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Sunday, December 7, 2008

The perception of pain

I was just reading some birth stories about some women who describe their contractions as simply strong sensations. They then went on to describe how they actually enjoyed these. Now, I am very supportive of natural birth, but my labor was painful! So, it intrigued me that these women were describing it as something different. It got me thinking about how we perceive pain.

When I was pregnant with my last child, I started to get a little sick one day (as most pregnant women do). I woke up that night and started throwing up, but didn't think anything of it. I was pregnant after all. I got up the next day, feeling a little lousy, but went on with my day and doing all that needed to be done. Throwing up didn't even phase me, because I knew I was pregnant. The next day the nausea had completely disappeared and I felt so much better, that I realized that I had actually had the stomach flu. I was completely fine for the rest of my pregnancy.

Now, I am sure if I hadn't been pregnant, I would have been down in my bed feeling so completely horrible that even the thought of getting up would have made me throw up. I would have noticed the belly aches, and the fatigue. Because I was pregnant, though, I felt a little sick, but ok to go about my daily work. And I got to thinking how our minds can play tricks on us and make us feel worse or better depending on how we viewed things.

Another example, do you remember ever skinning your knees as a kid.? You are running along, you trip and scrape your knee. You are having way to much fun to put up a big fuss about it, so you just go along playing. As soon as you get home and notice the dried blood though, all of sudden it hits you that you are in pain. I've seen this happen with my own kids.

Perhaps the reason why we view labor as painful is because we are told it is painful, we expect it to be painful, it is drilled into us that labor equals pain. Well, I still think it is painful, at least mine where. I do admit, though, that when I found myself joking and laughing through my contractions, I did not perceive my pain as difficult. This has made me think more about what pain really is. Perhaps the reason those ladies I wrote about at the beginning felt like their labors were just a strong sensations was because that is how they choose to perceive it. Is pain really a choice? Or maybe perhaps partially so?

I think an even more interesting idea is how this might apply to us as there some way we can change our perceptions of our difficulties? Do our trials and difficulties have to equal pain? Or can we work to perceive them as merely strong sensations? And most importantly, will this make a difference in how we treat our children and our spouses? I'll think on that one.....


hanner said...

That is an interesting point... in fact, my husband and I were discussing the concept of "pain" the other day and we settled on the same answer as you did. I think that my husband is more nervous about me attempting a natural birth (when the time comes) than I am. Funny!

Sheridan said...

I used Hypnobabies with my last birth and felt intense pressure instead of pain. It is pretty amazing the power of our minds!

Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.