I was terrified of the pain of childbirth. I suppose, in the way people in the medical field are aware of everything that could possibly go wrong with a “simple procedure” I also knew. I overheard the rehearsal of a horror story of labour and delivery since I was a young child. My mother did have a complicated birth experience and besides permanent physical consequences I think it left her with some PTSD. But listening to the story of my traumatic birth being told over and over also left me with a lot of fear of having children.
Fear magnifies pain. Fear teaches us to watch for the first signs of pain, like we are keeping an eye on the street for an expected, but unwelcome guest to arrive. Fear motivates us to prepare defensive tactics in our heads for attacks that may never occur. Fear teaches us to see pain as a monster that cannot be contained by any device at our disposal. The only thing we can do is evade it or outrun it – or try to.
Here’s the thing. I had never asked myself, “If the pain of childbirth is so overwhelming, why do women intentionally have a second or third or even more children?”
What I didn’t know about pain was that I could have a kind of peace in the middle of it. I was working. I was accomplishing something magnificent. When I had my second son there was no time for epidurals or any form of medication like the first time. All of a sudden it hit me that pain was not my master. I hated it, but I could defy it. I growled and pushed right into the center of it it knowing that joy was about to burst forth. Joy was set before me.
When I held my son in my arms I was filled with a golden euphoria of joy on the other side like I had never known before.
I hate to see anyone suffer. I am a sensitive mercy-motivated person. I feel other people’s pain. If someone near to me injures a leg, I limp. I would rather trade places than see one of my children or grandchildren in pain, and yet I will fail them if I don’t tell them that they are stronger than both physical and mental pain. Learning to push through opens a pathway to more richness of experience than we have known before.
One of the passages of scripture that continues to free me from the fear of unpleasant circumstances, from the dentist’s needles to opening my heart to weep with those who grieve deeply, is this one:
The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One. (Philippians 4:5b-7 The Voice)
The peace of God is, like God, wholy other, supernatural, beyond expected human experience. His peace is not dependent on living a life free of discomfort. His peace is beyond human understanding – which means we can give up the need to try to understand it.
When you realize that you live in his love as his much-adored child you don’t need to cry out and demand that every negative situation be immediately relieved. When you hear the voice of your Lord say, “I will never leave you,” you can choose to walk deliberately into the storm before you.
Jesus says, “I’ve got this. Trust me,” and somehow, even though it is not logical, you do.
Whether the storm is a chance for him to demonstrate divine healing or deliverance through a miracle or to first prove to you that you are more capable of relying on his strength than you thought, remembering and thanking him for grace that has brought you safe thus far will continue to bring you through to the gold on the other side.
Even my mother chose to have another baby.
My fourth grade teacher, who taught me the beauty of songs of lament, sang this one for me. I have never forgotten how it touched my heart.
Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.