Trying to avoid pain is perfectly natural, and like most instincts, our society shamelessly encourages it. Think of commercials on TV. For every imaginable discomfort there is a product that will remove it. For every pleasure there is a product that will enhance it. And most of the time we succeed. We have pain relief drugs in the bathroom cabinet, clothing for all extremes of weather, and medical relief just a phone-call away… Our instinct is to run away from it, yet pain seems to be, like taxes and bad hair days, one of the inevitabilities of life. Trying to avoid pain is perfectly natural, and like most instincts, our society shamelessly encourages it. Think of commercials on TV. For every imaginable discomfort there is a product that will remove it. For every pleasure there is a product that will enhance it. And most of the time we succeed. We have pain relief drugs in the bathroom cabinet, clothing for all extremes of weather, and medical relief just a phone-call away.
Then comes childbirth, inevitable, natural, and yes, painful. In our society, we don’t hear or see much about childbirth. It is not a village experience like it is in other cultures. Young girls don’t grow up with births happening next door or upstairs, as they do in societies where families live closely and have babies at home. Most American women never seen a live birth until they give birth themselves. It is viewed as something personal that happens in hospitals, and is spoken of with awe as “the worst thing you’ve ever experienced.” It is no wonder that, to most of us, the prospect is terrifying!
We do, however, have many options for pain relief, in the form of both drugs and natural methods. Drugs take away initial pain, though there is much controversy as to their ultimate effectiveness. For instance, when the drug enters the baby’s bloodstream, the baby ceases to do its share of the work. The body too tends not to work so hard, and labor may drag out, exhausting the mother even more. The mother may afterward feel that she didn’t participate fully in the great moments of giving birth to her child.
There are also more serious risks associated with certain drugs and methods. (If you have any questions about pain relief, consult your doctor. Better yet, consult two doctors!) Natural methods, such as aromatherapy and massage, are gentler on the body, but there is the question of whether or not they remove pain! The bottom line is that even with sophisticated pain relief, labor is far from comfortable. Contractions, or spasms of the uterus which help push out the baby, are a natural part of labor. However, it is natural to feel panicky during contractions, because they can be very strong and sometimes seem to take control of the whole body. It is important to learn beforehand what will happen. You can read on your own or attend childbirth classes. The idea is not so much to learn techniques (which you may or may not remember!) as to know what is happening to your body.
Personally, I am greatly comforted by knowing what to expect and why it is happening. For example, when the contractions seem unbearably long and close together, it is a sign of transition, or the stage when you start pushing the baby out. It means that the end is near, and your baby will soon be in your arms! Everything in childbirth has a purpose. Contractions, for example, have several jobs: effacing or “making thin” the floor of the uterus so as to let down the baby, opening the cervix, and pushing the baby out. It’s also a comfort to know that the vagina is meant to let the baby through. It consists of a stretchy, elastic tissue that will expand to the size of the baby, and later contract to its previous size. If a tear occurs, remember, it will heal! Contractions are meant to be powerful. The baby is pretty strongly attached to the wall of the uterus, and deep inside your body, protected by your pelvic bones, the uterus, and your abdominal muscles. Contractions are simply the force your body needs to expel the baby, who otherwise wouldn’t want to leave such a warm, comfy home!
Many women say that labor is not really pain. For one thing, it is perfectly natural, unlike pain caused by some outside intruder, such as surgery or an accident. or inside intruder like a kidney stone. Your might almost say that your body is made for giving birth, for it has a complex, sophisticated blueprint of hormones, muscular structure, and instinct, to help it. While labor itself may be painful, the overall experience is awesome. In life, it is rare for pain to produce anything, but when you give birth, you are participating in a great act of love. It might seem terribly hard when you are going through it, but in the end, what a happy reward! A brand new life, which you helped to create! At that awesome moment when he or she is looking into your eyes for the first time, you forget everything else.