In blog 72: How come we have 4,2 million receptors in the body to register pain, and not a single receptor to register happiness or joy? Zani needs to figure this out in order to get a grip on the concept of birth pain – and on options to reduce pain, including Mother Nature’s very own “morphine”.
“What knocked my socks off was a book by Og Mandino that said we had 4,2 million receptors in the body to register pain. Yes, 4,2 million!”
“No wonder it hurts!”
“That’s right – no wonder it hurts!” Vee seems deep in thought for a moment as though dusting old files off in her mind before bringing them into the conversation.
“What is even more incredible is that we do not possess a single receptor for happiness, or for joy! Not a single one.”
“I thought so too and that’s why I became so interested in the study of pain. I had to know more about it or I’d lose my faith, and when I lose faith, I lose hope. And what is life without hope, right? I’m sorry, Zani, I’m focusing on what I want to talk about rather than what you came to discuss.”
“No, Vee, please carry on. You’ve lived through tremendous pain and you have made it. And you’ve studied pain, and yet you live with joy and faith. You’ve got what I need. Please show me how you do it.”
A tear ran down her cheek. “It’s by the grace of God, Zani. You see, it took me many tears and many years of questioning, and lots of conversations and many books – books like the ones they wrote in the good old days.” Vee smiled. “I know, that’s such an elderly person’s comment! But it’s true. Nowadays you have a lot of information at your fingertips, but what about the spiritual dimension? That seems to have been lost in literature for this generation, or am I mistaken?”
“Vee, I think it just seems that way. In truth, we are searching.” And with the single-mindedness and tenacity of my childhood Staffie, Mosquito, I gently, but firmly push on. “Vee, what did you find is the purpose of pain?”
“To draw attention.”
“That’s exactly what Jake said!”
“Pain has a way of saying, ‘Pay attention! Something is happening!’”
I shake my head. “Vee, but that’s not reason enough to have to endure birth pain. I can pay attention without being reminded for hours on end to pay attention until Brandon is born! There must be more, surely?”
“That’s where our friend Marais comes in. He did research on buck where, in 15 years, there was not a single mother who refused her lamb. When he anaesthetised buck from this same herd before the birth and they were awake again 25 minutes after the birth, they refused to take care of their lambs. It is as though their instinct refused to kick in. When he temporarily paralysed the buck – much as they do during an epidural – the mothers were at first confused about caring for their young, but then 75% accepted their young. Of course, that means that 25% did not. The most interesting thing he learnt about it all was when he anaesthetised buck immediately after delivery, but before the buck had seen her lamb. The buck were awake again 30 minutes later and 100% of the buck accepted their lambs without any doubt, or hesitancy.”
“Vee, I’m not sure what to make of this?”
“His conclusion was that – and I’ve learned this off by heart because I had to repeat it so many times before I could get what he was saying – where pain is negligible, mother love is feeble. Without pain there seems to be an interruption in the onset of acceptance and care among buck. We are not buck, of course! But, it does make me wonder about the implication for us humans. Perhaps birth pain must be experienced psychologically. Perhaps it is not enough for the body to experience it physically only. Perhaps mother love is a psychological complex, therefore the key which makes it function must be a psychological one.”
“Is he saying that a mom must actually feel the pain, be aware of the pain for her instinct to kick in?”
“Yes, that’s what he found. Remember, he said for instinct to work, all the steps are needed. Birth pain seems to be the catalyst to unlocking motherly love.”
“But, Vee, that’s only one person’s research – and many years ago. What if his findings are outdated?”
“I have asked myself that same question, Zani, but his findings have been verified in several studies and are the reason many obstetricians and some gynaecologists now wait for Mom to go into labour before they do an elective C-section, because they now know that the psychological benefits of labour pain are enormous for bonding. But when either the life of the mom, or the baby is in danger, there is no doubt that a C-section without labour is the very best option! There needs to be life, before there can be quality of life.”
Vee quietly muses, “It seems like mothers are afraid of pain and for that reason they choose a C-section, but what they don’t realise is that there is still pain, because a C-section is a major operation that leaves a mom dazed and in pain – Mom needs tender love and care to heal, but she needs to care for her baby and it hurts.”
“Vee, I’m scared.”
“And it’s okay to be scared, my dear Zani. I want you to remember something. God has designed a mom’s body to give birth. A baby is shaped to fit. The design is flawless. Trust Him. He knew that there needed to be a plan so that a mother will take care of her baby and that is why a mom needs a certain amount of pain to be alert and to get the chemistry of love going … so you and Brandon can bond easily when the joy and awe of holding him for the first time washes over you.”
I’m starting to see the bigger picture but, still, what if I can’t cope?
Vee is as sensitive as ever and continues to give me bits of information in her soft but confident manner. “God doesn’t only care about babies. He cares very much about the mom and that is why He created endorphins – the body’s natural morphine, which starts working only when pain reaches a certain intensity. Ask Tina and Miriam to tell you more about it, but from the little I know when the endorphins kick in a mom seems to be on another planet. She doesn’t care about things that would normally bother her, like how she looks or what others might be thinking of her at that moment. They say a woman becomes incredibly powerful in that moment because she is liberated from all artificial taboos and bonds; some call this precise moment the passage to power. Not the ‘I-am-better-than-you’ kind of power, but an inner knowing that you are stronger than you thought and can survive and accomplish anything in life.
“If you’ve fallen pregnant, you can give birth. I really believe you can do it, my dear Zani; like millions of other woman through the ages you were created to give birth – you can do it. But talk to Miriam and Tina about all the options to reduce pain. The more you know, the easier it is to choose wisely.”