If I had to recall what it felt like to have Christian without an epidural, I would say that at first it started off totally bearable. In fact, I remember that I was dilated to a 7 and thinking, “If this only gets progressively more uncomfortable from here, I can handle this. What are all those other wimps talking about?”
Then IT happened.
The resident walked out of the room. And about a minute later it felt like someone turned the dial on the pain I was feeling from a 10 to a 10 million. And I looked at Guy and was panicked.
I was like, “What is this?!!!! This can’t be right!” And then I used all of the calming techniques I practiced to endure the pain in the next 20 minutes and was like, “Alright, get this baby out now!”
And then the nurse told me, “Honey, this is what is referred to as transition. And it hurts.” And I remember trying to force some sort of socially acceptable response out of my mouth to her because in that moment I wanted to “transition” her into a chokehold.
I would compare the pain I felt before delivering Christian to what it might feel like to well I don’t know, maybe SWALLOW A SEMI TRUCK and have the driver constantly accelerate with as much force as possible just to immediately slam on the brakes as hard as possible over and over and over again and over and over and over again as it stayed lodged in the lower region of my body.
If I am still being to vague for you, let me make it easy. I did not enjoy the pain of “natural” labor.
In fact, my sister and I still laugh about my reaction when she first walked up to me after Christian’s delivery. I grabbed her by the shirt and pulled her up really closely to my face and said these words, “WHEN YOU HAVE A BABY, GET AN EPIDURAL.”
Call me a wuss. Call me a wimp. Call it what you will, but for me there was NOTHING about that level of pain that felt natural. Or right. Or bearable.
And in the case of childbirth, I know I am not alone. It is easy for any girl to mentally start strong and remember it is all for your baby. But after 20+ hours of labor, when you are tired and have been feeling that level of excruciating pain for hours, it can get very hard to think or remember what the pain is doing for you.
Instead of feeling “natural”, it feels wrong. Like the pain system in your body is alerting you that something has gone terribly awry.
And unhelpful thoughts like,
“Wait, this can’t be normal.”
Or “How could any woman endure this?”
Or “Why in God’s name would I choose to feel this if I have the choice to not?” begin flooding your head.
But here’s the kicker about it. The irony of the whole scenario.
Labor pain is NOT some unidentified, excruciating pain without a purpose. In fact, labor pain absolutely and positively has a purpose.
It gives us precious little perfect babies.
And it IS NORMAL.
And it IS BEARABLE.
IT JUST HURTS.
And hurting isn’t fun.
So if it is human nature to not like pain even when we KNOW why we are experiencing it, what happens when we are experiencing a similar level of physical or emotional pain without any understanding of when or if it will go away?
And better yet, how do you make sense of God’s plan for you when you are praying for understanding or relief or anything that makes the pain seem easier and not really seeing any big change in the level of pain you are feeling or in the circumstances causing the pain?
Well, I have been really simmering on these questions lately because they are applicable to my own life.
And I have found that when I am experiencing pain and not seeing it alleviated through prayer or not finding understanding of what the pain may bring, I panic. Much like I did in child labor.
And just like it was not helpful for me then. It is also not helpful for me now. Believe you me.
What my panic in pain has revealed to me is that I have carried a hidden narrative in my heart since becoming a Christian…one I never knew I had.
It goes like this, “Because I love God and I know he loves me, He will ultimately prevent me from enduring intense pain and suffering for too long without showing me relief.”
Now when I write it out like that, I think and know that it sounds ludicrous. But when push comes to shove and I start feeling pain, I notice that I am shocked and saddened and semi angry with God when I am not sensing any relief through prayer.
It has caused God and I have to have several heart to hearts about who He is and who He isn’t. And while I may be the one wanting to tell Him what his role is to me, that isn’t how it works. He is the one in charge. Even though I wish I was at times.
Similar to my conversation with the nurse (whom I did not like), here is what God and I’s conversations have looked like:
Me: God, I don’t understand. Why does this have to hurt? Take it away. I know you can.
God: This is what is referred to as life. And sometimes it hurts.
And the response I have to this answer is anger. Just like I felt toward the nurse.
But that’s not the end of our conversation. It’s just the part where I get mad at Him.
Before I tell you the end, let me share with you some of the promises God makes to us in the Bible that I have been scrutinizing and studying to get me through theses times when I am feeling confusion, sadness and anger.
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you.” Psalm 50:15
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” John 14:27
“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4
“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145: 13
As I’ve examined these promises, this is what I have discovered.
HE doesn’t promise us we will always get what we want.
HE doesn’t promise us that this life will be pain free.
HE doesn’t say the definition of peace is life without pain.
HE doesn’t say that deliverance means that all circumstances are perfect.
HE doesn’t say that if we call on God, we will see immediate relief from our pain. (Even though there are times when this IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS.)
No, what He promises us is better than all of that.
What He promises us when we are in deep pain is His presence.
His ability to hold us while we are hurting.
His ability to wrap us so tightly in His love we are no longer consumed by the pain that is around us.
His ability to stand by our side in the storm so that we are overcome with peace.
And in line with these promises, here is the end of God and I’s conversation.
Me: But I want a life free from hurt.
God: I won’t give you that. I will give you more. I will give you me. And you can count on that.
And as much as that’s not what I always want.
I have to trust and keep faith that it is all that I NEED. And remember that my instinct isn’t always right.
Because I most definitely thought natural childbirth was wrong wrong wrong.
But once I held Isaac I knew that it was right, right, right.
Which leads me to believe that sometimes even the most intense pain can be a part of our journey to the most beautiful gifts of our lives. And even when we feel alone and confused, God IS WITH US every tear of the way.
I pray that if you are hurting right now or carrying some intense pain that God’s love can wrap you up and shield you. And that despite not understanding why you are in it, that you can still have the intense understanding that God is good. And loves you dearly.
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