“It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it, doctor?””
Dr. Grantly Dick-Read had asked a woman who had just given birth why she had refused the routine chloroform he had offered her (chloroform preceded epidurals as an anesthetic during childbirth in the 1940’s). Her question left him perplexed and initiated his deep research into the nature of pain in childbirth.
When I read this sentence, I tasted it over and over again. I said it aloud to see what it sounded like. I stared at the words. I tried to feel the experience of her words in my body that had suffered so much during my first labor.
“I could feel so much life force on each rush I couldn’t believe it. I wondered, is it this heavy for everyone? I guessed so and that blew my mind.”
This is the account of a woman attended by renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin. Her words echoed the deep feeling of heavy earth like energy that had moved like a wave through my body. It blew my mind too. What was that feeling? Why didn’t my contractions feel like this the first time? Why have I not heard other women describe them this way?
And furthermore…a rush? What the hell is a rush? Is this the word she’s using for a contraction?
The words swirled around in my mind banging into one another, creating a ruckus I could not ignore. I wanted to feel a “rush” when I began labor that took me to a place of freedom and exhilaration like these women. Not dragged down into the depths of hell in a prison of pain and weakness that left me vulnerable to epidurals, C-sections, and trauma.
But, these were just words. Just words on a page. Then, Marie Mongan shattered the impasse in my mind.
“Motivation is closely tied to your intent and your self-image. It is said that a woman births pretty much the same way that she lives life.”
A deep heavy silence came over me, my eyes widened, and I took in a breath, bracing against the imperfections I sensed bubbling up to the surface.
How do I live life?
I clench my teeth at night; I am frustrated when I see the deep teeth marks stamped into my mouthguard. I take care of others before myself. I abandon things easily, especially when I feel defeated, and am endlessly haunted by my unfinished projects. I listen to my intuition and the flow of things and when I can sense something important, even if I don’t know what it is, I will determinedly pursue wherever it leads. Despite this adventurous and daring spirit, I am often distrustful. I do not like sharing my internal world or letting go. Surrender is a begrudging member of my vocabulary.
The words began to take shape in my body. I saw my life, my first birth. I saw my journey into motherhood and the way I was with my 1 year old. My desire to have a better labor, of wanting to feel less pain had led me to so much more.
“Words create thoughts and emotions; repeatedly entertaining the same thoughts conjures up feelings. Over time, these feelings become beliefs. We begin to act out those beliefs by our behavior. Our behavior shapes our experiences.”
I could hear my coach, Nikki Jade, in this passage from Mary Mongan. In order to feel less pain in labor I had to create a new vocabulary. A new vocabulary that would wake me up from the nightmare of my prior labor, of the stories I had heard, of my expectations.
The woman who declined chloroform wasn’t afraid. She didn’t know she was supposed to be.
I was done being afraid, of labor and delivery and of this next phase of motherhood.
Remembering the earthquake-like Braxton Hicks, no wait…”rush”? That didn’t feel quite right… “surge”? Still weird, wait a minute. Remembering the “wave” I felt move through me? Yes. The word landed gently and clearly in my body. No more contractions, I was experiencing waves from here on out.
I felt the words unite in my body, mind, and spirit: Bring. It. On.
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