A Pregnant Lady's Thoughts on Suffering

Well, as it turns out there's still time to enter the baby pool to win a copy of Haley and Daniel's new ebook: Feast. (Since I haven't had this baby yet.) It isn't even my due date until Wednesday, so I really shouldn't complain. But I will anyway, just a bit. My entry in the pool would have said Monday, and while there are still four hours of Monday left as I write this, it's not looking all that likely.

I was thinking that I would be happy to have all of our schoolwork and my errands and projects wrapped up last week and have a few quiet days to relax before the baby comes, but as it turns out I'm not very good at relaxing and I'm just antsy and and want this baby to come already so I'll have something to do. I told you guys I was crazy.

Anyway, as I sit around (or walk and walk and walk around) waiting to see if any little tummy bubble will turn into a contraction, I've had time to reflect a bit on my own take on physical suffering as it relates to childbirth. It's been on my mind ever since I read Christy's take on trusting God during childbirth and one of Haley's essays in Feast, in which she talks about how scared she was of childbirth until she finally got so big and pregnant and uncomfortable that she was willing to take her chances with labor.

this isn't me, but it seems about right

I had the exact same experience. When I was pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to have a natural childbirth, but I was the first among our siblings or close friends to be having a baby, so I really didn't know what would happen. It was very scary to know that I was inching closer and closer to what was surely going to be a painful experience, and to dread and desire it at the same time. Eventually I just got so uncomfortable being pregnant that it didn't seem like labor could possibly be worse. But, really, I viewed it more as a physical challenge than anything else. I figured if people could do it, then I could. And I did.

I should say here that I really believe that different people are naturally better suited for different challenges. Obviously all women used to attempt natural childbirth, but I'm sure it was very traumatic for some. I seem to be particularly well suited for the physical challenges of pregnancy and unmedicated childbirth. I absolutely understand that other women are not, and I do not begrudge them whatever means they need to use. You have to do what works for you.

But, as I was saying, with my first two, I viewed the natural childbirth process as a physical challenge to be conquered. Run a marathon, check. Natural childbirth, check.

It wasn't until I was expecting my third that I began to think of it in terms an an opportunity for suffering that I could offer up for myself and others. And, really, what better opportunity could there be? Childbirth is an intense physical suffering, but for a finite amount of time and without lasting trauma (for me, so far). Plus you get an extraordinary payoff at the end.

Even with my first two births, before I had a concept of redemptive suffering, I willingly endured the physical pain of childbirth in order to a) have a baby and b) not be pregnant anymore. But with my third, I was able to prayerfully add another dimension to the experience that really made it richer and more meaningful for me, even though I would point to that as my most painful birth experience.

I have been blessed with excellent physical health. I don't suffer from backaches or migraines or Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so pregnancy and labor are my big chance to attempt to unite my suffering to Christ on the cross. And, to be honest, I'm a lot better at making the big effort to mindfully suffer through labor than I am at being cheerful when I'm tired or my kids are just driving me crazy.

The point is, my labors with my first two were a missed opportunity. I was going to suffer anyway, but I didn't have any intentions in mind. So my suffering wasn't meaningful in the way it could have been.

In the comments of one of my birth story posts, Colleen pointed out that I never really mentioned the suffering part of my labors and she wondered if she was the only natural childbirth gal to kinda lose it at the end there. Well . . . she's not. I do usually lose it at the end. I hate the pushing part. I'm always convinced I'm going to just rip right in half (although I've never required more than a couple of stitches).

So that's the part I'm going to try to focus on this time. I want to find that trust, even at the really scary part at the end. And I want to offer it up.

I'm blessed to be having all these babies with my husband by my side. He's a Catholic and a Marine, and both Catholics and Marines understand that there are things in this life well worth the physical suffering they require. Honestly, I can't imagine what it would be like were our roles reversed and I had to watch him in acute pain. His cancer treatments were a much quieter suffering. I'd like to think I would rise to the occasion. He certainly does. He gives me the strength and confidence I need, and he's the only person I can bear to have talk to me once labor gets serious.

Even after going though it as many times as I have, I'm still apprehensive about going into labor. I've done it before, so I know it's going to hurt. I just can't remember how much it's going to hurt, which is an odd feeling. Despite that, I still really am looking forward to it, but now it's for three reasons: a) to get a baby, b) to not be pregnant anymore, and c) to be able to offer my suffering for my intentions and yours.

So, if I can pray for you during this labor, please leave a comment. It can be as specific or vague as you'd like, God will know. You're also welcome to email me at helpdesk@catholicallyear.com if you prefer. And if you haven't entered the baby pool, leave a comment over there too! Someone is going to win a copy of a great book, it might as well be you.