Not surprisingly for a woman 37 weeks pregnant with her first baby, I have been rather obsessively thinking about labor recently. Our culture (i.e. television and movies) has done so much to fill the idea of labor with fear: it is portrayed as agonizing, overwhelming, sudden, dangerous. Even when addressed with humor, there really isn't much truth in any of it. And we live in a bizarre culture where no one is expected to have any experience of labor outside of their own children. How do we learn without experience? But I digress.
Since I started having my period as a kid, I have always had incredibly bad menstrual cramps. Really, really bad. I actually went on birth control for 8 years to control them. Then decided that I was going to learn more about my body and began seeing a naturopathic doctor who was helping me to balance my hormones with herbs and a progesterone supplement (I had a deficiency). As I was going through this process, I definitely didn't get it right every month and was sometimes suffering from extreme cramps again.
Well, my husband and I arrived at the Frankfurt airport on the final day of our honeymoon. We had been gone for over two weeks. I was tired and I wanted to go home so much. And then my cramps started. And they were bad. Really, really bad. But how I wanted to get on that plane, and I knew they might not let me if I was moaning and writhing all over the terminal. So I lay my head in my husband's lap and I focused on breathing and not being overwhelmed, as I talked to God about the pain. For hours I did this as David lovingly rubbed my back. I was miserable, but I was not overwhelmed. When they called us to board, I could barely stand, and I'm sure I must have been deathly pale. But I clung to David and I walked to the gate. We were (very slowly) shuffling down the walkway when I knew I was going to vomit from the pain and effort. I frantically swiped my boarding pass back from David and ran into the (thankfully!) nearby restroom. I couldn't make it to a stall, so I puked into the sink, which unfortunately had a drain cover. I remember staring into the clogged sink full of puke and just laughing. What was I supposed to do? I had to board my plane. The bathroom didn't even have paper towels! I rinsed the sink as much as possible, rinsed out my mouth, and was the last person to go through the gate to get on the plane where my poor brand new husband was anxiously staring and waiting for me. I just laughed. And laughed. And suddenly everything was okay. I was on the plane, my cramps began to ease, and I finally fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
The thing about this story is that I see truth in it where I didn't before: I am strong. I am loved. That is the thought I take most into labor. I am strong, and I am loved. God has given women an amazing capacity for pain and love in the face of overwhelming circumstances. I am thankful that I have learned a little about this capacity in my own life. I pray every woman learns it in her life.
You are strong. You are loved.