The Point of the Pain

Most women hire birth doulas because they have a bright vision and they know they’ll be going into a dark place, where they’ll need someone, perhaps many someones, to carry the vision when they cannot. They know their role in this narrative is crucial, and they wish to act the play out well, at least as best they can. I heard one woman describe her birth companion as a guiding star, which implies both a journey and an end–a final rest.

But recently, I sat across from a very pregnant woman who was an actual, honest-to-goodness realist in no humor for a narrative, and she was in the very act of hiring me. She was telling me about her first labor, which was long, hard, and miserable and she knew, just knew, the next one would be, too.

I asked if she had a predominant thought the whole time, maybe just a word or phrase, as many women do. She nodded.

“No,” she said, The word, No. I said it over and over again, it was all I could think or say.

I couldn’t help but laugh and she didn’t seem to mind. She only looked at me a bit defiantly, as if to say, Change my mind, Pollyanna.

But the funniest part of her story was, when her child was finally born and she saw him, she exclaimed, “It’s a baby!” In all her realism, she had genuinely forgotten the whole point of the pain. Though I don’t mean to make light of her physical suffering, I do believe that if she had been more mindful of the mystery and the wonder of it all, she would’ve born it better, and remembered it sweeter.

Several years ago, my sister wrote an Amy Carmichael quote in my journal and I’ve rewritten it in every new one since. It goes, “Instead of submission, I should write acceptance, for more and more, as life goes on, that word opens doors into rooms of infinite peace, and the heart that accepts asks nothing, for it is at rest.”

You don’t have to experience childbirth to wrestle with acceptance. There are times when we all want, with every part of us, to say no. Even no, no, no, nope, absolutely not.

We don’t have to remind ourselves to accept comfort and joy. We struggle only to receive difficult things that linger: broken relationships, limitations, feeling misunderstood or lonely, a job, or a change or a total lack of change, a weariness. It occurs to me that sometimes it takes an awful lot of acceptance, imagination, and even some wishful thinking in this life to remember what is coming for us as children of God. One day when we know fully, when God shows us what it was he was doing all along, it will be as beautiful and remarkable as a little human coming out of us and even more so. We may be completely surprised, but the truth remains ever still–Unto us a child is born.

But I can’t help but hope he will give us the grace in that day to say, “I always knew it. I always knew it was going to be good.”

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