A Pregnant Lady’s Thoughts on Suffering

by | Nov 26, 2013 | Catholic Living, Pregnancy | 21 comments

Well, as it turns out there’s still time to enter the baby pool to win a copy of Haley and Daniel’s new ebook: Feast. (Since I haven’t had this baby yet.) It isn’t even my due date until Wednesday, so I really shouldn’t complain. But I will anyway, just a bit. My entry in the pool would have said Monday, and while there are still four hours of Monday left as I write this, it’s not looking all that likely.
I was thinking that I would be happy to have all of our schoolwork and my errands and projects wrapped up last week and have a few quiet days to relax before the baby comes, but as it turns out I’m not very good at relaxing and I’m just antsy and and want this baby to come already so I’ll have something to do. I told you guys I was crazy.
Anyway, as I sit around (or walk and walk and walk around) waiting to see if any little tummy bubble will turn into a contraction, I’ve had time to reflect a bit on my own take on physical suffering as it relates to childbirth. It’s been on my mind ever since I read Christy’s take on trusting God during childbirth and one of Haley’s essays in Feast, in which she talks about how scared she was of childbirth until she finally got so big and pregnant and uncomfortable that she was willing to take her chances with labor.

this isn’t me, but it seems about right

I had the exact same experience. When I was pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to have a natural childbirth, but I was the first among our siblings or close friends to be having a baby, so I really didn’t know what would happen. It was very scary to know that I was inching closer and closer to what was surely going to be a painful experience, and to dread and desire it at the same time. Eventually I just got so uncomfortable being pregnant that it didn’t seem like labor could possibly be worse. But, really, I viewed it more as a physical challenge than anything else. I figured if people could do it, then I could. And I did.

I should say here that I really believe that different people are naturally better suited for different challenges. Obviously all women used to attempt natural childbirth, but I’m sure it was very traumatic for some. I seem to be particularly well suited for the physical challenges of pregnancy and unmedicated childbirth. I absolutely understand that other women are not, and I do not begrudge them whatever means they need to use. You have to do what works for you.
But, as I was saying, with my first two, I viewed the natural childbirth process as a physical challenge to be conquered. Run a marathon, check. Natural childbirth, check.
It wasn’t until I was expecting my third that I began to think of it in terms an an opportunity for suffering that I could offer up for myself and others. And, really, what better opportunity could there be? Childbirth is an intense physical suffering, but for a finite amount of time and without lasting trauma (for me, so far). Plus you get an extraordinary payoff at the end.
Even with my first two births, before I had a concept of redemptive suffering, I willingly endured the physical pain of childbirth in order to a) have a baby and b) not be pregnant anymore. But with my third, I was able to prayerfully add another dimension to the experience that really made it richer and more meaningful for me, even though I would point to that as my most painful birth experience.
I have been blessed with excellent physical health. I don’t suffer from backaches or migraines or Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so pregnancy and labor are my big chance to attempt to unite my suffering to Christ on the cross. And, to be honest, I’m a lot better at making the big effort to mindfully suffer through labor than I am at being cheerful when I’m tired or my kids are just driving me crazy.
The point is, my labors with my first two were a missed opportunity. I was going to suffer anyway, but I didn’t have any intentions in mind. So my suffering wasn’t meaningful in the way it could have been.
In the comments of one of my birth story posts, Colleen pointed out that I never really mentioned the suffering part of my labors and she wondered if she was the only natural childbirth gal to kinda lose it at the end there. Well . . . she’s not. I do usually lose it at the end. I hate the pushing part. I’m always convinced I’m going to just rip right in half (although I’ve never required more than a couple of stitches).
So that’s the part I’m going to try to focus on this time. I want to find that trust, even at the really scary part at the end. And I want to offer it up.

I’m blessed to be having all these babies with my husband by my side. He’s a Catholic and a Marine, and both Catholics and Marines understand that there are things in this life well worth the physical suffering they require. Honestly, I can’t imagine what it would be like were our roles reversed and I had to watch him in acute pain. His cancer treatments were a much quieter suffering. I’d like to think I would rise to the occasion. He certainly does. He gives me the strength and confidence I need, and he’s the only person I can bear to have talk to me once labor gets serious. 
Even after going though it as many times as I have, I’m still apprehensive about going into labor. I’ve done it before, so I know it’s going to hurt. I just can’t remember how much it’s going to hurt, which is an odd feeling. Despite that, I still really am looking forward to it, but now it’s for three reasons: a) to get a baby, b) to not be pregnant anymore, and c) to be able to offer my suffering for my intentions and yours.
So, if I can pray for you during this labor, please leave a comment. It can be as specific or vague as you’d like, God will know. You’re also welcome to email me at helpdesk@catholicallyear.com if you prefer. And if you haven’t entered the baby pool, leave a comment over there too! Someone is going to win a copy of a great book, it might as well be you.


  1. Micaela Darr

    I'm with you 100%. I love the physical challenge of labor, and I love the baby even more. I can't say I'm ever really aware enough to mention my intentions out loud, but as you said, God knows.

    Since I'd didn't win the baby pool, I hereby reserve my prayer intentions. One, a personal intention, and also for all the souls in Purgatory, especially my family members and friends.

    Thanks! And prayers for you too!

  2. Emily O'Rourke

    This post comes just at the right time for me. I'm currently 4 days overdue with my first baby and I don't think this little one is in any rush! Please pray for me, first of all that the baby will come naturally and soon, but that whatever happens, we come through the experience safely and with peaceful hearts. Thank you! You will be in my prayers as well!

  3. Laura Pearl

    What a beautiful reflection on using labor as an opportunity for redemptive suffering. I wouldn't mind if you offered a prayer for a special intention of mine, and I'll keep you in my prayers as well. God bless you.

  4. Diane Emigh

    Please include my personal intention in your labor. I thank you and will include you in my morning prayer as well!

  5. Emily

    Reading this post makes me want another child now. I tried natural childbirth with our twenty month old baby girl, but after an eighteen hour labor, I'm glad I got the epidural instead. Right now we're in the throes of terrible twos, so if you could pray for me (and mothers everywhere) to find the grace and wisdom to parent with God's love and see every child as the gift they are even when we're fit to burst (!) it would be appreciated. And you will be in my prayers too

  6. Amanda

    Yep, this confirms it, you're pretty much a slightly older version of myself 🙂 I've had three natural labors so far and the first one I definitely viewed as a challenge to myself. It was fun and satisfying in a way to prove all the people who said I couldn't do it wrong. But then during my second pregnancy three good friends miscarried their own pregnancies. And so I began to consider the idea of offering up my suffering during labor for them. For my third baby I chose a few intentions and prayed for them, though her short and intense labor kind of thwarted my plans 🙂
    I also find that my well-intentioned prayers always devolve into something more desperate and selfish right at the end. It's my hope that someday I can experience staying in control throughout the labor, even pushing and transition, but maybe God prefers it this way 🙂

  7. Amelia@One Catholic Mama

    This is a beautiful reflection. I've done all natural births, and I wish I could say it was for some altruistic feeling of offering up suffering, but really it's because I don't like pain killers and my limited experience with them is that they are oftentimes worse than the pain.

    Anyway, I'll take whatever prayers you want to send my way…specifcially for my husband and his job and career path.

  8. Colleen

    I love this post. I definitely call out to Jesus during labor, so I'm hoping He considers that a prayer 😉 Please pray for all anxious mothers out there. Thanks Kendra!

  9. Lisa

    What a great reflection, Kendra! I And when you said the part about the effort to suffer through pain being easier than choosing to be cheerful when tired or driven crazy- I just thought, YES!
    My sister and her husband have been trying to conceive for several years, if you could please pray for them I'd greatly appreciate it! God bless.

  10. Sarah

    You are so sweet to offer this up for strangers (of which I consider myself, since I have never commented on your blog). My husband and I dream of a family like yours. We have two boys right now and recently suffered a miscarriage. We strongly desire more children and waiting to see what God's desires is difficult. My prayer request would be for patience in seeking God's will and if it be His will, an abundance of children. 🙂 Thank you and good luck – we're all checking multiple times a day to see when babe arrives!

  11. Erica Saint

    I wanted to experience natural childbirth, but my boys were born by c-section. Please pray for my personal intention. I am keeping you in my prayers.

  12. Kate

    I too find myself checking in throughout the day. Thanks for sharing this! Please pray for my sister Margaret, she has been away from the true faith for a long time and I believe she may be ready to come back.

  13. Ewe

    I just had my first baby. I didn't know if I would have presence of mind during labor so I made a deal with Jesus pre-labor that I wanted to offer up all my pain for the intention that my husband would change his mind and allow the baby to be baptized and for his conversion. Well, I don't think I had the presence of mind during labor but shortly after we brought the baby home he said, "you can have the baby baptized." And then he said, "should we start praying before meals?" That second one didn't stick but it really startled me that he said it because he is anti-religion. That's how I knew my prayer was answered and not just coincidence!

  14. Jeff and Emily

    What a great idea! I've had two natural childbirths and am about 8 weeks or so from my next. I too fear the dreaded 'I'm going to tear in half' time while pushing. In the past I've just repeated the Hail Mary over and over to push through it but I love the thought of offering up our suffering in prayer. Do you plan on doing this before active labor in a silent prayer, or will you be doing this out loud during labor/transition etc.? You are in my prayers, hang in there!!

  15. Cailin

    Kendra, could you please offer up a small portion of your labor and delivery pain for couples experiencing infertility? My husband and I have a beautiful thirteen-month-old little girl, but she took years to arrive. We're starting to think about a second, but we can look forward to months of painstaking NFP tracking (I use NFP to achieve pregnancy only because I have PCOS and endometriosis, so it's not like I need help avoiding pregnancy) and fertility drugs that cause hot flashes and irritability. Our sweet little girl says she wants a little brother and a little sister at the same time!

  16. Melissa Michalek

    I really enjoyed your article, as it speaks to my thoughts. I'm the months away from my sixth cesarean delivery. The most painful part for me is where only the Hail May prayer can get me through. Every time, is the only thing that comes to mind. It's so hard in that moment to concentrate on specific intentions, so it's true you really need to prepare them ahead of time and God knows what you mean to say in that moment of agony.

  17. cat

    What a wonderful thing to offer, thank you. Please pray for two little ones- a soon to be adopted baby due in the next few days, and a little boy who is currently with a foster family (the only family he has ever really known) who will be returning to his biological family at Christmas time.

  18. Anna-bird

    This is so beautiful, and has challenged me to do the same thing during my labor (likely in the next month or so). I would so appreciate prayers for this pregnancy – my husband and I lost our son last year due to cervical incompetence, so this pregnancy has included strict bed rest and too much time to worry…we're hoping to last a few more weeks and give her time to get bigger and healthier!

  19. Stephanie

    Looking forward to hearing the "we had our 7th baby!" announcement. I'm hoping it's a quick and easy labor. 🙂

    As for prayers, if you wouldn't mind praying for my husband and me. We have been trying to have a baby for over a year now with now luck. We're seeing an awesome Catholic doctor who specializes in NaPro Technology and we're working with him to fix my hormal imbalances. Hopefully this will do the trick! We are also in the home study process for adoption. Please pray that a sweet baby will be entrusted to us soon, through either pregnancy or adoption. Thank you!

  20. Michele Chronister

    Please pray for six year old Ethan, who was just diagnosed with brain cancer, and for his mother (who is my husband's cousin).

  21. Sarah

    This post is so beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for offering your pain for our intentions! Will you please offer up a prayer for my brother? He's in desperate need of a new job as his current one no longer meets his and his family's financial needs now that ObamaCare has kicked in at his company. They take more money out of his paycheck to pay for insurance and he has two beautiful boys and a lovely wife to support. Thank you so much. You have my prayers as well!


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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