Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. –Charles Dickens
Pain is never permanent. –Teresa of Avila
When I was nervously anticipating the birth of my first child a little over 17 years ago, a wonderful woman (Karen) from my church gave me some advice that helped me through each of my deliveries with little to no pain medication. By the time I gave birth to my third child, the delivery room nurse told my husband, “you would never know she is about to deliver a baby. She doesn’t look like she’s in labor at all.” What was the secret? Go with the pain.
Karen told me when I was in labor to imagine how a turtleneck stretches when we put it on over our head. She said to think about labor and delivery the same way. She said, “The pain of childbirth has a purpose, so don’t fight it. Go with the pain. By going with the pain, your body is able to do what it needs to do through the birthing process. Fighting the pain only serves to make us tense which, in turn, makes the pain worse.” So, I went into my first delivery room armed with relaxation music and a bunch of other things I had read about that could help assuage my apprehension, only to toss it all aside as I focused on breathing in on the count of four, breathing out on the count of four, and remembering what Karen said. I was so focused on the numbers in my head and the visualization of the turtleneck stretching over my head (enabling me to go with the pain instead of fighting it), that labor and delivery was probably the easiest part of having children. (I find raising them much more difficult!)
I recently mentioned this piece of advice… going with the pain… to a counselor friend of mine, as I was explaining some of the junk I’m working through. She wisely advised me not to give up… to use that same advice in my life now. Don’t give up working through the emotions and the pain that surface as introspection, prayer, and discussion bring difficult events to the surface. Go with the pain, for it has a purpose. Healing comes on the other side.
Some days are better than others. For example, I just finished reading a wonderful set of books by Francine Rivers (Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream), which made me sob and weep more often than not. It brought to the forefront so many emotions… of love lost, relationships gone awry, insecurity, not measuring up, miscommunication, etc. Her Mother’s Hope reminded me of all of the ambitious dreams I had when I was young and all of the places I was able to travel in Europe. It took me back to a time of adventure, excitement, and unending promise. As I continued to read, memories surfaced of intense love and passion… the joy of having met my soul mate, the impact of knowing I had encountered someone who had changed my life forever… the worry associated with raising children and how I don’t want to mess up. Along with the memories came moments of pain.
My instinct, more often than not, is to run away from the pain… to stop the memories… to wish away what was; but some of those same memories contain immense joy and love, and I want to remember those things more than anything else. It is in those memories that I realize I am capable of loving. It is those memories that remind me I was at one time deeply loved by another for simply being me. I didn’t have to give until there was nothing left in me, nor did I have to pretend to be something I wasn’t; I was loved for the simplicity of being myself.
I’m not sure how life became so complicated as the years have passed, but I do know this: I want to be healed, so I am going to once again go with the pain… this time to birth a new Lori Lynn. It may be a messy process, but I am hoping the end result will be well worth it.
In the arms of Jehovah-Rapha,
Dear Lord… I so often want to fight the pain. I’m tired of hurting emotionally. I’m weary of carrying a neverending load of responsibility. I long for carefree days and joy-filled moments. When my heart feels heavy, help me to remember that pain has a purpose; and if I go with the pain, it will birth something wonderful in the end. Amen.