On Withstanding Pain

Recently, I listened to a new (to me) podcast called “How To! With Charles Duhigg.” The host of the podcast, Pulitzer price winning journalist Charles Duhigg, spends each episode interviewing a guest to find exact answers about “how to” do a variety of things, from significant and life-changing, to extraordinarily simple, such as “How To Cook One Perfect Meal.”  The episode I started with is called “How to Withstand Pain.”

Charles interviews his guest, Sophie Powers, about her incredible ability to withstand pain. You may not recognize the name Sophie Powers, but you know her story! She went viral several years ago for nursing her 3-month-old baby (and hand expressing breastmilk!) while running an ultra-marathon. Sophie’s story is truly incredible (and worth a listen) and yet, she’s still open to advise regarding her ability to withstand pain. Her physical and emotional capabilities to tolerate pains seem simply inconceivable. 

By the end of the episode, however, I could not stop thinking about our own ability, as mothers, to withstand pain.  

Have you ever stopped to think about how truly unbelievable we are as women? Our bodies can grow an entire separate human being (sometimes more than one) in less than a year. We tolerate vomiting and nausea, swelling and heartburn, varicose veins, and splitting headaches. We carry on with our lives, despite weight gain and joint pain, like its no big deal. We stretch and grow and expand until our clothes no longer fit. 

On the left: my foot while not pregnant. On the right: my foot while 9 months pregnant, hulk-ing out of my sandals.

When all is said and done, we happily have a human being emerge from our bodies. As someone who has had each a spontaneous precipitous labor, an induced labor/delivery, and also a c-section, I’m confidently reporting that each method of bringing a child into this world is implausibly painful.

Having gone through what may be the most physically intense experience of our lives, we are then given ZERO rest and are expected to keep another human being alive using only our bodies, once again. We carry on through massive sleep deprivation, engorged breasts, clogged milk ducts, mastitis, thrush, bleeding, etc. We sacrifice our complete physical well being for the well being of our child. We endure the impossible. 

And all the while, life outside of our little nests carries on as usual. The world keeps ticking. We have chosen this pain, gone to epic lengths to experience this pain, spend years and years of our lives carrying the burden of the pain by ourselves. Why? The love of your child makes every last ounce worth it.