Now that I’ve only got about 6 weeks left before my due date (and anywhere from 2-8 weeks before I deliver, given normal ranges), I’m thinking a LOT about giving birth. I won’t go into any graphic descriptions here, but I will note that the maximum dialation is about the width of a knitted swatch.
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I had in my possesion a book that I’ve been wanting to read. It’s one of those that I bought on a whim years ago at the Green Valley Book Fair and promptly forgot about. It’s called Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, written by Sandra Steingraber. I’m alternately in and out of love with the book as a whole (more on that in another post), but right now I’m in love with her empowering mediatations on giving birth.
In describing her childbirth classes and the emphasis therein on potential complications, problems and interventions, she says, “It occurs to me that reviewing all injuries that could possibly occur is probably not the tack that coaches take with their star athletes right before the big game. And it is definitely not how cancer survivors face the future. As my own mother might say, it’s all enough to make you lose your nerve.”
A few pages later, Steingraber writes about pain and our attitudes towards it. Is pain a problem to be managed, or is it a sign that you are accomplishing something remarkable? She notes the glory of the pain of mountain climbers’ burning lungs at the summit, a dancers legs as they leap into the air, and what a writer in their shoulders as they finish a chapter. Then, this: “if labor and delivery were viewed less as medical events and more as Olympic ones, this distinction would be obvious. Who, after all, would rush up to a marathon runner in the final stretch with a needleful of narcotics?”
Yes, the idea of being in pain for an unknown stretch of time scares me. But this is the first description of that pain that I’ve found that treats it as a sign of victory rather than something to hide from. And putting it in athletic terms makes sense to me. I understand very well what the final miles feel like in a marathon – it hurts, quite frankly, but you can ride that pain and suffering and know that you’re doing something amazing. (I have, of course, also heard marathon mamas say that giving birth is like running mile 25-26 over and over and over again, and the finish line keeps moving away from you.)
Regardless, these passages give me hope and some positive reinforcement to hold on to. Between this, our doula, some additional reading, my yoga classes and support from women who have gone before me, I think I can actually do this!