Saturday, March 31, 2012

purposeful pain

Last weekend, Ryan and I attended a one-day intensive birthing prep course. It was offered through a resource center of our hospital and taught by a friend. Ryan was my personal comedian throughout the day (e.g. wanting to switch off getting/giving back rubs during the birthing process, resting his own feet on the birthing ball*, etc.). He actually had me pretty entertained throughout our seven hour session. 

Even though this isn't our first child, it was a first for both of us to take a class and prepare for what we hope will not turn into a c-section. I found most of the course very helpful and informative. But one phrase has stuck with me all week. The instructor spoke about purposeful pain.

Childbirth is painful. Period. 

With or without pain medication, I have yet to meet anyone who has avoided at least some kind of pain or discomfort at some point during the labor, delivery or postpartum process. So, the thought of looking at the pain as serving a useful purpose could {and should} make it that much more bearable. 

For some reason, I haven't been able to get this phrase out of my mind. Purposeful pain. Of course it makes sense when it comes to childbirth. Although things don't always go as planned, if all does go well, the pain suffered results in a new, beautiful baby to bring home and hold in your arms. And, if you're even more lucky, that baby will be perfectly happy and healthy. 

But what about other types of pain? What about pain suffered that doesn't result in a tiny little blanketed bundle? What about pain you bring on yourself that could otherwise be avoided? What about pain brought on by others that ends up being unavoidable on your end? What about pain you cause for others?

I know this might seem a bit overboard, as it was a simple phrase meant specifically for this childbirth class, but I have been thinking about it all week. It's really had an effect on me. What can I do to make unavoidable pain in my life actually serve a purpose? And how can I work on ridding my life of pain that never will?

This idea isn't necessarily new information for me, but it was definitely a new way to think about it. What choices am I making and actions am I taking that are causing unnecessary pain for me or others? 

I've always been a rule keeper, so I don't think there is anything causing serious problems in my life that I can avoid, but what about seemingly small choices that combine to create a negative effect? My eating habits? {Even though I buy and eat plenty of fruits, veggies, fish, etc., I didn't really need to buy that bag of doritos this week. And I really didn't need to eat more than half the bag, myself, in two days.} Skipping a workout? {Although my body decided it is done running for the next few months, there is no reason to skip a daily yoga session or brisk walk.} Staying up too late? {Did I really need to plop down on the couch and watch an episode of Friends to wind down at 11pm? Probably not.}

These are all instances of pain that serve no purpose. They do me no good. And yet I cause myself to suffer day in and day out. This is obviously just a drop in the bucket of countless ways I'm inflicting small bits and pieces of pain on my body, my mind, my emotions or my spirit that result in a headache here or a heartache there. 

And what about the pain I inflict on others? How many times do I selflessly put myself first and end up inconveniencing Ryan or snapping at Leah?

As for pain that is unavoidable, I truly believe it can and should serve a purpose. I've talked about this before. It is hard to keep a positive perspective 100% of the time, but I truly believe trials placed in our lives are meant specifically for us and help us to learn and grow. Or help us help others. 

And sometimes when we can't {or won't} think of one good, solid reason for the pain {which I'll admit happens quite often}, a simple change of attitude is all I need. It's distancing myself from people and things who cause me to moan and groan and surrounding myself with the glass-is-half-full variety. It's snapping out of the poor me rut and admitting there is really no good excuse for my bad attitude or behavior. 

Honestly, I can always find someone who is worse off. Not that it's necessary to find someone who is ailing more than me to make everything seem okay, but it sure is a a fast fix to cause me to count my blessings. To step outside of my own world and see how much more there is to life than complaining. 

Perhaps looking for a purpose to the pain is a great way to actively look beyond my world and see who might be blessed by putting my pain to good use. Or at the very least, it's a way to get my mind off things. 

I wasn't planning to learn a life lesson at a birthing class, and obviously I have some more thinking to do. But, the simple act of thinking about what purposes my pain can serve has already helped me to identify the pain in my life I can simply kick to the curb. Painlessly. And that is a good feeling.

*so as to not give Ryan a bad rap, he only put his feet on the birthing ball because I didn't want it and it kept rolling away.


Amy W said...

That is a Relief Society lesson ready to go. I love that... purposeful pain. Thanks for the beautiful insight.

Amy said...

Really great thoughts - good things to think about.
Although painful, childbirth is one my favorite life experiences. So incredible, this gift we have.

The A Team said...


You have probably heard a lot of birthing tips but if it isn't too late and budget permits, hire a doula! And better yet make sure she comes with a TENS machine. VBAC's are the boom! I went to a class like this by myself. A little weird rubbing another pregnant ladies hips! :) Good luck my friend, it will change your life, but doesn't each child?
p.s. check this out. It helped tremendously!

Molly said...

You know, I tend to not look for the purpose of pain. I fully believe that sometimes painful things just happen and there's no reason for it. However, what we do with it and how it affects us is the key. I think that the pains in our life bring us closer to our Heavenly Father than we ever would come without it. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe that we think we can do it all on our own and don't think to lean on Him when our lives are pain free. So while I don't often let myself ask "why" certain pain is in my life, I have found much happiness by learning to put the pain to good use. And I guess that makes it purposeful, huh?

Jen said...

Your post just makes me wish that I could hug you. So, a virtual hug from across the continent.

brittani c. said...

Loved this post.

John and Bethany said...

Awesome post! Thinking about some pain in my life I'm going to kick to the curb. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with the next 4 weeks and beyond:)