Numbness

In a massive spurt of procrastination I recently watched two videos that appeared to be incredibly different but ended up helping me make sense of something.

Let me explain. Most of you know, I’m studying midwifery. And I love it. This semester we’re learning all about birth (go figure!) We’ve recently spent a bit of time learning about epidurals and spinals (an extremely popular method of pain control for many women).  I want to preface this by saying that I think every woman should get to choose how she’d like her birth to play out. If that includes and epidural, I say, a-ok. But (and isn’t there always a but?) despite never having pushed out a baby, there is still a voice in me that thinks a low intervention birth is really, really spectacular. It’s not about heroics. It’s about the human body and what it’s made to do.

One of these videos is a social worker giving a TED talk on some really beautiful research that she conducted. It’s touching and challenging and I really suggest you watch it. The other video is a short video of birth educator Penny Simkin talking about the difference between pain and suffering in labour.  Take a gander:

The connection is numbness. I think Brown says it best when she says that when you numb pain, you numb everything…including joy. I think this can be true physiologically in birth as well. A woman’s body will produce tons of endorphins after the birth of her child.  Her body can flow with chemicals that make her feel safe, joyful and in love with her  baby. I wonder if in labour, like in so many other difficult situations in life, we try to numb ourselves from feeling any of the pain. But if Brown is right and numbing pain numbs everything…then are we missing some of the joy? Some of the messiness and goodness? And can we embrace pain while we reject suffering like Simkin suggests? In life and in birth?

 

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