How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA Read full profile

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

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How many times have you asked yourself, “What is love exactly?” You’re not the only one to wonder. It’s an age old question that has left many people questioning their romantic relationships and future.

So, what is love? Love is a process: finding a partner, falling in love, and sometimes falling out of love. It isn’t a permanent thing. It’s not something you find and have forever because it never changes. Instead, love is fluid. Its definition changes over time, depending on each couple. Couples who make love last have learned to change together and to support each other’s individuality.

Love is beautiful and sometimes painful.

Just as love is ever-changing, so is the pain it can bring. Pain from love occurs in different stages of a relationship . You’ve probably already experienced some of the various kinds of pain in love. If not, you’ll probably experience them at some point in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pain so you’ll recognize it when it happens to you.

Love and Pain Come in 6 Different Stages.

1. What is love? Is this love?

Looking for love can be pretty painful. First, there’s the issue of finding love, which means getting over emotional traumas from past relationships. You have to be ready to find love and know what you want before you can go looking for a significant other. You also need to have some idea of what love means to you, which might not be the same idea for everyone.

Once you think you know what you want and you’ve answered, “What is love?”, there’s the pain of figuring out how to ask the other person out on a date.

Just when you work up the courage to ask somebody out, you might be hit with the next great pain: rejection. In this case, what you have to do is learn to cope with unrequited love, or romantic feelings that are not shared. If you get through the date part and the feelings are mutual, now you get to face even more discomfort. You have to figure out if you’re really in love with your partner or just attached to them. If you think what you feel is love, it’s time to show the other person how you feel. Perhaps the most painful part of this stage is deciding how to tell them you love them.

2. I am definitely falling in love!

The second stage of love and pain is the falling in love part. The pain from this stage comes from the same age-old question: what is love? Except this time, you ask yourself, “Am I falling in love?” You can answer this question by paying attention to your actions. If you catch yourself doing any of the things on this list, you just might be in love.

To avoid some of the pain associated with love, it’s important to understand the science behind love. Remember, these strong feelings are due to the production of certain chemicals in your brain.

If you’ve confirmed that you’re falling in love and you understand the science behind it, congratulations! You can now participate in one of the best parts of being in love: holding hands. Holding hands results in a number of positive benefits for your health.

3. It’s official, we’re a couple.

The next step in the progression of love is usually that the two of you become a couple. If you’re not sure what step you’re in, start looking for signs that you’re in a committed relationship. Once you’ve determined that you’re officially in a relationship, you have a whole new set of potentially painful concerns. You might start wondering what to do now, how to act, where to go, and how to keep the relationship healthy. First of all, stop thinking so much. If you overanalyze your relationship, you’ll end up frustrated and anxious. Focus on being mature in your relationship to create and maintain happiness.

Much like a business, you need to think of a mission and vision for your relationship. Where do you hope to be in a few years and how can you improve on your relationship every day? To answer some of these questions, it’s important to learn what kind of personality your partner has. Take the time to really understand them. A highly sensitive person has different needs than a grounded and serious person, for example.

4. How did I ever love this person?

At this stage, one of two things can happen. You either continue your relationship forever in the classic “happily ever after” story, or you start questioning the decisions that got you here. “What is love?” you find yourself asking again. “How did I ever love this person?” Well, if you’re a guy, chances are you fell in love with some of the typical qualities that make men fall in love with women. If you’re a woman, you probably hold some of those qualities.

Looking back on why you fell in love in the first place and questioning everything can be painful. It’s one of the hardest moments you’ll ever go through in your relationship. Look for things that will give you strength as you go through this difficult time.

5. It’s over.

This relationship isn’t everything you thought it would be. With all the pain and effort of trying to make it work, you somehow lost yourself along the way. Now you need to question if it’s time to let go so you can fo cus on loving yourself again.

Once you’ve broken up, you’re left to pick up the pieces of a broken heart. Just because the relationship wasn’t healthy, doesn’t mean it’s easy to get over losing somebody that you once loved. Recovering after a breakup is hard – your entire future is now up in the air. Despite this, you still need to get over it and move on as quickly as possible. Take the time you need to learn the important lessons that come with losing love d ones, listen to all the saddest songs when you want to cry, and then move on with your life.

6. I’m single again.

Now that you’ve gotten over the breakup, you’re back out in the single world again. This can be fun or it can be painful if you start to feel lonely. Just focus on how to love yourself and look for the motivation to appreciate yourself. Embrace this moment in your lif e and true love will come when you’re ready.

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

October 17, 2018

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

I know it sounds disturbing, but the truth is that pain will show you the true meaning of love. A year ago after a breakup, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was trying to find one positive thing about my current state. I felt miserable, broken and unworthy of love.

What kind of a person does that? What kind of a person makes you feel less important or less worthy of love? You. You were to blame for my current state of misery.

I didn’t want to go out for months. I only went over all of it again and again. It was so hard to go through all of those painful moments and find something that would answer my question:

One Day You Will Meet HIM (The One Who Will Show You What TRUE LOVE Is)

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

September 18, 2020

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

What did I do to deserve such inhuman treatment by you? Why did I deserve to be in pain?

Maybe if I had treated you like shit, you would have treated me right. I guess I will never know. And I don’t even want to know it anymore.

I took a deep breath, went through the following steps and started solving the puzzle.

STEP 1:

I repeated several times out loud: If I hadn’t been in love, I wouldn’t have been hurt! As simple as that. If I was to know that this would happen, I certainly wouldn’t have been with you.

But, I didn’t know. So, I cannot blame myself for what happened to me. It is not my fault or anyone else’s. It is just so.

Top 8 Lines All Narcissists Use And Their True Meaning

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

But how can I be sure that it was love after all? What if it was just some kind of test you have to pass in order to be rewarded with something greater?

After all, you cannot appreciate the good if you didn’t taste the bad. Maybe being hurt has more meanings than just one.

I wouldn’t mind if there are more meanings to it. I just want to be sure that all of this I’m going through is not for nothing.

STEP 2:

I repeated the next logical conclusion: If I hadn’t been hurt, I wouldn’t be in pain. I mean, what kind of a conclusion is this? Of course if I hadn’t been hurt, I wouldn’t be in pain.

But, why do I have to be in pain? Why can’t I just be hurt and not go through all of that process of being in constant pain where I cannot eat, sleep nor live like a normal human being?

But what if being in pain is a process that I have to go through so that I can be prepared for something greater to come? It’s really hard to believe such thing, but I’ll give it a chance. What could I lose anyway?

Top 8 Lines All Narcissists Use And Their True Meaning

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

I’ve already lost myself, and pain is the only thing that is reminding me of being human.

I need to learn how to work through pain, how to walk through pain and how to sleep through pain.

I guess when the time comes, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready for anything.

STEP 3:

I started for a moment and tried to find my next statement: If I weren’t in pain, I wouldn’t…But, what? What good can pain bring me? Then I realized, and it burst like a bubble:

If I weren’t in pain, I wouldn’t appreciate not being in pain!

If I weren’t in pain, I wouldn’t realize what a shitty person you were!

If I weren’t in pain, I wouldn’t realize the true meaning of love.

Now it all made sense to me. True love is made of respect, compromise and selfless giving.

It is made of everything I haven’t experienced yet!

I’m no longer mad at you. I thank you for that.

I thank you for making me realize that I was in love with a twisted meaning of love. But now that I know its true meaning, I will never settle for anything else.

by Chantelle Raven

If you are reading this, you might be experiencing some pain that could be blocking you from the love you want. We all have a story which carries with it a meaning that inspires an emotion. But what is that emotion and is it getting trapped in you body?

Can we discuss Tantra for a second?

A key aspect of Tantra is relationships. Because life is relationships and Tantra is life. To people who haven’t experienced true Tantra, their thoughts on the topic are generally related to wild, long-lasting, amazing sexual experiences. To people who have experienced it, Tantra goes far beyond that. Yes, it includes great sex, but it also includes power, freedom, responsibility and living Tantra as a PRACTICE.

But what is the practice?

The practice is coming back to center, being present with what is – dark and light, holding our own masculine energy (including father) and feminine energy (including mother) rather than expecting it outside of ourselves.

Today I am going to give you practical ways to use the essence of the Tantra practice in order to bring to light the deep rooted pain that could be blocking you from fulfilling relationships.

Here are 5 ways to get to the root of your pain (and heal) so that you can bring more love to your relationships:

1. Stop resisting your pain

So how do you know if you are resisting your emotional pain?

  • When stuff comes up, you feel isolated, too sensitive and like something is wrong with you.
  • The areas of your life where you are stuck don’t ever really change.
  • You become stressed when feeling low, look for a meaning to your pain and excessively analyze it.
  • You think witnessing your pain and healing it are the same thing.
  • Once you feel emotional pain, you enter a downward spiral and/or depressive vortex.
  • You think you can get rid of feelings without purging them.
  • You are addicted to temporary alleviators of pain; external medicines, drugs, social media, food, socializing, keeping busy with work and/or play.
  • You constantly search for outside validation and approval and are concerned with what other people think.
  • You prefer the heights to the depths and constantly chase the heights.

2. Feel your pain

  • Be with how you feel – stop running away from your emotional body and allow yourself to feel.
  • Meditate: observe, breathe, notice. Be with your feelings, which is to fully be with yourself.
  • Feel the emotions all the way by expressing them and releasing them.

Once you have allowed your feelings to surface, give them some expression so that they are able to be released from your nervous system.

The eight “Express and Release” techniques that can be used when emotions arise are:

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you
The irony of these “Express & Release” techniques is that children naturally do them when they are upset, but we tell them to do otherwise. Our basic human instinct knows what to do with the emotional body until we are conditioned by society. Animals move their body as a way to release trauma too, especially through shaking. So next time you feel emotionally charged, instead of projecting your emotional body onto your partner or retracting into your cave, try practicing some of the above techniques in the safety of your own company.

Whilst I am suggesting you acknowledge and validate emotions, I am not suggesting you re-live the trauma of the experience itself. By acknowledging the emotion , validating it, feeling it and responding to the emotion itself, we can begin to release it and heal from it.

3. Ask: What is the emotion showing you?

Once you have released the raw emotion associated with the trigger, come back to a place of peace and ask yourself:

  • Is there a boundary that I need to set with someone or something?
  • Is there a healthy request that I have for either myself or another?
  • Is there a situation or person no longer serving me in my life, and is there an action I need to take?

4. Re-parent yourself

Is my inner child okay, or is she needing safety? Reassure her, “I am completely here with you now”. Once this relationship is formed between you and your inner child, and a level of trust is gained, you can start asking your inner child for what she needs from you to feel safe and loved and give it to her rather than expecting your partner to give it to you. Cultivating a relationship with your inner child is a daily practice and a lifelong experience.

5. Seek support

When we are a part of a community of brothers and sisters who support each other, sing and laugh together, who reflect, share and connect, this helps us to remember the love that we are. We can also seek a skilled healing practitioner.

Union, within and without, is no resistance to any emotion, and no attachment to any emotion. So when we’re no longer attached to pleasure, and were no longer resistant to pain, we are Living Tantra. When we are rising in love and allowing our relationships to help heal and grow, we are Living Tantra.

Communication relieves pain surprisingly well.

Posted Feb 16, 2015

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

Readers often ask if I believe in monogamy. They may expect a “no” because I study mammals, and few mammals are monogamous. But I do believe in monogamy. I understand the pain that can sour people on it. But giving up on relationships brings pain too, and so does an endless quest for “the one.” The solution is to build skills for resolving conflict.

You may think nothing is more painful than another lecture on communication. I’ve had that reaction to many relationship guides. They dwell on wounds and traumas, and they want me to speak in ways that sound artificial. That’s why I was excited to find a relationship guide I actually enjoyed: The Power of Two by Dr. Susan Heitler.

It felt like eavesdropping. Imagine listening to a couple fighting, and another couple that resolves conflict smoothly. The difference is immediately clear. The happy-couple skills are explained in Power of Two’s online coaching program as well as the book and workbook. The online program costs about the price of a book per month after a free trial, and you can cancel whenever you want. I was glad to try it because, I confess, I have tried to “fix” my husband at times. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but…do you want to hear what he does?

It’s easy to find fault with your partner because each brain is different. When things are not done your way, your brain releases chemicals that give you a sense of life-or-death urgency. That’s because our brain chemicals wire up from life experience. Your experience wired in specific ways of feeling good and avoiding pain. No two people have the same stock of experience, so your sense of urgency will not always mesh with your partner’s. How can two people get along on so many different issues? The Power of Two offers clear, simple guidelines:

Ask for what you want.
This may seem simple, but when you eavesdrop on the unhappy couples, you see how they fail to ask for what they want. We hint, we defend, we attack, we say what we don’t want, without getting around to actually saying what we want.

Listen to what your partner wants.
You may think you’re already doing that, but listening defensively or judgmentally is not the same as “listening to learn.” You want your partner to listen cooperatively, so you owe them the same.

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

I benefitted most from the “crossover” concept. Sometimes I cross over into my husband’s brain instead of honoring his boundary. I learned to focus on my own needs instead of crossing over into his. You may say it’s “considerate” to focus on the other person’s needs, but it leads to trouble. You tend to jump to conclusions about their needs, and hide behind them instead of taking responsibility for your own wants. I should steer my own ship instead of trying to steer his.

Here’s a simple example: I ask my husband what time he wants to have dinner, and he gives me a long explanation of his computer problems. Before the Power of Two, I crossed over into his head to guess what he wants. Is he saying he wants to eat late so he can fix his problem? Or to eat now because he’s not getting anything done? Why doesn’t he talk in a way I can understand? Why is he so evasive? How can I change this? You can see how I wind myself into a spin. This happened a lot because you can’t ask my husband how his day was without getting an incomprehensible string of data analytics. I would force a smile because I know there are worse things in life. But my eyeballs would roll in different directions, my muscles would tighten, and I would feel bad.

The Power of Two taught me to focus on me instead of him. Why am I asking him when he wants to have dinner? Because I’ve just finished an activity and need to decide which activity to start next. If I tell him that, he gives me a perfectly straight answer. I get what I need if I ask! Of course, he still gives me source code sometimes, but I don’t have to respond by feeling ignored and powerless. I can stop and think about what I really need, and find a way to “just say it.”

Once I felt stuck, and fortunately the interactive website has a button that says “talk to your coach.” I wrote down my problem and my live coach replied in less than 2 days. She gave me a clear answer, and selected exercises specifically for my issue. Each was about five minutes long, and there was a nice variety of videos and readings. Many were interactive, so I could build and test my skills. The videos ranged from a real-life workshop to a cartoon couple to a chat from the head coach.

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

You might be thinking “my partner should do that.” The program is designed to work with individuals or couples. You get to define your goals, and your coach adds the appropriate modules to your activities folder so you can work on them at your convenience.

You may wish I had thrown the dinner at my husband’s face. But that would not get me what I want. I want the power of two. As Dr. Heitler explains, raising any number to the power of two makes it exponentially greater than just doubling the number. I am exponentially greater in this relationship as long as we communicate. As I shift from adversarial listening to cooperative listening, he does too. It’s a miracle!

The next post in this series explores two more great tools for getting love and avoiding pain: Deeper Dating and InLoveInformed. To be sure to get them you can subscribe to Your Neurochemical Self. (Click the orange RSS button at the bottom right of the linked page.)

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings youRecently, I was riding in the car with my very spirited three-year-old. I had picked her up early from a play date to race across town. She was very distressed to leave her friend and let me know all about her distress through high-pitched screams. I knew she needed some comfort, a calming voice, and a nurturing tone to help comfort her in her distress.

Do you know what I noticed? It was so hard to give her the comfort she needed because I was having such a strong reaction inside of me. The sound of her cries alone created feelings of angst and anxiety in me. I was also feeling frustration and anger that she had created such a scene as I carried her kicking and screaming out of her friend’s house.

In the moment she was in distress and needed the comfort of her mother, I had to work very hard to manage my own emotions to lean in and appropriately comfort her.

As a therapist, it is easy to lean in and provide comfort, reassurance, and understanding to my clients. The reason it is so easy is that I am not the source of their pain. As they speak of the pain, usually caused by other people or situations in their lives, I can easily elicit feelings of compassion and care without defensiveness. I can do so because there is not a complicated storm of emotion inside of me.

Have I Caused Pain?

When you are the one who caused the pain, and when the hurt in your partner is a result of your actions, the process of offering comfort and compassion is much more complicated. When couples come in to therapy, it is usually because there is hurt between them. Usually, they have been unable to find comfort, care, and compassion in their partner to ease the hurt. They may often conclude that the reason their partner is not able to be there for them in the way they need is either that their partner doesn’t care or that they aren’t capable.

There is a good reason providing comfort can be difficult. Hurting your partner, the one that you love, feels awful. It can be brutally hard to think about, hear about, or see the tears, anger, and pain in your partner and know it’s been caused by you.

Addressing the Pain in Therapy

I remember a couple who came to therapy due to the husband’s affair. His wife was so hurt and angry that whenever she brought up her pain, he would shut down, leave the room, or tell her she “needed to get over it.”

When asked about his reactions to his wife, he told me “When she brings it up, she is reminding me of the worst thing I have ever done. It can be unbearable to think about.” It can be extremely difficult, and sometimes requires the help of a therapist, to help manage emotions of shame, guilt, and fear when you have hurt your partner. To be there for one’s partner in a comforting and healing way, it is necessary to manage these strong emotions within oneself.

It can be extremely difficult, and sometimes requires the help of a therapist, to help manage emotions of shame, guilt, and fear when you have hurt your partner.

How to Provide Comfort: 6 Tips

1. Recognize how much your partner needs you. When you are the source of your partner’s pain, it can be easy to think “I’ve caused your pain, I’m the last person you want to comfort you.” Exactly the opposite is often true. If you have caused pain in your partner, you can be one of the most helpful people in comforting that pain.

2. Find a support person. It can be a difficult, daunting, and frustrating process to rebuild and repair a relationship after major hurts have occurred. Your efforts to make things better may be rejected or criticized by your hurting spouse. You may need a therapist to help you manage your emotions of shame, frustration, hopelessness, and rejection in order to keep showing up for your partner in a comforting way. Also, if you feel stuck in your efforts to repair hurts in your relationship, you may need a couples therapist to help guide you.

3. Be flexible with what your partner needs. One day your partner may need to be left alone. The next they may need to be held. When there have been relational hurts, these needs can change by the hour or the day. There is often not a single, foolproof approach that works. Be willing to adapt your approach as your partner’s needs change.

4. Learn what comfort feels like for your partner. There are a lot of ways to provide comfort for your partner. According to Dr. Sue Johnson, physical and emotional closeness from our partner is one of the most powerful ways to experience comfort. Physical closeness can be achieved through being held, hugged, holding hands, or cuddling. Emotional closeness can include the following:

  • Providing reassurance: “I love you,” “I am here for you,” “I’m not going anywhere.”
  • Validating the hurt: “Of course this hurt you deeply.”
  • Understanding the hurt: “Tell me more about what you are going through.”
  • Hearing the hurt: “You can tell me how you feel. I want to know.”
  • Showing remorse: “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’m so sorry you are going through this.”

A great place to start is, “When you are hurting like this, what helps the most? What do you need from me right now?”

5. Express a willingness to do whatever it takes. It can be easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to make this better. You may think, “Anything I say only makes things worse” or “I don’t know what to do to make things better.” It can be comforting for your hurt partner to hear “I’m not sure how to help, but I know I want to help.” Let them know that although you might not always know how, you want to make things better, and you are willing to learn how to do that.

6. Open up. Expressing your emotions and showing vulnerabilities may not be your strong suit. However, it can be comforting for your hurting partner to know you are hurting too, and that they are not in this hurt alone. It can be very healing for your partner to hear and see that you hurt because they hurt.

Reference:

Johnson, S., (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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Your brain seeks the good feeling of letting down your guard

Posted Feb 08, 2015

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

Love feels good because it’s a physical letting down of your guard. So why does this lead to pain so often? Because your brain is touchy when your guard is down. The slightest hint of threat triggers cortisol, the chemical messenger of pain and potential pain. Blaming your partner for your cortisol can send things from bad to worse. You are better off understanding it instead.

Cortisol is easy to understand in animals. Imagine you’re a gazelle munching grass with your herd. You trust them to alert you if predators come near, and that frees you to relax and enjoy. The sense of being safe and protected is caused by a chemical called oxytocin. It would be nice to just enjoy oxytocin all the time, but the mammal brain isn’t designed for that. Soon, the other gazelles wander a bit, leaving you dangerously exposed. Your brain goes on alert. A gazelle doesn’t waste energy blaming its buddies for the bad feeling. It simply raises its guard until the next opportunity to lower its guard.

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

Now imagine you’re a monkey enjoying a grooming with one of your troop mates. Your oxytocin is flowing as you give and receive trust. Suddenly, the bully of your troop comes over and threatens you. You hope your grooming buddy will protect you, but that doesn’t happen. So you do what it takes to protect yourself, and then find another monkey to groom with. Grooming is a huge act of trust. Many chimpanzees are missing fingers and toes because they lowered their guard around the wrong guy. Sometimes your grooming buddies are there for you, and sometimes they aren’t. Your brain responds to the social data of each moment.

While you’re enjoying the nice oxytocin feeling, you want to feel that way forever. But all too soon, you are hit by the reality that your partner is a separate person with needs of their own. Your oxytocin drops, and your cortisol is triggered.

How do you react to this cortisol? Most people react in the way they learned when they were young, because that’s when the brain myelinates its pathways. The behaviors you observed when you were young activated your mirror neurons, preparing you to react that way yourself. You may accuse your loved one of throwing you to the wolves. They may accuse you back. Love hurts.

You can build new pathways to respond in new ways. I will present a series of tools for doing so in a series of posts called “When Love Brings Pain.” To receive these posts automatically, subscribe to Your Neurochemical Self blog by clicking the RSS button. For a sneak peek at these tools, check out: The Power of Two Marriage, Deeper Dating and InLoveInformed.

How to get through all kinds of pain love brings you

You may not like the idea of managing your cortisol. It’s more comfortable to expect your partner to make you feel good all the time. But such expectations are often disappointed. Then, it’s nice to know that the urge to merge is just a neurochemical impulse, not an accomplishment you’ve somehow failed at. For background on this impulse, see my post, The Urge to Be Heard At Your Core.

You can enjoy the safety of companionship while remaining responsible for your own internal threat-detector. In fact, it’s what your brain is designed to do!

More on the ups and downs of your natural happy chemicals in my book Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels, and on my website, InnerMammalInstitute.org.

Be sure to read the following responses to this post by our bloggers:

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They don’t call it labor for nothing. Having a baby is hard work, and part of that work is getting through the pain. But don’t panic. There are more ways than ever to manage that pain, and you don’t have to choose just one. “The trick is to have as many tools in your bag as possible,” says Kim Hildebrand Cardoso, a certified nurse-midwife in Berkeley, California, and a mother of two. “You don’t know what’s going to work until you’re in it, and what helps a woman at one point can change five minutes later.” That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and do your research. So take a deep breath and prepare to enter the wide world of labor pain management.

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Relaxation

“The most important thing you can relax during labor is your mind,” says Stacey Rees, a certified nurse-midwife at Clementine Midwifery, in Brooklyn, New York. The idea is simple – when you fear pain, you tense up, which makes the pain worse, which makes you tense up more. Cardoso had back labor for 21 hours with her first baby and says her saving grace was enjoying the time between contractions. “I tried to stay in the moment and not spend the precious pain-free minutes stressing about the pain I just had and what was to come. The result was ecstasy – I felt like I was on really good mind-altering drugs.”

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Breathing

To stay relaxed, it’s crucial to pay attention to your breathing, the same way you do when you’re lifting weights. Whether you’re hee-ing or haa-ing, panting or deep inhaling, as long as you’re focusing on your breath and releasing it, you’ll find some relief. “I tell women their breath is the path through the contraction,” Rees says, “and to just keep following that path until the sensation starts to fade.”

And don’t feel inhibited about making strange loud noises. Rees recommends strong low-pitched moans rather than high-pitched horror-movie screams, which tend to make the throat tight and tense, but she admits it isn’t always possible. “With my second baby, I was able to make those low guttural sounds, somewhere between a Gregorian chant and a large animal near death,” Cardoso remembers. “But with my first baby, I just ended up screaming a lot.”

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Moving Around

Walking, swaying, changing positions, and rolling on a birthing ball can not only ease the pain but can help your labor progress by using the force of gravity to your advantage and encouraging the movement and rotation of the baby down through the pelvic canal. In a hospital setting, being hooked up to fetal monitors, IVs, and pain medicine can limit your walking, but you can still try positions like hands and knees in the bed or standing, squatting, or sitting by the side of the bed. “It really helped to be on my hands and knees, leaning onto my husband’s chest,” says Andrea Vander Pluym, of Oakland, California, mom to Bastien Brace, 3. “And I liked leaning over in the shower, leaning over the sink, leaning on the stairs – lots of leaning.”

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Water Therapy

Warm water can work wonders for diminishing labor pain. “It felt absolutely amazing and so soothing to step into this 100 degrees F water at the birthing center,” recalls Cynthia Overgard, of Stamford, Connecticut, mother of Alex, 3. “My doula (a person trained in childbirth support, who assists the mother physically and emotionally) began pouring cups of water over my shoulders — it was almost spa-like.”

Don’t underestimate the power of the shower either – the stream of hot water will not only keep you relaxed but will massage you, too. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but some doctors or midwives may caution you against getting in the water in early labor (under 4 centimeters) for fear it’ll slow things down.

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Massage

Massage may be a bit of an understatement when it comes to the kind of pressure most women need for relief during labor. “After the baby was born, my husband complained that his hands hurt so much from pushing on my back,” says Kari Bennett, of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, mom to 3-year-old Jorja. “I had to laugh.” Even if you don’t find that counter pressure reduces the pain, having your partner rub your feet or massage your hands or temples can distract you, relax you, and generally make you feel cared for, which is a major morale boost.

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Epidural

Over the last 10 years, the epidural has changed dramatically, explains William Camann, MD, coauthor of Easy Labor and director of obstetric anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. The medicine is no longer delivered through one hefty shot that leaves you completely numb. Instead, it’s given via a slow continuous drip so you can’t run out, and you should feel enough pressure to be able to push. In fact, most hospitals now use patient-controlled epidural anesthesia, which keeps the baseline epidural low but allows you to press a button for more if you need it.

Studies show that you’re not at a higher risk for having a C-section or a prolonged labor (an epidural adds one hour, on average). Spinal headaches, caused by the leakage of spinal fluid through the tiny hole the needle makes, are now exceedingly rare, occurring in just 1 percent of patients. And you don’t need to worry about missing a small window of opportunity to get the epidural, says Benito Alvarez, MD, codirector of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. In general, you can get an epidural anytime after starting active labor, and, Dr. Alvarez adds, “it’s really only too late if the head is popping out.” A few medical conditions could prevent you from getting the epidural, like certain blood clotting disorders, scoliosis or past back surgery, or severe infections like sepsis. But for the vast majority of women, it’s fine. All of which adds up to a lot of satisfied patients.

“When I first arrived at the hospital, I was in such pain and so disoriented, everything was like a blur,” recalls Erika Scott, of Minneapolis, mother of two. “But a half hour after the epidural, I felt no pain, just pressure – and more than that I felt totally like myself, really present in the experience.”

People assume you aren’t sick
unless they see the sickness on your skin
like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.

My heart is a prison of Have you tried?s
Have you tried exercising? Have you tried eating better?
Have you tried not being sad, not being sick?
Have you tried being more like me?
Have you tried shutting up?

Yes, I have tried. Yes, I am still trying,
and yes, I am still sick.

Sometimes monsters are invisible, and
sometimes demons attack you from the inside.
Just because you cannot see the claws and the teeth
does not mean they aren’t ripping through me.
Pain does not need to be seen to be felt.

Telling me there is no problem
won’t solve the problem.

This is not how miracles are born.
This is not how sickness works.”
― Emm Roy, The First Step

“Attitude Is Everything

We live in a culture that is blind to betrayal and intolerant of emotional pain. In New Age crowds here on the West Coast, where your attitude is considered the sole determinant of the impact an event has on you, it gets even worse.In these New Thought circles, no matter what happens to you, it is assumed that you have created your own reality. Not only have you chosen the event, no matter how horrible, for your personal growth. You also chose how you interpret what happened—as if there are no interpersonal facts, only interpretations.

The upshot of this perspective is that your suffering would vanish if only you adopted a more evolved perspective and stopped feeling aggrieved. I was often kindly reminded (and believed it myself), “there are no victims.” How can you be a victim when you are responsible for your circumstances?

When you most need validation and support to get through the worst pain of your life, to be confronted with the well-meaning, but quasi-religious fervor of these insidious half-truths can be deeply demoralizing. This kind of advice feeds guilt and shame, inhibits grieving, encourages grandiosity and can drive you to be alone to shield your vulnerability.”
― Sandra Lee Dennis

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They don’t call it labor for nothing. Having a baby is hard work, and part of that work is getting through the pain. But don’t panic. There are more ways than ever to manage that pain, and you don’t have to choose just one. “The trick is to have as many tools in your bag as possible,” says Kim Hildebrand Cardoso, a certified nurse-midwife in Berkeley, California, and a mother of two. “You don’t know what’s going to work until you’re in it, and what helps a woman at one point can change five minutes later.” That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and do your research. So take a deep breath and prepare to enter the wide world of labor pain management.

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Relaxation

“The most important thing you can relax during labor is your mind,” says Stacey Rees, a certified nurse-midwife at Clementine Midwifery, in Brooklyn, New York. The idea is simple – when you fear pain, you tense up, which makes the pain worse, which makes you tense up more. Cardoso had back labor for 21 hours with her first baby and says her saving grace was enjoying the time between contractions. “I tried to stay in the moment and not spend the precious pain-free minutes stressing about the pain I just had and what was to come. The result was ecstasy – I felt like I was on really good mind-altering drugs.”

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Breathing

To stay relaxed, it’s crucial to pay attention to your breathing, the same way you do when you’re lifting weights. Whether you’re hee-ing or haa-ing, panting or deep inhaling, as long as you’re focusing on your breath and releasing it, you’ll find some relief. “I tell women their breath is the path through the contraction,” Rees says, “and to just keep following that path until the sensation starts to fade.”

And don’t feel inhibited about making strange loud noises. Rees recommends strong low-pitched moans rather than high-pitched horror-movie screams, which tend to make the throat tight and tense, but she admits it isn’t always possible. “With my second baby, I was able to make those low guttural sounds, somewhere between a Gregorian chant and a large animal near death,” Cardoso remembers. “But with my first baby, I just ended up screaming a lot.”

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Moving Around

Walking, swaying, changing positions, and rolling on a birthing ball can not only ease the pain but can help your labor progress by using the force of gravity to your advantage and encouraging the movement and rotation of the baby down through the pelvic canal. In a hospital setting, being hooked up to fetal monitors, IVs, and pain medicine can limit your walking, but you can still try positions like hands and knees in the bed or standing, squatting, or sitting by the side of the bed. “It really helped to be on my hands and knees, leaning onto my husband’s chest,” says Andrea Vander Pluym, of Oakland, California, mom to Bastien Brace, 3. “And I liked leaning over in the shower, leaning over the sink, leaning on the stairs – lots of leaning.”

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Water Therapy

Warm water can work wonders for diminishing labor pain. “It felt absolutely amazing and so soothing to step into this 100 degrees F water at the birthing center,” recalls Cynthia Overgard, of Stamford, Connecticut, mother of Alex, 3. “My doula (a person trained in childbirth support, who assists the mother physically and emotionally) began pouring cups of water over my shoulders — it was almost spa-like.”

Don’t underestimate the power of the shower either – the stream of hot water will not only keep you relaxed but will massage you, too. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but some doctors or midwives may caution you against getting in the water in early labor (under 4 centimeters) for fear it’ll slow things down.

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Massage

Massage may be a bit of an understatement when it comes to the kind of pressure most women need for relief during labor. “After the baby was born, my husband complained that his hands hurt so much from pushing on my back,” says Kari Bennett, of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, mom to 3-year-old Jorja. “I had to laugh.” Even if you don’t find that counter pressure reduces the pain, having your partner rub your feet or massage your hands or temples can distract you, relax you, and generally make you feel cared for, which is a major morale boost.

6 of 9

7 of 9

Epidural

Over the last 10 years, the epidural has changed dramatically, explains William Camann, MD, coauthor of Easy Labor and director of obstetric anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. The medicine is no longer delivered through one hefty shot that leaves you completely numb. Instead, it’s given via a slow continuous drip so you can’t run out, and you should feel enough pressure to be able to push. In fact, most hospitals now use patient-controlled epidural anesthesia, which keeps the baseline epidural low but allows you to press a button for more if you need it.

Studies show that you’re not at a higher risk for having a C-section or a prolonged labor (an epidural adds one hour, on average). Spinal headaches, caused by the leakage of spinal fluid through the tiny hole the needle makes, are now exceedingly rare, occurring in just 1 percent of patients. And you don’t need to worry about missing a small window of opportunity to get the epidural, says Benito Alvarez, MD, codirector of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. In general, you can get an epidural anytime after starting active labor, and, Dr. Alvarez adds, “it’s really only too late if the head is popping out.” A few medical conditions could prevent you from getting the epidural, like certain blood clotting disorders, scoliosis or past back surgery, or severe infections like sepsis. But for the vast majority of women, it’s fine. All of which adds up to a lot of satisfied patients.

“When I first arrived at the hospital, I was in such pain and so disoriented, everything was like a blur,” recalls Erika Scott, of Minneapolis, mother of two. “But a half hour after the epidural, I felt no pain, just pressure – and more than that I felt totally like myself, really present in the experience.”