Monday, July 11, 2011

Birth Pains

" 'All this is only the beginning of the birth pangs.'
"Birth pains are an image of something painful that is bringing about something better. The price for bringing about something better is to go through the pain of birth. Male gods create by a flick of their creative finger. Female gods create by labor pains. Patriarchs seem to think that birth pains are unnecessary—at least for them. That’s why we have been able to avoid so much of the Gospel, I am afraid.
"If we had an image of God as a great Mother who is birthing (Romans 8:22), I think birth pains would have been much more understood. A woman who has had a child understands something I will never understand: the necessary connection between pain and life—and she might well know it in the very cells of her body."
Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 370, day 383

Reading this devotional from Richard Rohr this morning is comforting me. I have run into a snag or two, as I shepherd the book and video projects along, and at times, I become discouraged.

Things have actually moved so well with both projects that it's been surprising, on the whole. Doors have opened, people have been willing to help, free with supportive comments and input, and generally positive about the entire endeavor. Every time I knock on a door (figuratively speaking), it has either opened, or a "window" nearby has opened, instead. In fact, it's gone so smoothly that I tend to assume that the snags, resistance or moments of difficulty that rarely arise indicate that "something is wrong." Typical of "magical thinking," (Joan Didion's phrase) that everything is supposed to go smoothly all the time.

Look around! That is not even true in nature; why should it be in human life and work? Things do go wrong, and many birth-experiences involve pain. Father Rohr provides this reminder about human birth. Even though it was over 16 years ago that I last gave birth to a baby, I do remember that pain.

David was born via Cesarean section. I was trying to have him "naturally," and resisted all forms of assistance for as long as possible. Big mistake, by the way. After 18 hours of labor (many of them under the effects of pitocin, a labor-inducing drug), and without pain relief, I gave in, and asked for an epidural. That was a smart move...David was born 18 hours after that, by emergency Cesarean section. He had the umbilical cord wrapped three times around his neck. "Natural" childbirth was not physically possible. The pain of the first 18 hours changed my life-perspective. I had not known that such physical pain existed on earth.
David's first photograph
When Katie was born, she was delivered by VBAC - not a Cesarean section. I hear that this is less common nowadays, but 16 years ago, the prevalent thinking was to try to do it as "naturally" as possible.
Katie, moments after she was first handed to me
After our children were born, my sister, who has never given birth, asked me what labor felt like. "Like someone is trying to open your womb with a crowbar - from the inside," I remember telling her.

I'm thankful for this reminder that some of the best things in life require us to endure pain so they can be born. Pain doesn't necessarily mean that we are doing something wrong. There are times when pain does indicate that a change of course is in order; for example, touching a hot stove and feeling the burn is a clear signal to step back. Pain can be a reminder to open one's heart for directions, in case a change of course is needed, but "pain" doesn't automatically signal "mistake." Perhaps it signals, "Listen;" perhaps it is a reminder to pause, rest or to re-commit what we are doing to God, to whom everything belongs.

"Jesus said to his Apostles:
'...whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.' " - Matthew 10


Erin said...

Beautiful and what a wonderful reminder....thank you for sharing.

AnnDeO said...

I took a lot from this devotional. I had a pretty extensive surgery two weeks ago and I have been "listening" to my body and the pain to guide me to recovery. I am so proud of you and the book and video project. I still think of you as one brave courageous, yet vulnerable woman. Many Blessings.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Hi Karen,
You always give me some sort of life lesson here....reading about the pain..the pain we must endure in our lives. Oh, brings back memories. (I had some recent physical pains that I could only compare with contractions!)
I hope the rest of your project goes well..that those doors and windows stay wide open for my sweet friend!

Elizabeth said...

I love the way your mind works, how you weave your faith and your experience together in new and often startling ways. Thank you for this post. I will think about it for a long time.

Jim said...

The project video and the book will be and are a labour of love. I look forward to your journey and admire your strength and dedication. Hang in there Karen.....these 'pauses' are a test and you will shine through.

jennifer said...

I remember my friend, Trish, telling me about her experience with her seven-year-old daughter, who had broken her arm and had to have her arm reset without drugs. Instead of trying to cajole her or distract her or tell her how strong she was, etc., she simply said, "Sophia, let the pain be pain."

You have such a wise, honest and powerful way of speaking about pain. You look it full in the face, which somehow takes the "big," and a measure of the fear, out of it -- and you open yourself (and us readers) to it ... to what it can signal, what it can tell us and how it's not always something to be regretted, feared, panicked about or avoided. That it is part of life -- part of, often, the best things in life.

Thank you -- I needed to hear this and to meditate upon it.


Karen said...

Pain in life...the percussion, comfort in Christ...the melody, our response to Him...the harmony. It all goes together, and makes some kind of music, doesn't it. Some sing a better song than others. I put you in that category.

Kay said...

I'm so thankful your projects have been going well..although I know it is painful to bring back and walk through so many of the things you're having to write about. Hugs, my friend. : )

deb colarossi said...

This was a marvel.
As are you.