I wrote these thoughts on suffering in labor during March of 2017, but for whatever reason never published it. I just read it again, 6.5 years later and, interestingly enough, it’s pertinent to my current season of life. Without further delay, the following are my thoughts on suffering in labor and in life from the perspective of a newly minted single mom to 3 kiddos – a 7 year old, 3 year old, and a 1 year old… Those were some hard times.
Occasionally, I take breaks from my articles about healthy pregnancy, natural birth, or a happy postpartum and instead share what’s on my heart. Not only is it therapeutic for me to write it all down, but it’s these types of blog posts that resonate with many of you all. This post contains my thoughts on suffering in labor… and life.
Thoughts On Suffering in Labor and Life
In my current season of life, I’ve found myself struggling like never before – emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. But God has been so sweet and tender to me in this time. This last year has been one of the most painful years I’ve ever experienced, and at the same time has caused my faith to grow exponentially (James 1:2-4). Funny how that can be the case.
Proof of his love, and that he knows me so well, came from a birth analogy (Psalm 27:8). Let me explain.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog post How to Get Through Transition Without an Epidural, which describes the hardest portion of my third child’s birth.
The vocalizing I was doing was NOT working anymore. Nothing really, was working anymore. I became “that lady” in labor. I’m cold… so they put a blanket on me. I’m hot get it off! Push on my back! No, don’t touch me!
No position felt any better. It was awful. It felt like fire. Fire on my belly, and fire on my back. Hot, burning fire.
At one point I decided that I needed to take a different approach because I was not coping well. So, instead of moving around and vocalizing (which is what I had been doing) I decided to sit still on the hospital bed and not vocalize at all. I decided to stop fighting the sensations in my body, but to sit, drop my shoulders, and be still and quiet.
Now, to the observer it probably looked like I was feeling quite a bit better, but it was still terrible. Despite outward appearances, it wasn’t any better, because the contractions were still hell. I think at that point my nurse even turned up the Pitocin because she thought my labor was getting weaker.
However, after doing a few contractions like this I actually started to feel a little bit less out of control. My contractions spaced out the tiniest bit and I even got to doze off between contractions.
It took courage, but when I decided to stop using my energy to escape or “cope” with the pain, but to submit to my suffering, my suffering actually decreased.
I had a choice – to try to make the sensations of labor less intense or painful (which actually was contributing to my suffering) or I could decide to cease fighting what I was feeling and just sit in it.
And after awhile, I progressed to 10 cm and by the grace of God I brought new life into this world.
Symptoms of Suffering
Just like in labor, in life I have a choice. I can choose to thrash around trying to escape my physical and emotional suffering. I can routinely blink away the tears, online shop, drink those extra glasses of wine, scroll for hours, and/or binge watch entire seasons of shows. I can keep myself busy, my mind and hands full, doing everything to avoid the pain.
“I need to find something, anything, to make this pain go away.”
What happens when you take a beach ball and try to force it under the water? Eventually it explodes to the surface, whether you like it or not. Our “beach balls” exploding may look like:
- emotionally numb
- lack of self-control
- unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment
- desperately seeking justice or revenge
- acting stubborn and arrogant
- entertaining toxic thoughts, etc.
I Have a Choice
Where is my hope? Is my hope in my ability to rescue myself from this situation? But what if I can’t? Then what?
But in life, just like in labor, I have a choice. I can fight the pain and suffering, looking for anything to ease the pain, or I can choose to sit in my pain and relax, even though everything around me is screaming “tense up!”. (Lamentations 3:22-33)
I can choose to let the pain wash over me and allow it to do its work. I can admit I don’t have what it takes, become vulnerable, and understand that I can’t always rescue myself. (Romans 7:18-19)
By coming to the end of myself and surrendering, I create the space for God to work and provide the miracle of hope and restoration. (Lamentations 3:55-57) In my surrender, humility, devastation, and pain – in that seemingly broken place – I can find the place of hope. (Zechariah 9:12)
It doesn’t all depend on me. (What a relief.)
THIS is what it means to be crucified with Christ. (Matthew 10:38-39) THIS is how I become a new creation. THIS is how I allow God to change me from the inside out. (Romans 12:2)
Once I surrender to the pains of childbirth, of this life, and come to the end of myself, it is here where things begin to move forward. Here is where new life, healing, and hope beings.
Bible Verses for Hope in Suffering
The following are some of the Bible verses I mentioned above that have pointed to the giver of hope when things seemed bleak.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 (NLT)
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” Lamentations 3:22-33 (NLT)
“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” Zechariah 9:12 (ESV)
“But I called upon your name, O Lord, from deep within the well, and you heard me! You listened to my pleading; you heard my weeping! Yes, you came at my despairing cry and told me not to fear.” Lamentations 3:55-57 (TLB)
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)