How do you respond to pain? Do you silently muscle through it? Clenching your jaw and holding silent stress in every muscle in your body? Are you a screamer (like me) who feels compelled to verbally process every ounce of pain you are experiencing?
Some people seem to almost enjoy the process of pain…friends who train for tri-athletic events on Saturdays come to mind.
I don’t enjoy pain and I don’t look for it. I am careful to avoid pain. I do yoga, pilates and water aerobics. Throughout junior high and high school I avoided contact sports and participated in theater. I decided to be the team d.j. instead of a player on our church’s kickball team….yes I am terrified of a ball hitting my head and yes I am in my 30’s. I don’t like dogs that are big, bark, or jump on you and I have been known to cross to the other side of the street when I hear one barking.
Emotionally I try to avoid pain by keeping everyone happy…this works…. so well never. I am also more inclined to apologize for someone else’s mistake than call them out and watch them suffer a consequence or work through awkward tension.
You may be surprised to hear that this self admitted pain avoider is planning and preparing for a natural, drug free child birth…I shudder a little whenever I say that phrase.
I am not a woman with a list of 100 reasons why epidurals are evil and believes there is any greater glory to be found in a natural vs. pain medicated childbirth. Any woman who has gone through the challenges and difficulties of pregnancy and delivery of a child whether by c-section, naturally or with drugs is my hero.
I have read my fair share of articles on the benefits of an epidural free delivery, but that is not the reason we are choosing that route.
The reason we are preparing for a drug free, natural vaginal delivery…comes down to a conversation between me and Jesus.
Charity: Jesus, what kind of childbirth do you want me to prepare for? (please say epidural, please say epidural, please say epidural)
Jesus: Natural delivery without an epidural.
Charity: So maybe I should ask again….Jesus, what kind of childbirth do you want me to prepare for? (please say epidural, please say epidural, please say epidural)
Jesus: Natural delivery without an epidural.
Charity: Maybe we should talk about this later.
We did talk about it later…having the same conversation over and over again, until one day, I reluctantly surrendered. “Ok, Jesus, if you are saying to prepare for a natural delivery without an epidural then that is what I will do. But let the record show, I think this is a horrible idea.”
Fast forward this week’s Bradley Birthing Class, where we were welcomed to class with the announcement that we were going to have a labor rehearsal…rehearsal….that’s one word a theater nerd understands.
How do you properly rehearse for something as dreadfully unique as labor and childbirth? Turns out…you can’t…. but there are different relaxation and breathing techniques that you can practice with your birth coach (my awesome husband, Rene) to be more prepared for labor.
Our labor rehearsal consisted of each woman being given a bucket of ice water. We were instructed to lie in a comfortable position and close our eyes. Then our teacher told us to put our hand in the water and not to remove it until instructed. For the first round of our ice bath our birth coaches were not allowed to touch us or talk to us. I also had no idea how long my hand was going to remain suspended in ice.
Going into this exercise, I thought it would be a breeze, I mean I’m from Washington our definition of a nice day at the beach is lower 60’s with a light drizzle…I can survive cold…
That was one of the worst and longest 60 seconds of my life. My husband told me later he thought I was going to start crying… because I WAS! It took every ounce of energy and self control I had to not remove my hand from the water.
I kept trying to do all the relaxation techniques they have taught us in Bradley class, breathe deeply, think about a beautiful beach, focus on breathing air into the tense parts of your body…yeah..right…all I could think was: “ow, ow, ow…when is this torture ending and this exercise must be like freshmen chemistry….designed to weed out the weak from strong…alright Mr. Bradley…you found me out…I’m the weakest link…I’m out of here, this was a huge mistake, I can’t make it through natural labor if I can’t endure my hand sitting in ice water.”
The worst part of the experience was feeling so alone. I knew people were around me, but no one, including my husband could talk to me, touch me or give me an indication of when the torture would end.
The second round was better, because our instructor gave us a verbal countdown of how many seconds remained.
The third and fourth rounds felt like heaven, for one simple reason: my coach could talk to me and touch me.
The activity went from torture to bearable with the insertion of one variable: encouragement!
I left the activity believing that I could actually survive labor without an epidural and realizing how thankful I was that Rene was going to be by my side because he is such a great encourager.
I was thinking about the power of a simple encouragement the rest of the night and it reminded me of earlier that day when I was at the grocery store.
I was headed towards the toilet bowl cleaner when I noticed a woman walking slouched with deep weariness. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge my heart to go and ask her if there was a way I could pray for her.
After working through my fear of how awkward and weird it would be to stalk someone in the dairy section and then talk to them about prayer…I went ahead and found her and asked if there was a way I could pray for me.
She responded by telling me I should probably get out some paper, because her lists of requests was that long.
What she was walking through was one of the most difficult situations I have ever heard. At one point she stopped, looked at me and said with tears in her eyes, “thank you so much for asking” and then she hugged me in the middle of the dairy aisle like she had needed a good hug and a long cry for a decade. I cried too and I prayed, asking Jesus to heal every place that needed healing and encouraged her that “Jesus loves you and He has His eye on you.” And then we both cried and hugged again next to some very confused customers buying their eggs.
She told me that day she had no idea how she would even make it through the end of the day. She felt so defeated in every way: physically, emotionally and spiritually….
But the simplicity of a question, “can I pray for you”
The presence of another human being listening to her story.
An embrace between 2 strangers, reaching beyond social norms, to simply say – I hear your pain, I care and I believe in you.
The power of a prayer, 2 people crying out to the only One who can fix and heal what was so broken…
It gave her the hope she needed to persevere through the rest of the day.
I wish I never missed or ignored an opportunity to encourage people. But I do.
I miss them because I am thinking about my own problems or agenda. I miss them because I am checking my phone. I miss them because I forget to ask, “Father what you are doing right now? How can I be a part of it.”
We need each other, we weren’t made to journey alone.
If you want to be a hope giver, find someone today with their lives stuck in a bucket of despair, in their real life drama starring pain and discouragement and offer them encouragement.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15- 16
I’m curious to know other reader’s labor experiences? How did you make it through? Who were your main encouragers through the process? Do you find yourself, like me, distracted and often unaware of those around us needing encouragement? How has someone encouraging you helped you through a tough time?