When I pass the medical bandages as I am casually strolling through the aisles at Target I still get a twinge where my c-section incision is. In a split second I can remember my mom and husband pulling open my incision, just two weeks after having my son, and stuffing the bandages in or tugging them out. This went on for over 3 weeks, twice a day, in hopes that my infection would heal. And it did. Eventually. But my mind and spirit took a bit more time.
Chasing pain, digging it up and examining it is new to me. But over the last year that process has revolutionized the way that I identify and express myself. In a podcast with Glennon Melton Doyle the topic of pain was front and center, and it left an impact on me. You see, my pain is just like your pain, and sometimes when we share our pain we can learn that pain doesn’t have to intimidate us, it might even bring us closer together.
As an instructor who teaches Intercultural Communication, the concepts of norms and values come up on a daily basis in my life. As an American woman, the concepts of exposing vulnerabilities and valuing pain do not. Glennon uses the metaphor of a hot potato when she discusses pain, she says, “we live in a culture that treats pain like a hot potato, the second we get it we try to get rid of it.”
I listened to that statement and I sat with it. I got uncomfortable, defensive and then I owned it. Yep, I hot potato the shit out of my pain. And it does me no good.
One of my pains actually showed me a way to my new career as a coach, but it took a year for me to even recognize that. After a 4 day labor that busted my dreams of a natural birth with the invasion of a C-section I was already off to a rocky start to motherhood. Flash forward to an infection, hemorrhage, blood transfusion, intravenous iron, and a re-opening of my incision two weeks post-op due to another infection; I was sure that I was cursed. And I was in denial of all of the pain that came along with that, and tried like hell to run from it.
Glennon said, “pain demands to be felt, you can choose not to feel it, but somebody else will.”
And that’s exactly what happened. I felt so scared of admitting that on top of all that had happened, postpartum depression was added to the list. And I hot potato’ed it. Mostly on to my husband, who was caring and supportive and took care of all the things. But that made me even angrier. I was doing everything I could to push him farther away, so I could sit in the hurt that I obviously deserved (or so I thought at the time). I snapped at him, I blamed him and I blamed myself. I ran away from the way I was feeling and when I wasn’t trying to give it away I was busy stuffing it underneath something.
I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just get at least one thing right in motherhood.
Our culture has taught us to treat pain like a sign of failure and a taboo topic. As a new mother I thought that I was supposed to transform into supermom as soon as I held my new baby in my arms. I would know how to do and be all the things, to him and to those around me, holding my new identity high like a trophy. When this didn’t happen for me I immediately thought there was something wrong with me, and gave myself an F in all things motherhood.
Glennon said, “the only things that grow us are love and pain.” In the year after my son was born I examined what made me feel most fulfilled, the answers circled back to connection and honesty. This is where I lived and thrived.
Throughout the year of my coaching certification I was able to understand that we are never alone in our pain, and that exploring it leads to healing and lessons. It was through the exploration of those experiences that I learned that sharing this story was not a sign of failure or weakness, but a testament to how strong and badass women are, myself included. I stepped into the things that were hard for me and changed my mindset to consider the ways in which they helped me grow, as a woman, a mother and a wife.
“This is the heavy stuff that we were meant to help each other carry.”
I ask you to consider this:
What if pain is like the fertilizer to love? What if it helps to grow and feed the seeds that are in each and every one of us? What if, instead of running away from pain or hiding from it, we were able to learn and flourish from it? And what would happen if we did it together?