I am in the midst of a horrible back spasm. My low back and right hip have been in a spasm since last week. I cannot stand or walk without sharp, knife-like pain, and even sitting is very uncomfortable. So I have been spending a lot of time thinking about pain.
I talk about pain a lot in my work as a doula and childbirth educator. I talk about the pain of labour and how it evolves to tell the mother about her progress. I talk about strategies for coping with pain.I talk about ways to accept the pain, and work with it.
But it’s been 20 years since I had my last baby. I have forgotten how intense and all-consuming muscular pain can be, especially when it goes on for hours or days. So I am trying to use this week of pain as an opportunity to practice my pain-coping strategies. I am trying to doula myself through this back spasm.
I am using a lot of the same techniques my clients use:
Heating pad, ice packs, position changes, distraction.
Movement, music, snacks.
Shower, bath, rest, silly TV shows.
Whining, complaining, conversation, laughter.
Just like a parent in labour, I know intellectually that this pain in finite. It will not go on for ever. Just like a person in labour, I find it feels better when I lean forwards and worse when I lean back. Just like a person in labour, I feels that my pain gets worse when I tense up. Just like a parent in labour, I get breaks from the pain. When that happens I try to notice it and relax completely.
Just like a parent in labour, I feel trapped by the pain. My body is doing something I can’t control. I don’t know when this is going to stop and I can’t help letting my mind wander to the possibility that it will never stop. Just like a parent in labour, I sometimes feel angry, or sad, or discouraged.
Just like a person in labour, I need to feel safe and supported. My family and friends and colleagues have rallied round to help me. They bring me lovely things to eat and ask how I’m doing, and cover the classes I can’t teach. And I am SO grateful!
Unlike a parent in labour, I cannot say that this is pain with a purpose! I will not get a lovely, squishy, warm, cuddly baby at the end of it all. But at the end of it, I will have had some peaceful solitary afternoons of knitting, some blog posts written, some email attended to, some sweaters mended, some naps. So maybe there is a purpose to this pain after all.