by Tori Montoya, labor doula

Let’s talk about pain.  Yes, I said it, that four-letter word. PAIN.

When you are pregnant and you occasionally stop and look down at that belly and think, ok…this baby has to come out! YIKES!

That, for most women is when the apprehension sets in, if not genuine fear.  So many of us anticipate a pain will be so intense that we will want meds! STAT! I understand that feeling, believe me. No one wants to endure pain for no reason, right? I mean, that is why there is pain medication! 

Follow me here for a minute though, as I contemplate childbirth. Women have been doing it for centuries, our bodies are designed for just such a task.  It is only in recent history that pain medication has even been in existence.  So, what does that say about labor pain in the past?  It was expected. Women just did it.  Labor was very normalized.  Women labored with other women as support: midwives, healers, doulas, mothers, sisters and daughters. Labor was witnessed and honored as a natural right of passage and major life moment.  Women bore witness to the miracle all the time.  The stories were passed down, along with the knowledge of how to support a laboring woman.  Pain? Yes, pain was a part of it, but it was not to be feared! The labors weren’t rushed, the spaces were honored and the process was not based in fear, it was based on faith! Faith that our bodies are designed for childbirth and childbirth is a natural occurrence.

Pain of childbirth is different than pain from injury or illness.  You are not harmed from this type of pain; this pain does not serve as an alert that something is wrong in your body or broken.  This is what I love to call, productive pain.  This is a body doing work, the work required to do one of the most miraculous things on earth, moving a baby from the womb to the world! It is pain based in pure power.  This is not to be feared but rather should be revered.  There is a sacredness to it.

In fact, I feel like pain is not the most accurate word used to describe labor.  I have heard several terms that I prefer, and I feel more accurately describe childbirth: rushes, power, force, wave.  All are better words to describe the powerful feeling of your body moving the baby to birth.  When we think of the intense sensations of birth as power, instead of pain, it helps our mind cope with the feelings.

Now I have zero issue with women choosing to use pain medication,  it is safe and effective and available! Every woman should know her pain medications option, understand the way they work and know the benefits of each option.  As a doula I will fully support you in whatever choice you make. But I do feel like it is a good discussion to have with yourself and your partner.  Is it really pain or is it more about fear? Are they ways to dampen the sensations and make labor more bearable? Are there alternatives we can try before we get that epidural?  The mind body connection is so important during labor and fear really plays a part in how we feel and how our bodies respond to our surroundings. Is there a fear we can dispel that will help relieve your anxiety and in turn reduce your pain?

I am so glad that we live in a time when we have all of the technological advances that we do, and that there are options in place to help a mom when needed.  I am also glad that we are moving back toward a more family centered way of giving birth, honoring and respecting the mother and giving her the tools and support to birth her child in the way she feels most confident!

Photo Credit: Kate Buckles See her beautiful birth and new born photography at: