Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I hate pain. Seriously. Ask my husband. He hears about every stubbed toe, every cramp. I pop Advil at the first sign of a headache. I have the tiniest pain tolerance. Really tiny.

I heard about labor and delivery from a few friends, and everyone I knew told horror stories of pain. There was no conversation to be had, really. I am a pain avoider. So I will get the drugs. Duh.

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But halfway through my last pregnancy, something happened, something strange. After watching The Business of Being Born, freedom to move and avoid unnecessary labor interventions became more important than comfort. And I decided to do a natural birth.

[Perhaps you should know that I assumed labor was akin to a migraine, and I’d had plenty of those. I figured I must have a high pain tolerance with how many migraines I’d experienced. Oh, if I only knew. Well, I was about to find out.]

My labor ended up being rather intense, as labor tends to be, between the nausea and dehydration and getting hooked up to cords and tubes I never intended to need. The pain was other-worldly, if you want to know the truth, but my body did me a favor by putting me into a trance during the most intense part. After that experience, I knew exactly why around 80% of US women use an epidural during labor.

However, when I got pregnant this time, I knew I would do another natural birth. Because I am crazy. Well, it was easy to say because it was months away. But as the weeks turned into days, I could feel myself tensing with fear, the anxiety of birth and pain overwhelming even my desire to meet my son.

I didn’t know if I could do it, that intensity. The feeling of no-going-back. The Pain Avoider in me didn’t want to do it again, and yet, I felt like choosing the epidural was not being honest with myself.

The question hung out in front of me, and I had no answer: if I hate pain so much, why would I choose a drug-free birth? No one is forcing me to do this.

As I fought with it, I realized that there was something that mattered to me more than comfort, something bigger than my fear. I wanted a natural birth because I didn’t want to look down at my legs and not be able to move them. I wanted mobility, freedom during labor, even if there was pain. I wanted freedom to choose. And I had that.

And somehow, there was something beautiful and compelling in the knowledge that I would be rendered somewhat helpless, in need of God and the support of those around me. My body would know what to do every step of the way, but more than that, the intensity of labor and delivery was an invitation to trust God completely. To lean into him. And I couldn’t say “No”.

Well, I could. There was no pressure. But I knew I wouldn’t.

The choice to pick pain over comfort isn’t offered only when birthing humans. Pain and vulnerability are always part of any delivery process. Any time something is coming out of us creatively, whether it’s art or a new business idea or a child, there is pain in the delivery.

We have hold on to the idea until it is fully formed, and then we have to push it out of us. We have to overcome inertia. We have to lean on others to help. And then, we have to open up and let the thing out, terrifying as it may be. Even with the advances in modern medicine, even with the drugs, childbirth is not totally pain-free. There’s always an element of discomfort, sometimes even temporary misery, in delivery.

We can’t hold onto a baby, an idea or a dream, forever. Birth becomes an inevitable part of holding onto an idea or a created thing. And although it may cause pain, or rather, might be very intense, the release becomes a necessary thing. It becomes a thing I choose to overcome because to have the new child, idea or project in the world matters more to me than staying where I am now.

Are you holding something in, afraid to release it? A book idea, an business model you’ve been sitting on? Sometimes the idea has to germinate for a while, but there’s a point when we need to let it out. So what’s holding you back?

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