Funny story: I was doing a postpartum visit with a new mom last week and we were chatting about her labor. How it went. How she felt about things. She was feeling the strain of getting used to life with a newborn, I mean- who doesn’t, right? – but she was obviously in love with her sweet little babe. I was asking her questions about her experience and in the course of that conversation, she mentioned one thing that had surprised her about her labor was how much it hurt.
Well, no kidding, I thought.
She told me that she thought she had a pretty high pain tolerance, she ate right, worked out, did yoga… all the things she was “supposed” to do to prepare for an un-medicated birth. But she was left feeling genuinely surprised at how much pain there was.
She went on to explain that in her birth class, she often heard that labor was painful but that “it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle”. To be honest, my first reaction was to laugh, which we did together because she’s an awesome person. More importantly though, it made me stop and think, especially since it’s something I’ve said and heard many times myself. That exact phrase is almost rote to many of us in the birth world.
I left there feeling that tingle… I wanted to know more about this! Are we doing women a disservice? How can we better prepare women for the reality of labor? To say I was inspired would be putting in lightly. I’ve been mulling this over for a while now, talking to other birth workers and to some good friends and I think I have an answer.
We’re afraid to say the P word.
You know the one. P-A-I-N. Perhaps the most avoided four-letter word in childbirth classes across the country.
Y’all, labor hurts. It really, really hurts.
An un-medicated labor ISN’T for everyone (and that’s ok). It’s taxing, emotionally and physically. For many women, it is the hardest, most painful thing they have ever done. It takes enormous mental toughness. It takes you places within yourself that you’ve never been before. It makes us face fears we never even knew we had. But it also does something else, something wonderful. Birth gives us great opportunity.
Birth gives us the opportunity to bond on a whole new level with our partner. Opportunity to find a strength in ourselves we never knew existed. Opportunity to overcome. Opportunity to triumph.
We’ve forgotten that for women who are open and willing, birth can be a right of passage. It is a gateway into parenthood. It is sacred.
Do NOT sell women short. I don’t know about you but I don’t want, or need, anything sugar-coated. If we want women to make informed decision, let’s inform them! Let’s talk about what labor is about. Allow women to prepare and then own their experience. Allow them to triumph!
After all, pain in labor is pain with a purpose (but that’s a post for another day).
Barbara Davis’ call to become a doula began after the birth of her first child- both she and her son were healthy but the experience left her feeling more than a little let-down. From then on, she learned as much as possible about the options women have during childbirth and eventually decided to train professionally as a Birth & Postpartum Doula. She also does breastfeeding & childbirth education and placenta encapsulation, working with women and families in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. Barbara can be reached through her website at https://www.birthfortworth.com/