Maybe it’s because I’m 36 weeks pregnant, but I’ve been thinking a lot about pain lately. Pain management, the different kinds of pain, the purpose and result of pain- all of it. There is something sobering, frightening even, about the last weeks of a pregnancy. Both times, I’ve described these final moments as the “time bomb phase” of my pregnancy. I know there is an end- that pain is coming, I just don’t know how or when it will happen. I also know there is a beautiful, life-changing reward for that pain, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Pain, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional, is a funny thing. We are hardwired, it seems, to avoid it at all costs. As a culture, we are taught that it is our own happiness, first and foremost, that matters. And isn’t pain the enemy of happiness?
So I avoid the hard conversation with a friend out of fear that I will be uncomfortable. I let an issue go unresolved in my marriage because facing it will hurt. I ignore the still, small voice telling me to let go of a harmful habit in my life because growing isn’t easy. I know this running isn’t really in my best interest, but I am also excellent at tricking myself. For a little while.
At the end of all my running though, pain, like so many things in life, is unavoidable. Hard times will come, difficult choices have to be made, and eventually, labor pains will start.
But what if we learned to view pain through a lens other than fear? What if we believed the hard questions and painful moments had a purpose in our lives- that they were driving us toward something better? Would that change how we faced our pain? I believe it would.
When I was in labor the first time, I was shocked by how bad the pain actually was. I felt a little bit betrayed, honestly, because even after all my research and mental pep talks, I still didn’t expect it to be that bad. And now that I’m about to do it all over again, the fear sneaks in. I know, in the rational part of my mind, that fear won’t change anything- labor happens and it hurts. But sometimes the rational part of my mind (smaller than I care to admit at times, especially at nine months pregnant) gets trumped by the what-if’s. “What if” turns to worry, worry turns to fear, and fear turns to panic. If I let it. The same is true for any painful situation- labor just happens to be foremost on my mind.
However, I think there is a better situation than fearing the pain. This time around, I’m choosing a different approach. I’m choosing to embrace the pain (as paradoxical as that feels). No, I don’t believe pain is the enemy of happiness. I believe that sometimes, pain- coupled with hope and the belief that it serves a greater purpose- leads us to our greatest happiness.
Knowing that my body is doing exactly what it should be doing will get me through the pain. At the end of it all, the most precious, heart-melting, beautiful little bundle will be placed on my chest, and then- only after the pain- will it all be worth it.