This quote from "Into the Wild" captures a lot about how I felt about the whole pregnancy labor delivery process:
The sea's only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.
I remarked to Derek that it seems like so many people pursue this experience, testing ourselves and experiencing our limits, and going beyond them. I remember feeling like dance classes with my old school teacher Mr. Savage were like that.
Labor and delivery were definitely that experience for me, the most extreme experience of pain without injury I've ever had. That's why I did it without meds, not because of some masochistic need to prove myself (I am pro-analgesic for pain!), but because it has a unique potential for transcendance. I thought I might die, I thought I heard my parents conversing near me (they weren't), I thought the room I was laboring in was cavernous (it was tiny). Weirdly enough, Derek experienced those things as well, as he supported me (except thinking he was dying). Maybe the me before babies did die. Or maybe me as a mother was born.
It sounds like there was a lot of thinking going on, but there was also a lot of letting go. That was one of the greatest gifts of the process, letting go of any ability to "handle" pain or control the experience. I mean, I could hum and breathe and vocalize all I wanted, I could turn up the hot water and I could visualize (mostly I saw a train coming at me with each contraction), but the fact was, there was no escape from the pain, pure and simple. No escape at all.
I kind of love that, facing something for what it is. Just facing it. A good lesson for life everyday.