“Ok, so each of you take an ice cube and hold it tightly in your hand.” The cold burned, and it was only a few seconds before grimaces and complaints issued forth from the lips of the students in the birthing class. I caught Francisco opening his hand, trying to move his cube to another position and relieve the cup of his palm.
The exercise was excruciating, yet only one one billionth, the teacher assured us, of the “ring of fire” we women would feel when giving birth.
“Rest for a few seconds. Now let’s try again, just the moms this time.”
As the women took up another cube, husbands and partners slid into their respective supporting modes, holding us, stroking our backs or faces or hair, breathing into our ears, and just being present. Sitting between Francisco’s legs, my back leaning into his chest as he stroked my neck, I only thought about the ice when Asha said “Ok, let go of the cube now.”
“There’s no way that was a minute,” I said out loud, the other women agreeing. It honestly felt like 10 seconds.
Point being: Yes, the mind, the environment, and the presence of a supportive person (or people) during labor make a profound difference in our experiences of pain. While I might have known that intellectually, thinking about it consciously felt a little too New Age-y, so I hadn’t given it much thought.
Until the ice cube exercise.