After marrying young, after becoming a stepmother, after giving birth three times to four babies in less than four years, after establishing a career as a surgical nurse… I consider myself somewhat of an expert on pain & discomfort.
When I was pregnant with Ames, I listened to a friend share two of her birth stories. She’d had both babies at home, but her experiences were starkly different. During her first, she reminisced about running away from the pain. Avoiding the hurt seems to drag things out during a birth and she enjoyed an easier labor the next time, when she faced things head-on. I found this to be true myself, about halfway through my labor with Ames. Once I stopped fighting and pacing and huffing and puffing, once I quieted myself and took my brain and my heart right to where things hurt, the process picked up. Recovering from the twins’ c-section and laboring through Hadassah’s VBAC were both much more rewarding experiences once I learned how to hurt. Even the subsequent hormonal postpartum seasons have been more manageable, now that I know how to go where the hurt is.
I eventually began to incorporate this into other areas of my life. I spent my first year of marriage running away from the pain, picking fights on the wrong topics, withholding affections or affirmations for the wrong reasons. Now, I know how to go where the hurt is. I know how to communicate the parts that involve my husband, and settle in on the things that are actually about me. I’ve learned how to get offended with grace, in work and at church and online. I hear the hurt, I read the hurt, I process the hurt. I take hold of the parts that are true and I learn from them. I allow myself to ache a bit before addressing the hurt and moving on from it. Then, I try to never return to it. I’m not good at this by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m learning.
I see it every day with my patients; it’s become one of my favorite things, to coach them through this concept. When I’m pulling a patient up for the first time after a knee replacement, I try to position my face close to theirs. As they groan and gasp and fight to use that new joint, I whisper over and over, Don’t fight it. Go to where the pain is. Sit in it. Breathe through it. When I’m helping a woman to the bathroom for the first time after a major abdominal surgery and she sees that incision, I smile for her. It feels ugly, I know. You are hurting. It hurts. And it’s going to get better.
I see it in my community, both online and off. Women losing babies, losing marriages, losing their minds. Their friends and family mean well, so they give them Bible verses or sing-song words of encouragement. Not me. Not yet. Here’s the thing about pain, y’all. We must learn how to do it well. Hurt comes naturally to all of us, but handling it well does not. It helps to sit under people, to hear things spoken over us, to explore different painful situations on our own. Learning to hurt effectively is an art. I’m convinced of it.
Is that you today? Are you in pain as you read this? Then stay right there. Go where the hurt is. Sit in it, roll around in it, let it change your life forever. When you’re ready to take a deep breath and a first step, it won’t be a moment too soon.