In college I preferred to arrive to all of my classes at least fifteen minutes early. Especially in the first week, I wanted to make sure I knew where the room was, and more importantly, I wanted to be able to select my favorite seat (front row, most of the time, and near the door).
I am the kind of person who likes to know exactly what they are getting into before getting into it.
So when I found out I was pregnant, as such a person, I wanted to know exactly how labor would go down.
If you have never given birth, but wanted to find out the truth about labor, then you know that even in the most graphic pregnancy literature the exact details of labor are surrounded in a shroud of mystery.
Why couldn’t anyone just tell it like it was? And I didn’t mean the same old, “it’s hard, intense, empowering, etc.” or the ever-evasive, “it’s worth it!” Specifically, I wanted to know what a contraction felt like. I wanted to know how I, specifically, should prepare for a nearly endless succession of them–with yoga? Breathing techniques? Long walks? Binge-watching Call the Midwife (answer: no)?
Would it be a sharp pain? An all-consuming pain or a more localized pain? A pain that felt like I was going to die or a pain that was at the very least, manageable? I used google and pregnancy chat forums to help me find answers. But even experienced moms weren’t able to give me what I wanted.
I didn’t get it. How were there so few adequate words on something so defining in the life of a woman??
And then my sister, who gave birth five months before me, was able to give me possibly the vaguest answer of all, that turned out to be the most helpful.
She told me, “it feels just like the Cruciatus Curse”. Finally! Something concrete to wrap my mind around.
Now, Harry Potter fans will know we only know two things about that curse: it is vaguely described as inflicting excruciating pain on the victim, and it is unforgivable. Not unlike a contraction.
Other moms had described contractions as “like a charlie horse, but way more intense”, or “like really severe menstrual cramps”. Before labor, those sounded too good to be true. During labor, I didn’t think either of those was accurate. In fact, most of the (very few) coherent thoughts I did have revolved around the new realization that we would be adopting all our future children.
In the midst of birthing pains, I found myself trying to come up with a way to describe a contraction for future reference, and I couldn’t do it. How was it possible that I couldn’t even describe it in the moment?? And then I finally figured it all out.
This is all part of the curse of Eve: you can’t describe labor in the moment because you just can’t. You can’t describe labor immediately afterward because immediately afterward, the population of the world has just gone up by one, and it is in your arms and it probably needs a diaper change. You can’t describe labor a few months later because you have a baby to take care of, and miracle of miracles, you actually forget a lot of the details surrounding childbirth (mostly, the part about how painful it was). And that is how babies are made, kids!
I wonder if God designed contractions to be so indescribable so that we couldn’t press fear into the hearts of other women. The vagueness is like a protection from building up any preconceived notions that might lead us to never having children. Instead, pregnant women are given hope that the indescribable nature of contractions means that everyone experiences them differently, and they are going to be just fine.
But the truth is, that is exactly what every mom turns out to be, more often than not: just fine.
In short: no one would ever sign up for child birth if someone was able to spell out to them exactly what they would have to go through beforehand. It’s vagueness, and the fact that every woman has a different story, is basically the only hope for the perseverance of the human race on this planet. The twisted-ness lies in the fact that time passes at the same rate no matter what, and labor WILL end. And when it does, you will feel like superwoman. The pain is nothing to be scared of because it is natural. Your body is working for you, not against you. And when it ends, it suddenly won’t matter at all what it felt like because blah, blah, blah… it is worth it.