What’s the difference between Pain and Suffering?
Can you experience labor pain without actually suffering during childbirth??? How can your birth partner support you during childbirth so you can achieve your desired birth and prevent suffering??? Can labor pains really be compared to the pains of working out?
First lets talk about the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is an unpleasant physical feeling. Suffering is not only pain but includes a distressing psychological state and could possibly not even be associated with physical pain. The pain people feel when working out or hiking is not suffering but a discomfort that is felt to accomplish something more and even considered fun. Injuring a part of the body is painful but for many does not simply imply that the individual is continuously suffering. However, feelings of helpless, remorse, fear, anguish, or loss of control is considered suffering and could be felt by a loss of a family member, experiencing physical or emotional abuse, or going through depression.
Many people today, especially in the USA, consider a woman experiencing pain in childbirth as suffering. However, when mother’s are surveyed after childbirth and even many years down the road, women recall happenings of how they were treated, were they included and have power during childbirth, were they treated with respect, among many other similar things. Often times women are pressured or filled with ideas that pain medication (i.e. an epidural) will prevent all suffering during childbirth.
However, this is just not true. Women need to have an understanding that pain in childbirth is not like other pains that are associated with an injury or a problem in one’s health, but instead a very natural process that is designed to safely and healthfully bring their baby into this world, similar to the discomforts of pregnancy are changes in the body that are making room for a healthy home for the new baby in mother’s womb.
An epidural may eliminate pain from the mother’s lower body but it will not create a sense of power during childbirth or provide the mother with a nurturing environment with continuous support. This continuous support, respect, and honor will provide a woman with confidence and peace while going through her birth and becoming a new mother.
Having the following:
an environment that is supportive
having a supportive provider and birth partner
understanding the process of childbirth
discussing and dealing with fears
and using strategic comfort measures
are all great ways of coping with the pain of childbirth and providing mom with proper support and care.
There are times when pain medication and other technologies would benefit the mother and baby. Instances of an emergency or of actual physical suffering are good examples. Having mom list what her goals are during childbirth and explain what she wants to her physician, nurses, and birth support are good ways in letting these individuals know how to properly support her while she labors. Also having a very specific code word that tells dad or another birth partner that what mom is experiencing is more than just pain but has crossed over to suffering is also very helpful. An example word or phrase could be “banana split” or “I need to speak to Ray Charles Right now.” These two examples are very unlikely to come up in normal conversation during childbirth and would need to be practiced, discussed, and memorized.
The ultimate goal for a birth experience should be that mom would not only come out healthy but also feeling confident, supported, and ready to embrace her new life as a mother. With this, we as birth support can be happy.
Trusting Birth and Life,