Transition sucks. Especially when you are a woman in labor.
I’ll spare you the details of my birth experience in England that began three days earlier at a British air show. While I trudged about with champion-like determination walking briskly and wincing every ten minutes at the onset of each cramp, I had no idea what I was in for.
If you don’t know what a birth transition entails or if you are a woman who welcomed the blessed intervention of an epidural pain block, the transition phase of labor occurs during the final one to three agonizing hours right before the baby is born. To put it plainly, that's when a horrendous, mind blowing, continual bone-shattering pain completely takes over your body and propels you into the most near-death experience you could ever possibly fathom.
It’s been said once a baby is born a mother “forgets” her pain because she is overjoyed with seeing her new bundle of joy. Not true for me! Sure, I did relish the moment when I held my baby boy for the first time, but I still clearly - and distinctly! - remember my experience seventeen years later. I did get an epidural, but I went as long as I could without it and I do remember how horrible labor was during the onset of transition pain.
I’m convinced a man must have made up that “women-forget-their-pain” idea because I have never met any woman who has blocked the memory of her birth pain. In fact, I find the opposite to be true. Mothers are more often willing to captivate you with their birth experience in great detail, much like veterans who share unbelievable tales of survival from the front lines of a foreign battlefield. And even though they remember their experience, many women are willing to endure labor a second, third, or even fourth time, simply because they know they will receive a reward at the end of their suffering. They realize the blessing of new life outshines the intensity of their temporary pain.
I believe it's good to remember the pain of transition before birth. In fact, I think we ought to embrace our survival from experiences like this. Survival, after all, is empowering. It's a testimony of an inner strength one never knew existed. In my experience, I learned my limits on what I could handle physically and emotionally. I learned never to assume I knew what the experience would entail prior to living through it. I learned how deep breathing and intense focus did not decrease the pain, but it did keep me from totally freaking out in the midst of the pain - to a point. I learned how, when faced with a challenge tempting me to want to give up, I could make it through to the end as long as I had the right support system in place. I learned I needed to advocate for myself and be quick to ask for help. I learned how to lean on others. I learned how, although my pain tolerance was low, I possessed the stamina to endure to the end and see the result of my efforts. What didn't kill me did make me a little bit stronger.
I believe there is much to learn from a birth experience that can be applied to other survival experiences, particularly those resulting from our own choices. I know I willingly and passionately contributed to getting myself stuck in that situation only nine months earlier.
My tribe’s financial problems and restructuring process has spiraled our community into a period of transition. Much like the choices that can lead a woman toward the agony of labor pains, we did it to ourselves. And in much the same way a woman is required to press on through transition pain with overwhelming focus and endurance, we need to endure our time of transition by allowing this experience to strengthen us. While there are many factors that contributed to our situation that moved us into transition, it’s important to reflect on where we’ve come from in order to recognize the benefit of this process and accurately navigate where we are headed. We ought to embrace the lessons learned from our recent past so we can teach our children how every decision has a consequence. That said...
There IS good news:
Life exists after transition. Just like a mother embracing a healthy new infant as the result of her labor, all life transitions hold the capacity to usher in new life. Our capacity for welcoming new life, however, depends entirely on our willingness to embrace and endure transitional challenges.
One of our many challenges is to avoid the temptation of focusing on the problems all around us, and instead focus on the potential for all that is new and good, realizing that our time of transition will eventually come to completion.
Of course, I am not advocating ignorance. We do need to recognize that problems exist, because it does no one any good to pretend there are no problems. What I mean is, we need to fully realize our entire situation within context of our own positive potential. For it is in the recognition of our potential that we begin to realize our purpose.
Likewise, we need to take responsibility for our actions so we can learn from our own mistakes. And it would be wise to resist the finger-pointing of who we believe was at fault, who was a corrupt leader, who was evil minded, manipulative, etc. because no one is really innocent.
We need to use the vantage point of our present "pain" in ways that empower us to get through the transition process and begin again, but this time with a mature, wiser outlook on how we ought to grow from our experience as individuals and as a community.
Throughout the month of September, I will write about how to navigate through a transition – emotionally and practically.
In the meantime, it’s your turn:
Have you ever experienced a major life transition? What did you learn from it?