Pain, Pleasure and Childbirth


Throughout all of my pregnancies I’ve spent the majority of the time processing fear.  I’ve come to know, all too well, the inevitable link between fear and pain in birthing.  So throughout this pregnancy I’ve been contemplating the opposing natures of fear and love.  If fear causes pain in childbirth, can love cast it out?  Or is pain just part of this rite of passage?

Tonight I’m contemplating something deeper… if fear causes pain in childbirth, can love cause pleasure?  Raise your hand if you’ve heard of “Ecstatic” or “Orgasmic” birth?  I had before, but I hadn’t given much thought to it.  I think during previous pregnancies the concept was just so far beyond where I was at the time that it wasn’t relevant to me.  Honestly, I was just trying to deal with fear well enough to go one night without a panic attack, or to maybe to not feel like I was going to throw up every time the thought of birth struck me… which was all of the time.  Thanks to Hypnobabies my last labor was quite healing.  The labor was painless and relaxing.  It really was beautiful.  Of course, that was the only time I’ve experienced 1st stage labor (my first two were the fast and “furious” type), maybe 1st stage is just not that difficult, but whatever… it was wonderful and I loved it.  Once the intensity began to climb and I came into active labor and transition I lost my focus and went into my typical mindset of suffering and wanting someone to save me.  When it came time to push and birth I was fighting and hanging on for dear life.  So with this birth I’ve wanted to take it a step further and have, not only a painless labor, but a painless birth as well.  Throughout the last labor I was very aware of the fact that I absolutely COULD be in pain.  I COULD choose to perceive what I was feeling as pain.  But that’s what it really came down to, altered perception.  Instead of fearing the contractions, I welcomed them.  Instead of interpreting them as painful, I labeled them for what they really are:  pressure, tightening and stretching.  Over and over and over I said to myself, “this is God bringing you your baby.”  And each time I said this I would envision the hand of God gently sweeping my baby lower and lower so that he could come into my arms.  When I envisioned God’s literal hand in my birth, and acknowledged that we were “in His hands” I felt safe.  When fear would try to creep in I would remind myself that God was giving me my healing birth, that whatever was happening was exactly what this baby and I needed to complete this journey.   Long story short, that labor made me believe that if it’s possible to alter my perception and have a painless labor, it ought to be possible to do the same for birth.  And so, this has been my journey throughout this pregnancy, to explore ways that that might be possible.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the love aspect.  I love my baby more than I can express, but I don’t necessarily feel like that alone will cast pain out of birthing him.  The sacrifice I’ve gone through to bring him into the world is one of love, but in past pregnancies and births that has not cast out fear.  Is it a matter of loving myself?  Is it in the loving and acceptance of the process of birth?  I don’t have all the answers on this, but one thing is for sure, I’ve learned A LOT about love during this time.  And that is probably the greatest gift I could have gotten from, or along with, this child.  He gets to be born into a much happier marriage and a more peaceful home.  Lucky boy!  And lucky me because my love for my husband has grown immeasurably during this time.

The second thing I’ve spent a lot of time pondering is how sex and birth are tied together, and how this might affect someone, such as myself, who still has a lot of issues from past sexual abuse.  Tonight I was pondering how when women learn to embrace their sexuality they open themselves to the possibility of having pleasurable births.  The same energy and the same organs that make a baby, birth a baby.  Birth is essentially an exaggerated sexual encounter.  There is such a fine line between pleasure and pain.  Have you ever had an orgasm so intense you thought you couldn’t handle it?  Have you ever had an orgasm that made you cry?  I have.  I would imagine an intense orgasm, occurring for an extended period of time would be incredibly overwhelming and could very easily been perceived as painful and causing suffering.  So my thoughts in relation to sexual abuse and birth are this:  I’ve always described birth as being “hard” pain, intense, violent and traumatizing.  If my first experiences with sex were, in fact, violent and traumatizing, it is by no means a stretch to see how I would perceive birth the same way.  Especially considering that during birth we are more “open” and therefor vulnerable than we are at any other time in our life.

The third thing I’m pondering, as of tonight, is the power, or the “intensity” of birth.  When you are studying “painless” childbirth, “ecstatic” birth and “orgasmic” birth you quickly learn that how women experience these are vastly unique.  But rarely is there ever a woman who claims to have a birth that is without intensity, and I’ve often said that it isn’t even so much the pain that is hard, it’s the intensity of it.  From my first birth I’ve described it as feeling like the greatest force in nature possible is moving through you… greater than a tornado or a tsunami, even.   It is nature’s GREATEST force and it comes into you and moves through you and there’s nothing you can do but hang on until it passes.  And in between these forces (or, contractions) there is this incredible calm, like the eye of a hurricane.   So painless birth does not mean birth without this power, or birth without incredible focus and hard work.   Well, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is meant by the term being “in your power.”  I listen to a lot of talks by Natalia Rose and Amanda Dennis and this term comes up a lot.  It occurred to me tonight (and this is a HUGE light bulb moment for me) that maybe I am not a victim to the power of birth at all… maybe, just maybe, it is MY power.  Maybe I am so powerful, it is frightening.  Maybe I’m so powerful, I’ve refused to claim it because it is too much to wrap my mind around, or too great a gift to accept.  Maybe WOMEN are SO powerful, we’ve been led to view that power as pain, as something we are a victim to, to keep us down!   So, maybe when we are experiencing the intensity of labor, that is when we are most “in our power”.  And if this is true, are we not Goddesses?  Are we not tremendous?  Should we not embrace and claim that power with all the love that we possess and make THAT our birthing experience?  Quite a bite of food for thought, that’s for sure!

Some great resources to explore more:  (learn self-hypnosis and read positive birth stories)  (website of Sheila Kamara Hay, who inspired this post)  (all of Ina May’s books are very empowering)  (Giuditta Tornetta’s website, and her book Painless Childbirth)  (Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Director of the documentary Orgasmic Birth and co-author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth)



One response »

  1. Pingback: Birth Story Memories | Wild And Wisdom

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