Theresa Phillips shares a story about women cultivating strength when being stretched beyond their limits during the very process that makes them a mother. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by John Price on Unsplash
“I’m going to die!” She screamed as the pain accosted her again, relentless waves crashing with vicious repetition. I could only speak soothing words of hope as someone from the shore, removed from the torrent but certain she had the visceral strength to survive. I threw her life rafts of encouragement, naming for her the inner strength she could not see and praising her superhuman efforts. Through fear and panic, she continued to battle each crash, because that was all she could do. There was no quitting, no going back. Nowhere to go but through the storm. So she gripped the bed rails and bowed into herself as another wave rose on the horizon.
I have never been so in awe of womankind as I am in the delivery room. I have had the privilege of attending hundreds of births as a labor and delivery nurse and have seen the resilience and strength of mothers first hand. Women who suffer immeasurable pain through contraction after contraction for hours on end, because this is the journey that leads to their sweet babe. Women who bravely walk with fear and trepidation into a c-section because it is the safest path forward for their little one. Women whose heartbreak is palpable as they hold the sweet body whose soul is already with its Maker.
The more births I am a part of, the more certain I am that there is no way to prepare a woman for what she will face in childbirth. There are no words to describe this whole new dimension of pain. There is no way to plan the course with certainty. Unmedicated, epiduralilzed, vaginal, or cesarean—it makes no difference which iteration of the process becomes hers. There will be pain. There will be struggle. The limits of her strength will be tested like never before. And while she is surrounded with support and encouragement, only she can walk this path.
A woman in birth must access reservoirs of strength she did not know she possessed and the type of bravery that is drawn out of complete and harrowing necessity. A common refrain I hear from a woman in the throes of labor is certainty that she cannot do it: cries for help because she is certain she cannot survive this journey.
But she does. Every time. She survives the unimaginable because she has to. She does what she never thought possible because it is the only way forward. And through this raw determination and superhuman effort, she is greatly rewarded. Not only with the beauty of holding the new life she created and brought forth into the world, but with a new knowledge of the depth of her own resolve and courage.
And she will need this knowledge of her own strength in the years to come, as motherhood will continue to challenge the boundaries of what she thinks she is capable of. She will continue to access the depths of her courage as she walks forward in this journey that challenges her in every way imaginable. When she is certain she cannot do another 2am feeding. When she does not see how she is going to make it through the day of laundry, dishes, and carpools. When she has to go toe to toe with a tantruming toddler because she is not willing to let defiance take hold of her sweet child. Every day, she will dig deep and rely on that quiet stream of fortitude that continues to run at the core of her soul.
The curse in Genesis reads, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe.” The pains of labor are certainly cursed by many women who have endured such agony. And yet, like the Good Father our God is, there is beauty within the curse. For it is through this deeply painful journey that mothers discover their undeniable strength. It is through enduring the unimaginable that we learn the breadth of our resolve and courage. This knowledge goes forth with us into the motherhood journey as irrefutable evidence that we are able to do more than we ever thought possible. So on those days where we are certain we do not possess the strength to make it through, we can be certain that we will. We have endured harder things than this. We are strong. We are Mothers.
My patient did not die. Though she was certain she had met her match, she persevered with courage she didn’t know she had and she attained her prize. As she held her sweet baby, the reward of her efforts, there was nothing but joy on her face. Where fear and uncertainty ruled, there was now empowerment and strength. The beauty of the curse.
Theresa is a mother, author, nurse, and mom-encourager. She runs a crazy household of 4 young kids and moonlights as a labor and delivery nurse where she has the privilege of inaugurating women into this amazing society of motherhood. Before nursing, she was a therapist specializing in marriage and family therapy and had the honor of helping those in crisis. Now she marries all three areas of experience into a powerhouse of encouragement for moms. She’s like your midwife, best friend, and therapist all rolled into one! For regular encouragement in this crazy mom life, follow The Gritty Mama on Facebook or Instagram @thegrittymama.