Bristol Palin and The Mythology of Pain


For Bristol Palin, telling mom about her pregnancy was, “harder than labor.”

There’s lots to be said for why that might be the case–Mom Palin’s ideas about abstinence high among them; but I’d like to focus here on the question of pain in labor.

I’m not going to play it down. It hurts. A lot. I’m a big believer in being very frank on this topic. No point leading a woman to the delivery room with promises of pain-free, orgasmic birth. Hey, I’ve heard this happens. I hope it does for you. But just in case, it doesn’t, it hurts. Your uterus is now the big biggest muscle in your body and it can contract hard and fast. Your ligaments, bones, skin, and tissue all need to mold and stretch to fit a relatively large baby through a relatively small space. Blame it all on our big brains. If women had never evolved to stand on two legs, labor would not be so bad. (I’ll take bipedal and pain over that alternative.)

But will it be the “worst pain you’ll ever feel”?

I’m not so sure. I have not experienced all of the following (thank god) but here are some things that may be “worse than labor”: drug addiction withdrawal, losing a loved one, chronic pain, depression, miscarriage, being in an abusive relationship, losing your home in a fire, losing your savings to Madoff, cancer, telling your abstinence-advocating mom you’re pregnant, ending a long-term relationship, witnessing the atrocities of war, poverty. Anything I’m forgetting? Feel free to chime in.

The excitement and drama about the pain of labor becomes a kind of mythology. And this mythology  can just plain freak a woman out. Which is not great going into birth. So I say try to ignore the glamor and hype. Your body is meant to give birth. It’s going to hurt, there are things you can do to cope and the result is spectacular. To paraphrase childbirth educator and The Big Book of Birth author Erica Lyon: I hope this is the most pain you’ll ever experience!

Photo: Emily/Flickr