Why I need the pain of Chidbirth

As a woman with childbirth (hopefully) still in my future, I can’t really believe I’m about to say this, but here it is.  I need the pain of childbirth when my children are born.

I need not only pain, but not just pain, I need that life-changing pain we feel while giving birth–to be a part of welcoming my children into the world.  And I know this from experience.

I have been through childbirth 3 times now and each experience was wildly different.  The only universal between the 3 was the pain.  All sorts of different pain, but it was all awful and the memory of any of it makes me shutter.  And yet I know that when it comes time for me to delivery my next baby I will do it unmediated and that horrible pain will be mine again.

I don’t write this post as advice or (worse) gospel.  Absolutely no one should feel guilty about the choices they made during childbirth–or believe that one choice is better than another.

Instead I want to add this perspective to the often heated debate for to-be-moms.  When I was preparing for the birth of my first the question of pain-killers seemed to be more of a question of how tough I was, or how natural.  It never occurred to me that the pain of childbirth might actually be important.  But it is.

The pain of childbirth is not something that should be dismissed without thought.

I have experienced childbirth both ways–with epidural and without.  With pain and without.  It is my natural tenancy, like anyone’s, to avoid pain at all cost, so that is what I did with my first.  But the suffering and confusion I endured after that delivery were so much worse than the momentary pain of childbirth that it forced me to realize that I actually need the pain of childbirth.

Here’s why,

1. Without Pain During Childbirth, I Fail to Understand What Is Happening

This might sound stupid, but this is exactly what happened to me when I gave birth to my first, my sweet Gus, 4 years ago.

During that delivery I had an epidural that worked REALLY WELL.  After I was medicated I fell asleep for several hours.  Following my nap I was woken up, informed I was at a 10 and told to start pushing.  The nurses had to use the monitor to tell me when I was having contractions so that I knew when to push…and with a couple of pushes he was out.

I guess I had had a baby.

I remember joking with the nurse mid push.  I remember feeling hesitant when they first put Gus in my arms.  Where had this baby come from?  How was he not inside of me anymore?

We went home on time and the postpartum depression set in, hard.  Those days were easily the hardest, darkest days of my life as I struggled to understand where this baby had come from.

After getting my postpartum depression treated and spending a lot of time reflecting on those dark days I began to feel strongly that my failure to engage with my baby began when I disengaged with his birth.  I really wasn’t present for the labor and delivery.

I knew that laboring without an epidural would be incredibly painful but the fear of returning to those dark days after Gus was born is enough to keep me strong in my resolution.

Gus was born 4 years ago.  Since then I have given birth to 2 more babies, my spunky Bernadette 2 and a half years ago, and last June my charming Dominic.  Both births were (thankfully) uncomplicated but also unmediated.

The pain of childbirth is enough to break anyone’s resolve and both times I almost gave up.  I almost surrendered.  But I didn’t and in the end, when the midwife threw my new baby up onto my chest I clutched them to me, thanking God from the absolute core of my being that they were here, that it was over, that we were both alive.

Why I actually need the pain of childbirth

2. I Can’t Deal With the Pain On My Own

Again, I hate pain, but I would be a fool to dismiss the blessings that childbirth pain brings–even in the moment.

The thing about the epidural is that it makes childbirth something a woman can do by herself.  Sure, you might need to call the doctor to come and catch the baby…but other than that, you’ve got this.

Take away the epidural and suddenly you need help, and it’s good to need help.  Allowing someone to help is the only way this experience can be shared.

My husband loves that I’ve moved away from the epidural (easy for him to say, right?) but seriously, he loves it because suddenly he plays an active role in the birth of his children.  I suffered with HORRIBLE back labor with my latest delivery.  I NEEDED him to put pressure on my back during every single contraction–and so he shared every contraction with me.  And when I needed to throw up, he held the bag.  When that baby finally came out he too was exhausted and shaking with emotion as he cut the cord.

I can honestly say that he was a part of those deliveries and that I don’t think I could have done it without him.

On the same note, there is no way I could have endured those births without prayer and without my God.  During the worst moments, when I could barely hold a thought, my prayer became a simple image, that of my 18 month old daughter head bowed and hands folded in prayer, as I had seen her do just hours I went into labor.  That image was such a gift and gave me so much peace as I labored.  In such a small and wonderful way I knew that I was supported in prayer and surrounded by love.

3.  The Pain Prepares Me for Motherhood

I spend a lot of time in those final weeks of pregnancy reflecting on why delivery is so painful.  Why?  Shouldn’t the birth of a beautiful baby be, well, beautiful?  Instead of the gory scream-fest that it is?

The best explanation I have been able to come up with is that the pain actually prepares me for motherhood.  My journey into motherhood has been beautiful, but it has also been quite painful (in the emotional sense).  It’s not easy for me to surrender my body, my ambitions, my everything for my kids.  It’s a death.  It is so worth it, but it is a death.

Sometimes I feel like I am being ripped in 2–torn between what I want and what my kids and husband need.  It feels as if my rough, selfish edges are actually being painfully filed off.

But like childbirth, the pain and anguish end and I am left with a beautiful child in my arms.

Once again I’d just like to make it clear that this has been my journey with childbirth.  I don’t know your situation, and I was never asked to labor for 30 hours–I can’t even imagine!

I am taking the time to write all of this because I wish I had read something like this before my first child was born.  I wish I had thought about the pain as being more than just pain.

All the best, and if you are preparing for the birth of your own sweet baby, many blessing and prayers!

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