I usually do a quick update and then move on, but I have something on my mind. Being back has had its challenges. I have been really busy trying to get everything straight. I have been catching up with friends and family and the same questions organically come up. "So are you getting an epidural?" I respond in a quieter tone (hoping not to be boxed into some kind of stereotype) of "No, I am going to attempt natural birthing." I am either met with "don't try to be strong", a bit of laughter, or a startled look followed by words that are dredged up to sound supportive. I have not met many women so far that have elected to birth naturally. I have started to get a bit discouraged and have begun at times to doubt my own strength.
One of the biggest reasons I have decided to go natural is because I want to be connected to my body in this experience. I feel like our culture is so obsessed with being comfortable that most people never even explore the option of natural birth. I am not passing judgment on individuals, and I am aware that there are complex factors and priorities that influence this very important and personal decision. I only wish there was more curiosity when it comes to being connected with our bodies as women. I had a friend tell me God made our bodies to deliver and God will give you all you need in that time.
The intricacy of our bodies is incredible. I often find myself choosing other things over being in touch with the body God gave me. To feel is to know one is alive, but so often I choose numbness over the threat of pain, I choose isolation over the threat of broken intimacy, I choose religious routine over the threat of spiritual hardship. But in forgoing these things, we miss out on the goodness God has for us in those dark places.
In connecting with our bodies, we can become who God has made us to be. Food and sex are two ways we connect to our bodies. We eat good food because it is pleasureful and nourishing. We engage sexually because in orgasm there is delight in one another and our bodies. Food and sex are easy sells because the perceived advantages outweigh the costs. But labor is harder because we are culturally so terrified of pain. While few would describe labor as pleasurable, God still gives in it a measure of goodness and joy. In labor, the body releases hormones and chemicals that serve as natural pain killers and endorphins. It is a hard place, but one in which God still shows up.
Will and I recently watched The Business of Being Born. While I don't agree with everything in the documentary, it really showed all aspects of laboring, not just pain. I think it is so easy for me to get so caught up in pain that I can't see the other advantages to laboring naturally.
I am sure there are so many mixed emotions involved in labor, but for some reason it seems that pain is the one imprinted on our minds. It is often the only emotion we see in movies or on TV. It is much like sex: when we only see one side of sex, it is easy to think that is all there is. In reality, there is a measure of tenderness and connectedness that is rarely depicted on Hollywood screens.
My hope is to promote curiosity and further understanding of our bodies as women. The chance to work with my body and be a part of bringing a baby into this world is one of the greatest privileges of being a woman. While labor will be scary and painful I am trusting that the full experience will be so much bigger than those things.
(Thanks to Will for his wisdom and insight as we wrestle through this topic)