Posted on

Pain and Pleasure – Flip Sides of the Same Coin

What would your life be like if you knew only day but not night.
Or what if you only knew hot, and not cold? Or what if you
knew only sadness, and not happiness. What if there were only male and not female? Being
born into the world means being born into duality. Duality simply means that our
understanding of one word is determined to a large extent by its opposite. An interesting
duality is pain vs pleasure. We wouldn’t know pleasure without pain. Pain and pleasure are flip
sides of the same coin. To know one, is to know the other. This is a life principle.

Being fearful of labor pain results in many women numbing themselves to the
experience of birth. They are so fearful that they don’t even want to use the word
“contraction” preferring “surges” or “waves.” But the uterus is one amazing muscle whose
power can bring us closer to who we really are. The uterus is a magnificent muscle that knows
how to expand from the size of a fist, to encompass a full grown baby. It has two layers of
muscle fibers, the vertical outer layer and the horizontal inner layer. During contractions, the
upper layer of fibers of the uterus contract becoming a little shorter and thicker with each
contraction so that by the end of the first stage of labor, they are bunched up at the top of the
uterus and ready to push the baby out. The lower, thinner fibers of the inside layer draw up
and back, thinning and dilating the cervix. During labor, the power felt by a woman is greater
than she can imagine and can take her by surprise. She realizes she is much more than she
thinks she is. Nature has orchestrated this coordinated effort to birth a baby so well that we
can trust this innate wisdom with which all women are born.

As BirthWorks doula student Tara Thompson from VA wrote, “It’s common for us as birth
workers to not emphasize the fact that childbirth is often painful and difficult work. Reframing
the words we choose to describe it and being sensitive to not embellishing the hard aspects of

birth is common, and for good reason because focusing on a perceived negative is not always
With that being said, I think women appreciate honesty and acknowledging that it will
be hard work and will be uncomfortable and painful at times. However, this is a GOOD thing
(and what makes our jobs as doulas important)! We need strong and intense contractions to
bring a baby down. We cannot have pleasure without pain.”

There is a saying that “Pain is the interval between two pleasures.” In conception, the pleasure
of intercourse/orgasm is followed by pregnancy and the hard work of labor, but then the new
mother looks into her baby’s eyes and is transformed for she has now become a mother.

Thompson goes on to acknowledge this principle of life by saying, “There is often a break
between contractions. Between conception and birth, there will be labor. Many aspects of life
have this pattern of pain between pleasure. To be able to enjoy the pleasures of life, there
needs to be the hard work (pain).”

Yes, having a baby is hard work but the baby is also a miracle. In fact, a woman who chooses to
feel her labor, experiences a power within she didn’t know was there and leads her to say at the
end, “If I can do this, I can do anything!” This is empowerment – supreme pleasure and
satisfaction. Understanding the role that duality plays in our lives, is what helps us to move
forward in life, becoming stronger and more confident human beings.

And during this holiday season, we can give thanks to the universe for the gift of love that has
been given to all human beings, but especially to women in birth who feel the work of labor,
regardless of birthing vaginally or by cesarean. Birth is love and love is the gift.