No life is born without sacrifice. I didn't fully know the cost, but in some ways I am glad I was a little ignorant, otherwise I may not have had the courage to move forward. The stinging of torn flesh, the pang of intermittent contractions as the uterus shrinks back to size, the agony of being feverish while engorged with milk, the excruciating first attempts at nursing, the backaches resulting from the tension of being in pain in the first place - some of these caught me off guard. I didn't know my body could sustain pain in so many iterations.
Each day I ask God to explain why the aftermath of childbirth has to be this difficult. I look for profundity in the most painful moments, searching for a spiritual principle or metaphor to redeem the experience for me. I haven't clearly located his voice in any of the moments from which I have intentionally tried to extract meaning.
As it is wont to be, his voice has not been in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the silence. When I am quiet before him he says it is enough to walk on - no need to derive lessons or shape narratives just yet around this time. If they are there, they will emerge, but for now it is enough to inhabit my body, to bless and not curse it, and to face another day with thanksgiving.
Regarding the full rationale for the grueling healing process that overlaps with the challenging first days of parenting, there are no satisfactory answers, at least for me. My attempts to spiritualize the experience have been unsuccessful, and I struggle to accept the Lord's encouragement that it is enough to simply persist. There are partial explanations for this time, but for the most part, in thinking about the purpose of prolonged physical suffering following childbirth, I feel as though I am staring into a void.
Marilynne Robinson often writes about how a value for mystery is lacking in modern faith, and how essential it is for us to cultivate a Christianity that admits to not knowing answers, even being content and moved to awe by the knowledge that there are questions in this life that will only be answered in eternity. This has become my prayer - teach me, Holy Spirit, to be still before you and to look into the mystery with wonder, not despair, at its vastness.
"He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave." 1 Kings 19