to. I let my whole body relax and feel the the rhythms of my swaying, but I always remembered to let my Uterus work, so our baby could come out. Sometimes after an especially intense contraction I would yell out, "I can't do this--this sucks!" But of course knew I could do it, and I was doing it. I simply needed to hear Micah say once again, "Your doing awesome, our baby is coming soon." And then I was in charge again.
One more thing that helps me through labor is recognizing that my intense experience is not unique, as far as childbirth goes. My mother, grandmothers, great-great-great-Grandmothers and women throughout history, have all been through the intensity and hard work which brings babies here. Just thinking about my ancestor-mothers giving birth, makes me feel braver and stronger. After all, that is why I am here.
This is me rocking and swaying on my feet, in the living room, during one intense contraction! In between contractions I took a shower, braided my hair, put on my favorite nighty, splashed some essential oils on my neck, and put lotion on my legs. During contractions I completely submitted myself to the job. And what a fine reward we produced:
Baby J, 1 day old.