Pain Management

I've been trying to think, lately (when I'm not busy slamming my fist onto the kitchen counter so hard it makes my arm tingle), about how I handle the stress of taking care of these two cuties, and how I could handle it better, i.e. without becoming so ridiculously impatient and angry so much of the time. Let me talk about this in a completely roundabout way:

After I posted Iris's birth story, Meika asked:

Was there a particular pain-control method you used? Did you do anything different than you had the first time around?

Before Ingrid was born, A and I attended Bradley Method classes, which I ended up feeling lukewarm about. The teacher was a pretty dogmatic Bradley Method believer. The right and proper way to get through a contraction was to lie on your side with your arms and legs in a specific position, relax completely, close your eyes, and stay quiet. Most of that (um, minus the "quiet" part) ended up being useful to me, but during the class it bothered me that it was presented as the only way.

The most useful part of the Bradley class, even on top of the inordinate amount of reading I did about birth, was the information about what to expect during labor and how to respond to various interventions that might be offered in the hospital. We got an earful about the untrustworthy medical profession, which I didn't exactly appreciate, but we also got a really good schooling about how x is likely to lead to y and z, so if you don't want z don't do x if you can help it. That, along with a terrific doula and a large amount of luck, is what I credit for my being able to pull off two drug-free hospital births.

What I ended up doing both times was a kind of modified Bradley pain control: as relaxed as possible, but also making a lot of noise.

I also loved the Birthing from Within book, which gives the advice: "Be curious." I tried to pay attention to the pain rather than attempt to block it out; notice where it was, how it felt, how it was changing. As labor wore on, this became more difficult impossible. But for much of labor it was a good technique for me because it matched my motivation for wanting to go drug-free in the first place: I wanted to know what it felt like to give birth.

Shortly before Ingrid was born, we watched the movie Touching the Void, and this was probably the most unusual part of my pain management plan. The film (and the book, which is awkwardly written but with such a devastating scene of manly sweetness at the end it's worth picking up) is about Joe Simpson, a mountain climber who made a three-day, five-mile trek out of a crevasse and across a glacier after being left for dead with a broken leg, no food, and practically no water. I know people do the impossible all the time in this world (i.e. give birth to babies and raise them to be well-adjusted adults), but this was such an extraordinary example of what can be endured if you're just willing to do it one step at a time, I asked A to remind me about it during labor, and he did, both times. Remember Joe Simpson, he'd breathe into my ear in the midst of a horrible contraction.

Answering Meika's question, I started to think that my daily "pain" (and maybe that shouldn't even be in quotes) is not so very different from the pain of labor. It's a natural part of having children. I deal with it, mostly, by the book (because, hey, books! I love them. Rules. I follow them), but with an unauthorized amount of noise (just ask A). And I would be well-advised to be more curious, to float above it more, and to remember Joe Simpson and take it one little delirious broken-legged step at a time.

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