We Can Do Hard Things!
Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Pain is a natural part of life. We experience it on many levels emotionally and physically. Childbirth pain is hard, but it's a natural part of our existence, and you can get through it.
"Coping mechanism" is a term synonymous with comfort measures or self care. They are steps we take to keep ourselves from suffering and surviving until things get better. Heart break pain care packages are sad love songs (or f*ck you songs), sweets, wine, a warm blanket, and a streaming movie service. The healing prescription for a headache is medicine and rest. Pain from loss of a loved one is facilitated by ritual and support from friends and family. Babies experience pain early on when they start cutting their first teeth. And parents have many options ranging from ice packs and amber necklaces to over the counter medication to help their little ones get through their discomfort.
“ It always seems impossible until it's done. ”-Nelson Mandela
Childbirth isn't so different! It's part of the process and we have figured out many ways to soothe ourselves and cope through labor. When I talk of comfort measures during childbirth, I am specifically referencing non medical techniques you can use during childbirth. You might be saying, this isn't necessary- I already know how I am going to cope with labor pain- epidural, epidural, epidural! Feeling zero pain during childbirth is an unrealistic expectation. Sometimes medications just plain don't work for some women. I've seen busy days on the labor and delivery floor where it can take some time for the anesthesiologist to get to you.
So, even if you are planning to use medical pain management tools, there is still a lot to learn from comfort measures.
On the one hand, fear of childbirth pain is as normal and healthy as the pain itself. On the other, our cultural norm in society is that pain is to be feared and then- attacked. This type of messaging, that is, associating childbirth with unmanageable pain leads to strong avoidance behaviors- to avoid pain at whatever costs. This is why medically intervened births are so popular. Who in their right mind would want to voluntarily go through that kind of pain? Normalizing the pain of childbirth helps us to see that it is not unmanageable, or impossible, or only for super humans. That if we want a natural birth, it's completely reasonable and attainable, and NORMAL.
It turns out that the fear of pain can make childbirth more painful. When we think of a physical discomfort as just that, it is nothing more than pain and more often than not can be tolerated. However, when we bring the fear element into the mix, our response to childbirth pain is amplified, we tense up and stop breathing. When we are able to recognize that childbirth, hell being alive, comes along with feeling some pain, (occasionally intense pain) we can begin to move away from fear and towards acceptance and that can significantly reduce pain.
There is no one way to birth. How do you know what way is right for you if you are only ever introduced to one model of birth? Even when it comes to natural birth, there is an overarching narrative of this calm and quiet environment. That works for some and for others- it could be screaming, cussing, complaining, and loud moaning. It's all good. Get comfortable with your idea of pain management with the following tips:
Accept the fact that you are afraid of childbirth pain and need someone to help you get through it. A doula can help you understand why there is pain in childbirth and use exercises to help you mentally prepare. Check out my services page, I offer online sessions if you don't live in the DC Metro Area. As well as the resource page, for more reading and videos.
You may not be able to imagine or predict what labor pains will feel like, and that unknown can bring feelings of fear. Focus on what you do know. How have you reacted to pain in the past? What did you do to feel better? Why?
Our thoughts are influenced by our society. Take moment to figure out how you feel about pain as an individual. Take into account your feelings on medications and medical interventions. From there you can get a better idea of the type of birth that is right for you.
Next post, I will share how and why pain progresses in labor. What type of messaging do you receive when it comes to pain in childbirth? How has it shaped your opinion of pain and your ability to cope? Share below!
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