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Cursed by Natural ChildbirthBradley Gordon / Flickr

Cursed by Natural Childbirth

Feb 3 2014
They say labor makes women feel empowered. So why do I feel so broken and weak?

When mothers describe their experiences with natural childbirth, in books and movies and blog posts touting its benefits, they'll often describe feeling empowered, exhilarated, strong.

When I gave birth to my second child, one of my nurses affirmed, "Girl, you're a real woman." Never once did I cry out for an epidural; miraculously, I didn't even consider asking for one. Pain meds had no place in my schema.

But here's the thing: Natural childbirth is really, really excruciating. While I understand that many women indeed feel empowered by delivering new life into the world, I don't share the feeling. Childbirth is the most painful, breaking experience I have ever had. And, I must remember, why shouldn't it be? "To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children....'" (Gen. 3:16). Like my sister, Eve, I am under the Curse.

I prepared well for my son Jesse's birth two years ago. I went to the classes, read lots of Ina May and the like, even held ice cubes on my wrist for various lengths of time to practice pain management (and did pretty well with those cubes, I might add). But at a point during the long and exhausting labor, I lost the sense of peace and control I had worked so hard to establish. In that moment, I screamed, stricken and defeated, and felt a dark sense of failure envelop me.

The pushing seemed eternal, and while Jesse's appearing brought great relief and joy, my body was spent and my spirit broken. The expectations I had going into labor—expectations of what labor would be like and expectations of how I would handle it—had been majorly amiss. The physical and psychological pain was nearly unbearable.

Thankfully, I worked through the psychological junk from that experience, and my daughter's labor and delivery were free of those cobwebs. I screamed plenty, free and unashamed of myself, and the labor was mercifully short. I was ready to push when we pulled up to the hospital, and Ruth was born 20 minutes later.

In the midst of delivery I again felt broken and completely incapable of the task at hand, possibly in new ways because of the unrelenting speed. I can honestly say that I don't know how it happened, how she came out of my body, because at the time that seemed impossible. Despite the brevity of my labor, the process felt perhaps even more painful than my first. I was at the mercy of those brutal waves and could barely catch my breath.

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