A Catholic Parent Takes on the Challenges of Parenting

Every day, the cross, with joy!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Labor and Delivery

Parenting mortification is all about taking the difficulties of parenting and embracing them as opportunities to die to self so as to grow closer to God. Perhaps no opportunity for mortification stands out so poignantly as that of giving birth. For women, it usually involves discomfort or - perhaps more accurately said - intense pain. For men, it often involves feelings of powerlessness. For both moms and dads, childbirth can be scary, and even with the anticipated joy of a sweet babe, it's not, well, super-fun. Or, as I said, after my most recent delivery, giving birth "is not my fave." And I should add that I had really fantastic midwives, a great hospital, a wonderful waterbirth and excellent support from my husband and my sister (who is also a midwife). Even with all that, childbirth is still not one of my favorite things to do.

Despite that, I have found it to be a good opportunity for mortification. Although I'm proud of my pain tolerance, I don't particularly like the pain of labor contractions. Since I don't like that pain, but I know I have to go through it, I've made an effort with each of my labors/deliveries to identify some very special prayer intentions, whether people that I know personally who are in need of particular help or situations in the world where I've felt otherwise limited in my contributions to help. It's been beneficial for me to consider these prayer intentions prior to labor and delivery, both for reflection and also because sometimes in the midst of labor it's difficult to think clearly about such things. The discomforts of pregnancy are also great opportunities to pray for others by offering those little sufferings; the discipline of trying to do this (rather than just complaining) is a good preparation for childbirth.

When a painful labor contraction is about to hit, if it's possible, I try to call to mind one of the prayer intentions, offering the pain of that contraction. Thinking about the intention can be a good distraction, or, at least for me, it makes the discomfort more meaningful. The pain is not being wasted, but rather is helping others in need, as well as helping me to grow closer to God by embracing suffering, as did Christ when he embraced the cross.

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