Sounds nice doesn’t it? Especially right now as I am taking refuge in my basement from this heat wave. Ice cubes and cold showers seem attractive. But as I found out in my prenatal class holding ice can be very painful and an interesting way to prepare for labour.
“When I play the chime you will pick up the ice and hold it for one minute. That is about how long your contractions will be. Focus on your breathing.”
No problem I thought as the teacher gave instructions.
Ping went the chime and up came the ice into my hand. About one second of feeling refreshed was followed by many seconds of intense burning pain. “Can I switch hands?” I cried out. My teacher smiled knowingly. “Your brain is going to look for ways out during labour too.”
I felt panic, what if I can’t do this? What if I can’t make it through labour? I felt like crying.
Ping went the chime again and down went my hand with great relief.
“Next time you pick the ice I want you to practice something called non focused awareness. Notice the pain but equally notice other things around you. The sounds of traffic, pattern on the carpet etc…”. That was a bit better. I have never paid more attention to the sounds of traffic ever before!
Picking up the ice became a weekly ritual and each time got a little easier. I think the easiest was when we were instructed to notice and focus on the pain instead of trying to distract ourselves. My mind was going to the pain anyway so I was able to just let go instead of fighting it. “Be curious about the pain. Notice what it is doing.” Gentle curious compassion. “When your baby is screaming at you be gently curious. What does the scream sound like? Instead of reacting to it communicate with it.” I don’t think that will be easy but it is a good concept to practice.
Another time I held the ice while Forest worked on comforting me. He started to say encouraging words like “you can do this.” My reply was “be quiet! Don’t talk to me! Just stroke my back”. Lol. Poor guy. Then the roles reversed and I was supposed to comfort Forest. I realized how hard it was. He was silent with his mind in another place. I stroked his arm and back all the while wondering is this helping? What does he need? Being a care giver can feel very vulnerable too. An invaluable lesson as I help Forest help me.
Another pain coping practice strategy came from a fellow classmate. “Have an ice cold shower for one minute.” I tried it and screamed. I don’t want to torture myself too much.
My mind usually wants to run away from and avoid pain, of course. But here I am anticipating a process of great pain and I have heard enough parenting stories to know that raising kids after birthing them is not all sunshine and roses either.
“…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 ESV
I haven’t made it to the rejoicing stage yet. Lol. But I have seen how going through
painful experiences instead of trying to run away has been helpful.
I don’t think about labour often because I really have no idea how painful it will be. Nothing, not even ice or special contraction impulse machines that have been put on poor guys to imitate labour actually compares to the real thing. I know though that I will get through it with a wonderful prize at the end and I know that I won’t be alone.