Monday, October 7, 2013

How pregnancy helps me cope with pain

I'm 25, and I'm seven months into my first pregnancy. I've been careful to avoid all the things I'm supposed to. Prior to being pregnant, I was one to enjoy an alcoholic beverage (or three), socially, for celebratory purposes, for no reason at all except pure enjoyment, and occasionally after a stressful day. What can I say... I'm in my 20s, its a part of life. I've also been one to treat the occasional anxiety with a zanax or two, as needed. I haven't had a serious problem with either, but I will admit, there were times where I definitely self medicated with either or. For the last seven months, you could say I've been completely sober, yet gained a real understanding and appreciation for the real "highs" of life.

Being pregnant is a very long and sobering process of facing life head on, all feelings involved, downright raw and real, (what I imagine serving time in jail is like), with pregnancy hormones making everything that much more dramatic to top it off. This has been the longest I've gone (perhaps ever) without self medicating my emotional ups and downs in one way or another. Having 100% of myself exposed to the conditions of life for these months has given me perspective on several things:
  1. People really are irrational when they have been drinking (and annoying)- sorry guys
  2. Sometimes strong feelings can suck, but we absolutely have the ability within us to manage them naturally
  3. Life is amazingly beautiful and pleasurable without any outside chemical influence, if you have the right perspective 
  4. Experiencing pain is a wonderful opportunity to grow and feel pleasure
I recently noticed a very strong emotional reaction I was having that involved food. I was at work, spilled my lunch, and started to cry with a very intense emotional reaction. I thought, "that's odd, this isn't really that big of a deal, Sara, why the hell do I feel this way?" I realized that I have had these kinds of emotions around food for a very long time, and I am just now making space to observe this. 

I decided to bring this topic up to my Mom, who is studying to be a psychologist. She knew right away where it was coming from. We were sitting in the mall, and she began to tell me a story of when I was a little girl and there was an incident with a kitten we had. I remember the incident quite well, but I didn't know the true circumstances of what actually happened. I was about 6 years old, and the kittens were eating their dinner, when one of them somehow got under my feet, and I tripped on it. The kitten was injured so badly that it died. It wasn't a pretty sight. My Mother immediately picked me up and removed me from the situation. She took me to my bedroom and she was crying though trying to hold it together. To save my feelings, she told me that the kitten choked on a bone that was in the food. This was the story that I believed all these years, and was never able to process what had actually happened. 

Here I was, sitting in the middle of the mall with my Mom as she told me the real story, and I immediately gave way to tears and a flood of memory processes. My brain circuitry was on fire. This was the unprocessed memory stored deep in my brain that was causing an emotional trigger around food. The guilt I subconsciously carried of taking that kittens life while he was just trying to enjoy dinner was causing me to have guilt around eating. It was incredibly painful for days after this memory experience to continue to process this, but I knew I had to go through it if I were to move on; not forget, but deal with it. 

My Mom did the right thing at the time when it happened. At 6 years old, I couldn't have handled the truth of what happened. She does admit that she should have given me an opportunity to process this sooner, although it just hadn't come up. I believe everything happens in good time. I passionately questioned to my Mom, "How can I help my daughter avoid the pains that come in life?" She said the only thing I can do is let her feel the pain, process it, and move on. That is life. 

The truth is, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering comes from unprocessed pain or resistance to it. I haven't studied Buddhism too deep but I believe this is the basic premise of the teachings. Being pregnant has taught me patience and the necessary skills of what I really need to do to cope with feelings. I've learned how to be more present, and pay closer attention to my emotions and the physical reactions from my feelings. When I feel anxious, stressed, sad, or in pain, I take a deep breath, I scan myself to get a thorough understanding of what exactly it is I am feeling, and I just be with it. I have to; I have no other choice. I can't numb it with alcohol or medication. I've learned amazing techniques through meditation, yoga, and present moment awareness exercises, and I plan to use these skills to help me through an un-medicated childbirth. I'm grateful for this process that has taught me to slow down and be with whatever it is I am feeling. It's given me an opportunity to learn about myself and embrace life fully; both the wonderful aspects and the sometimes very painful moments. That is why I am choosing to have a natural birth. I'm no longer afraid of the pain involved, I will embrace it, and look forward to the high that comes afterward. I plan to teach my daughter the skills she has given me an opportunity to learn; to be aware of how she feels, to notice everything (something we can really only do when we are completely present), to create space, to be non-judgmental, and just feel. It's beautiful, and this realization means we have nothing to be afraid of. 

This post is dedicated to my Mom, who has really come to learn what it means to feel. I hope I can be as good of a Mother as you. 


  1. This is absolutely beautiful!! Thanks for sharing :)

    Lots of love!

    Jessica deC.