My pregnancy was an unplanned one. We threw caution to the wind one too many times and as a result we now have a wide-eyed, gassy baby boy who balloons me with love every time I am near him. Which is almost all the time.
With pregnancies like mine the worries and fears appear from the get go. As soon as those blue lines spread across that tiny window, like something rising out of the deep, I knew we were in for it. The monsters started creeping immediately- worries about how my fiance might respond to the news, worries about what decisions were right for us, whether having a baby was something we could handle at this point in our life and the fears that go along with either path we would decide to take.
After a week of discussions we finally decided to take the path of parenthood. The night we made the final decision my fears and worries tripled. How would we afford a baby? How was I going to fit a carseat in my truck? How could I walk away from my job if I needed to vomit? And as the night grew darker the bigger questions came sneaking out of the closet- what if something went wrong in the next few months or during labor? And if everything went as smoothly as pregnancies and labors can go, was I strong enough to handle the pain?
At my first hospital visit, the doctor said to me “pain is different than suffering”. Experiencing pain during labor is much different than suffering during labor. Of course it is painful. Our jaw-droppingly phenomenal female bodies are doing something that men’s bodies only secretly WISH they could handle. Our bodies contract, expand, stretch, bend and push our babies out. Ouch.
However, the suffering only happens when that is how the pain is perceived. Suffering is taking that pain and interpreting it as a negative experience, one that is out of your control. You can’t stop labor from being 100% painless, but you can take steps and make choices to change your interpretation of that pain and to manage it when the time comes.
Everybody knows there are two basic ways of going when it comes to pain management- the modern science route or the old fashion way. They fall far on either side of the spectrum, but the important piece that all doulas, doctors, midwives and nurses should be on the same page about is allowing a pregnant woman to make her own choices. In an ideal scenario the doctor/midwife/nurse/doula would even go so far as to empower her in the decision-making process by providing unbiased education.
Regardless of which end of the spectrum she is on, choosing a route to manage pain will automatically begin shifting the interpretation that to give birth is to suffer. Jessi Klein writes a great article for the New York Times, where she points out that “life offers more than enough pain that you will not be able to skip. When you have a baby, there will be plenty more pain. The pain of recovery, no matter how you give birth. The pain of nursing. The pain of not fitting into any of your old clothes.The pain of hearing your baby cry and not knowing how to fix it,” she writes. “So really, get the epidural.” In Klein’s scenario, getting the epidural was her path to reclaiming the birth of her child and steering clear of suffering. Other women choose different methods, like these women who danced through labor. No matter what you choose, choose something. Take back the birth of your child in whatever way you want, whether it’s dancing in the hospital, scheduling a c-section or hiring a supportive doula to have at your side. Educate yourself, make a plan and get that sweet baby out- without all the suffering.
Amber Kapiloff is a freelance writer and new mom of Maine. Ever since helping a stressed out bunny-mommy by feeding her babies from an eye dropper she has had a love for those newly born into the world, and for those who bring them. She is in constant awe of the mammalian process and is quickly discovering her ease in mom jeans.