Friday, January 22, 2010

If my body was created by heaven to do this, then why does it hurt like hell?

(maybe you shouldn't read this if you are considering natural childbirth and want to hear only happy stories about it)

I gave birth naturally two weeks ago. It hurt.

My first birth experience (with little josh) was long, horrendous, and medically-interventive, and I was determined that for the second time around, I would do it all naturally. I wanted to experience the real thing and have a positive experience.

I decided to go with the childbirth program of Hypnobirthing after researching a few different methods. The hypno claim is that if you teach your body how to relax, birth can and will be a comfortable, smooth, easy, even painless experience for you. Marie Mongan (founder of the method) claims that birth was never supposed to be painful, but that our culture has conditioned us to think that it is, thus leading to fear, which causes tension, which causes pain. She says that animals don’t scream when they are in labor—they just go find a quiet, dark place and give birth. This all made perfect sense to me, and I wondered why no one else seemed to be catching on to such a sensible attitude about birth.

Maybe because it's a load of hooey.

Okay, I will give credit where it’s due—after months of teaching myself to relax, I was more able to cope with the pain than I would have been otherwise. I spent the first six hours of labor relaxing in my bedroom in an easy chair, drinking my favorite juice, listening to music and my husband’s relaxing prompts, surrounded by pictures of my family. The breathing I learned from the hypno program was a way of coping with the pain, and I stayed calm. I was in pain, there’s no denying that, but it was manageable.

We left for the hospital, and two hours after checking in, I had a beautiful baby in my arms. No IV's, no catheters, no drugs, no complications-- everything that I had wanted.

But that last hour and a half was the most painful, awful thing I have ever experienced. I lost control.

Maybe if Bennett’s heart rate had been passing all the tests and I had been allowed in the bathtub, things would have been different… I don’t know. But giving birth felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside while being stabbed with knives. I couldn’t stop screaming. You could probably hear me screaming from outside the hospital. I wondered how it was possible that my body could actually feel that much pain. Most of all, I wondered why God would allow it to be like this.

The age-old argument the agnostic will use is this one: If there were a God, how could He allow so much suffering? My question is a different, more specific one though, because I know there IS a God, and I know that He loves me very much. My question is instead:

Why would God create my body with the purpose (and commandment) of having children, and then make it so painful and complicated and risky? There has to be a reason. A good reason.

Why would women since the beginning of time not only be trodden down by men in so many other ways, but be forced to endure such agony after one act of pleasure, or even after an experience such as rape? Where does the man fit into all of that? Where is his just reward for the act? Why must the woman face it alone? That’s not to say that I would want my wonderful, loving, supportive husband to suffer—I just wonder why the shares seem so unequal. Why isn’t childbirth easy? If it were solely to discourage people from taking sex lightly or to punish them, surely the man would suffer some of the consequence as well.

In church I’ve learned that Eve’s decision was the necessary one to allow humankind to progress, and that she was right in doing what she did. Thus, I find it hard to believe that the sole reason we suffer to bring forth children is because of her decision.

I also find it hard to believe that my experiences have been atypical—that for some reason childbirth is easier for everyone else than it is for me. Many women (and babies) have died throughout history because of childbirth. Even if I am just a big wuss, you can’t deny the childbirth mortality rates that we know of from other places and times.

So here are some of my possible guesses. Maybe...

1. It gives the woman an opportunity to be like Jesus Christ-- suffering intensely so that someone else can have life-- something a person cannot do for himself. A savior of sorts.

2. God wanted to show even the most civilized, cushy, convenienced society that life is a time of suffering as well as joy. He didn’t want us to forget and become complacent in our modern experience.

3. God wanted to give the woman a claim on her children that no one else would have. A mother who has just brought her child into this life will most likely be fiercely protective, if not possessive, of that child, and love him dearly. They always say that you grow to love those you serve.

4. It's just another instance of God using the law of opposition to make us appreciate what we have. We have to know the bitter so that we can know the sweet. Could we ever really appreciate life if we weren’t at some point made to suffer in some way? The many trials and tests we have here on Earth help us grow and progress in a way that nothing else ever could. Perhaps childbirth (and being a parent after that) was meant to be just another bittersweet experience that allows us to become better.

5. The greater test is for the man—it would be so easy for him to walk away from the consequences of his decisions and allow the pregnant woman to fend for herself. Perhaps this gives him a chance to step up and be better and face the consequences—and be more harshly judged by God if he doesn’t.

6. It's to guard the virtue of the woman—the virtue that God so highly prizes. If a woman knows what the consequences can be, maybe she will be motivated to be more careful with her body.

7. It gives the woman the sense of accomplishing something truly difficult and truly great.

8. It's so the man will feel sorry for the woman and buy her chocolates.

I don’t know the answers, but I am going to continue to search for them. It’s therapeutic for me to write out these thoughts as I process the stories of my sons’ births and the prospect of having more children further along down the road.

Will I give birth without an epidural again? I don't know if I will. I haven't decided. But everything else aside, maybe the most important question of all is this:

Is childbirth worth it?

Yes, I think it is.


JMH85 said...

Okay here is my Christian two-cents worth. I have always been taught that the pain of childbirth is a result of the sin that we inherit from Eve. The pronouncement of God's judgment on Eve for her disobedience was not just for her, but for all generations to come. It is not only a curse though it is part of God's plan to redeem mankind for remember that from a woman the Salvation of the world was born.

K.E.N said...

I think all of those answers are right. They can all be true together, I think, because none of them contridicts another. But I hope the last one is the truest ;)

Sami Dara said...

BABIES! I am so excited to have a second one... Not yet though. Ya know, later in life.

But I hope to try a natural birth. Well, more natural than a c-section that is. Because Marley was upside down... If it works out then maybe the third time will be without meds, or maybe with them after reading this...

Lori said...

I'm sorry that it was so traumatizing for you. It is different for every girl... but no one on earth experiences a pregnancy or birth that is completely painless. For me, it did hurt but it wasn't ever unbearable, and how I felt immediately afterward washed it all away. For my older sister- it hardly hurt her at all and she'd actually sign up for it if it were a ride at the fair.
As for why it's so hard on women then men- if men really love their woman, it hurts them to see them in pain. I know I would always prefer to be in pain myself than watch sam have to be in it. So i guess it's all perspective.
All I know is that you accomplished something amazing and I think that you're awesome :)

Steph said...

Aw, I loved that post! I'm sorry you had such a painful experience, but I think all the reasons you came up with for it being that way were awesome. I think you're right about all of them and for your hubby buying you chocolate :) Congrats again on Bennett and I'm proud of you for being such an awesome mom!

Linda said...

I think that your very thoughtful comments show that you understand the 'why' completely. The experience you had has undeniably contributed to your eternal progression.


Oh man, you are a trooper. I always think maybe next time, but once those pains begin...bring on the drugs for me. I'm a sissy.

Ashley Gilbert said...

When I had Chloe I did not have pain meds, and it hurt like no other, but I kept thinking about the end result. I think your right though. Whoever says you can just relax and it will all be honky dory is just silly. I just dealt with the pain and thought about the baby, and it did hurt, but I got a piece of heaven in return. Pain meds are there for those who cannot deal with the pain. Doctors are there in case something goes wrong. And believe me, everything went wrong with Chloe's birth. It was poop in a giant handbasket. Now Aaron and I have this precious gift and we appreciate her so much more because of it. I think it is great if moms can do it naturally just at least one time just to appreciate what women before medicine had to go through. We are spoiled mommies that's for dang sure!

dncshaha said...

I think you are right Adele about it being an act of sacrifice, like what you said in the first answer. I have never felt so closed to Heavenly Father then I have while being pregnant with Hallie. I had many trials while pregant, severe swelling and gestational diabetes and my husband was away in the army for my last trimester and when I gave birth. I had to have a c-section because the Doctor was certain we would both die if we didn't. Why? I don't really know except for the fact that i know it wasn't a punishment or a curse, my trials were a blessing from God to grow closer to Him, to help me to focus on the eternal instead of the here and now. And that i am greatful for :)

michele said...

Adele, I'm so glad that you post your birth stories! I feel like it's important for me to find out about these things, for future reference.

I agree with all of your questions and your possible answers. Especially why women have to endure the pain of childbirth instead of men. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Love ya!

NoSurfGirl said...

Yes... I agree with all your reasons, too.

Also agree that childbirth is not an experience to be passed off as minimal or easy by those who have gone through it. I think being prepared for the fact that it will, likely, be the most painful experience of your lifetime, will help more than being told contractions are "interesting sensations." (My mom said this was the info she was given before she had her first, haha.)

I've done both natural and epi. There's positives and negatives in both scenarios. I think being prepared to go naturally, but being open and ready to change your mind should circumstances make another option a better idea, is the best way to go.

This time around I'm going to try to stay HOME as long as possible. I think I stall in my contractions because hospitals freak me out. I get stuck at like an 8 for 2.5 hours. :( At the same time, I don't want to be HOME at an 8, you know?

Sigh. The vagueries of motherhood. :)

Camilla said...

I've been thinking about this post ever since I read it yesterday. As I was lying in bed last night a thought came to me. About why women have to suffer in childbirth and men don't- because we're not men. I mean, in order for genders to be distinct and separate, only one gender could be the child-bearers, right? And women got that responsibility because it is in our nature to handle it the way God wants us to. Maybe that doesn't sound different from what you've already said in your post, but for me the small detail is that we got it, and men didn't, because it makes men and women different and that's very important. Being different, drastically in this case. Two halves of a whole. We just happen to be the half that has to hurt like crazy.

Erin R. said...

Been there and asked the same questions. I was natural with Andrew...9lb 3oz and forceps. With David, as soon as I got my epidural it worked great (before the epidural was another story) and his birth was amazing. Every women has to do what she is comfortable with. I think it is amazing that labor/delivery doesn't kill us off! Just another testimony as to how amazing our bodies are and that we were definitely created by a heavenly being.

Rodney and Erin said...

Wow Adele. That really was good to read. I love hearing thoughts on birth. And yours were especially good. I think that all of those "maybe's" could be put together and be the answer. I know it's not a punishment due to ours or other's sins. I just don't believe that. I think it's there for us to grow. And to grow together. When you concieve a baby...the relationship betweeen baby and momma grow through those 10 months. Going the the labors of birthing them however seals that bond I think. Having your husband watch and be a part of it also creates a bond and helps the three bond together. I don't think I'm really saying this very well but if we didn't go through those experiences the way we do, then the bond between mother and child, husband and wife, and as a family would not be there. That's just my don't hate me if you disagree! haha

mu rye uh said...

So my sister in law had your post connected to her blog and I had a similar experience as you. I don't believe pain of childbirth is the result of eve. I think life hurts. I too did hypnobirthing for both of my kids. IT hurt both times (although the first time I ended up with an epidural and c section) second time no epidural, but can't say it was fun, but better. And asked after having a baby if I would do it again unmedicated? I wasn't sure either. That being said, if you are open to it. There is a book called "In may's guide to childbirth" and it was wonderful. I read the hypnobirthing and the second time noticed that it mentions that her and her daughter have like 7hr labors, and painfree is not possible for everyone. Ina May's book is very realistic and is like "yes, it will hurt".

And no one warns you about if you tear that there won't be anesthesia already in place to help numb the stitching without another needle! LOl. I think unmedicated is for sure a personal preference.

The second time labor I had an awesome Doula it made a huge difference for me. I have to say I don't think I am any braver than anyone else by not having an epidural the second time, but I do think it challenged me in a way emotionally and mentally before and I didn't give up. That experience has prepared me for recent events when I have thought "I can't do this anymore".

And to be honest, the pain didnt' subside onec I saw my daughter, yes its worth labor for a beautiful new life, but I am still thinking "What the heck just happened to my body! How the heck am I supposed to pee!"

Becky said...

I honestly think the pain is to create a connection between mother and child. They say the best way to love someone is by serving them, and what better way can we serve someone than by going through something excruciating. After giving your all and going through Hades for your child, how could you not love them? I also think that the "opposition in all things" plays into it too. A child is one of the greatest gifts from God that we can receive, so it would make sense that we would go through some of the worst pain in our lives to get it here.

Summer's Blog said...

I think all of that bonding and sacrificing commentary is sweet and all, but right after I've pushed the baby out the last thing I feel is a rush of love for the baby and a closeness with Heavenly Father! My immediate thoughts run along much more practical lines: 1. Please, drugs. Now. 2. Please (I actually don't remember saying please at all, but we'll pretend), take the baby before I drop it, in case you can't see, I'm shaking pretty violently right now and weak as ... 3. Did you get the placenta out yet? A little focus, please? My legs are going to fall off if I don't get out of the stirrups soon. 4. Rest! Leave me alone, all of you! I just want to slip into oblivion right now.

Now, I've had one delivery with an epidermal and one without. I actually didn't intend to have a natural birth, I hadn't decided yet, but Bella started coming while I was at home, in the shower. I was in traction (and hell) the entire 35 minute car ride to the hospital. The lengthy drive and excruciating pain AND PANIC was facilitated by my sweet husband getting lost on the way to the hospital. As I was fighting the urge to push, my husband slowed down in front of what looked like a hospital and read the sign. "Nope, wrong hospital.", he said as he started to drive off. It took all I had, with help from the immobilization caused by the ever-so-slight pain in my entire lower half, to keep from knocking him out. Instead, I shouted/screeched "IT'S A HOSPITAL!!!!!! IT HAS AN EMERGENCY ROOM!!!!" Come on man, think! We pulled into the emergency room. The admissions clerk said "Ma'am, you need to calm down. Sit down in that chair and you need to fill out some paperwork before we can admit you". Sit down on the baby's emerging head? What an excellent idea! Is that what's being recommended by doctors these days? Once again, an opportunity to knock someone out. Fortunately, the security guard wasn't so dim. She threw me in a wheel chair and ran me to the labor and delivery department. They got me on the bed, my water literally burst all over the nurse's smock and she yelled "We've got a head!" and a whole team of people descended. All the time, there was only one word I could say, only one word that mattered: "Drugs. Druuugs, pleeeeaseee. GIMME SOME DRUGS NOW!" (You know how those pregnancy hormones rage.) Unfortunately there was nothing they could give me. Really??!!! Really, there's nothing you can give me now? Nothings going to hurt the baby at this point, she's almost out. Just give me a dang shot of something!! The nurse and I were literally arguing. She said "I can't give you anything now, it's not safe, there's nothing I can give you" and with the attentive listening skills of an expert birth-er I droned on "I need some drugs. Please. Drugs. drugs, drugs. Drugs". It was almost a whiny song. When Bella came out, I looked at the much despised nurse and said (with a flippant attitude I didn't intend but couldn't control); "NOW, can I have some drugs?!?!?!?! She gave me some. A few minutes later I asked for more. After what I had just been through, I felt I deserved it. Con'd...

Summer's Blog said...


Anyway, my son, on the other hand, was born on a calm, peaceful epidural and for me the moments after birth were the same with both deliveries. I couldn't hold the baby and really I just wanted to get myself back together and rest a few and recover from the shock before they brought the baby back to me. And actually, I never really felt a strong love for either of my children right as they were born. I felt the fierce instincts to protect and to care for them, but not a natural, easy love. I found that that came over months as I cared for them and began to get to know their personalities.

So, I'm not much of a romanticist. I believe in drugs, I have nothing to prove to myself and I believe in taking full advantage of the opportunities this age provides. However, I have to say that I am torn between whether I will use an epidermal next round or not. The labor was much more pleasant with the drugs but the recovery (which no one ever tells you about) was horrible. Weeks and weeks. Whereas the recovery with Bella was only days and much less painful. Tough choice, it's going to come down to courage I think and I won't be hastening the day!

By the way, there have always been drugs, and they have been given to birthing mothers throughout time. They were just in the form of herbal remedies and concoctions (some so strong they're banned today). I think the history of drug use (and addiction) in past cultures is pretty well documented. I mention this just so mothers today don't feel inadequate for not "toughing it out". Mother's of the past would have been lined up down the block for our remedies. Why not?

Oh, and p.s. I believe that pregnancy and delivery were given to women and not men because they can't handle it. I think they can habdle short bursts of intense pain (especially when it's for the glory, like sports), but nothing that takes 10 months of endurance and devoted, day by day decision making based on what's best for something you haven't even met yet. That kind of long term, patient sacrifice/focus is not in their makeup. My opinion only.