Red and blotchy, big and puffy, snot everywhere… her throat hurts and in a little bit she will have a head ache. She’s been crying.
Holding back your tears and scrunching your eyes will do this to you. You feel the need to even open your mouth to cry but you squeeze it shut and try to be quiet. Your body wants to relax but for any number of reasons you won’t let the tears just fall.
One day I was in my Jeep on the phone with my boyfriend, I had just pulled into our driveway and cut the engine. I was crying, this time though I wasn’t defying my body, I wasn’t clamming up and squeezing my eyes shut. I relaxed, took a deep breath to listen to what he had to say and leaned my head back against the seat. It was the first time I felt a difference in my crying. My eyes didn’t hurt, my throat wasn’t constricting where I felt the need to drink water. When I looked in the mirror before I went inside, you couldn’t even tell I had been crying. Those tears were the fattest tears I had ever cried before, they literally fell without sliding down my cheeks. When they fell, I felt free and like the crying had even been a good thing, a releasing that I needed.
If your body needs to relax and your mindset needs to be right just for crying, imagine how important it will be for your body to relax during labor. If you tighten up it might even hurt more, and it will definitely take longer.
Remember when I said that my mom used to call me Wimberly Worried? That my shoulders were always a mess? My mom was a massage therapist before she went into midwifery, she was constantly massaging my shoulders, and everything else. I didn’t appreciate it back then though, I would squirm away because it hurt too much and I would hold my breath, tightening the very muscles she was trying to loosen. One of her favorite sayings that, I’m not going to lie, kinda got on my nerves a little bit, was “No Pain, No Gain”. Back then, when I heard about birth and what my mom wanted to do for a living, I thought “What better of a situation is this phrase used in, than labor? The pain felt during labor brought about the gain of a baby! Yay. That’s just great, I can’t handle my mom giving me a massage, how am I going to be able to have a baby??”
Okay, fast forward, I’m no longer that little girl and I see birth for what it truly is. Is it pain? Or can we come up with a better word to describe it? What if, instead of saying pain, we said, strength? What if we changed our mindset and used that feeling that we used to call pain, as strength to get through that next contraction. Build it all up so that when it’s time to push, we have a whole storehouse full of strength to roar that baby out?
This could change the whole narrative! It could silence all the fears of not being able to do it. It could empower women, knowing that their body is equipping them with the very thing they need to push that baby out. Strength.