When Birthing and Dying, Discomfort Prepares Us

I distinctly remember a certain point when I was no longer fearful of childbirth. Before getting pregnant, the thought of giving birth was a little scary. More than a little scary, really. It terrified and disgusted me in equal parts. I worried about the leaking and the tearing and the pain. When I eventually got pregnant, I wasn’t as disgusted, but I was still a bit afraid of the unknown.

But somewhere in that third trimester, things began to shift. Maybe it was the separation of my pelvic joint or the stabbing feeling I got every time I sneezed that brought me to my knees, or maybe it was the pee that ran down my leg while I was gasping for breath after that sneeze. It could have been my organs getting crushed inside of me, or perhaps it was my sore tailbone or the fact that my blood pressure got lower instead of higher like my doctor predicted, so instead of worrying about preeclampsia, like I was prepared for, I worried about blood pressure (and blood flow to the baby) that was too low.

Pregnancy does weird, unpredictable things to the body.

My point is, before that baby came, I was ready. My anxieties and fears were cast aside because of how uncomfortable I became near the end and all I cared about was GETTING THIS BABY OUT OF ME. I guess it’s probably the same when you’re the one coming into the world. Your arms squashed into your sides and your head is pressing against a hard place. You’re ready to get the eff outta Dodge.

I think it might be similar when you’re dying. So uncomfortable that you’re ready to move on to whatever the hell might be next.

My grandma is dying, as we speak. Not in the vague existential way that we all are, but at this very moment, her body is shutting down and letting go. She’s got a few days left, at most.

She’s been ready for awhile. Maybe it was the loss of her husband or the loss of her independence or the loss of her ability to use her hands, and then her legs.

She was able to make the choice to prolong her life by going through a risky surgery or opting out of the surgery and saying goodbye. She didn’t hesitate. When told she would not be going back to the nursing home she’s been in for the past year or so her response was an immediate, “Good.”

She’s been uncomfortable for a long, long time. The thing about pregnancy is you know an approximate end date. Not so much with dying.

Near the end, she watched her husband of 50+ years forget who he was. She watched him shrink down to a fraction of himself and eventually dissolve into dust. She quickly grew weaker and weaker, her head, her heart, her body. Her spirit grew thin as her body grew stiff and tremorous and unreliable. She transformed from an active, social woman to a bed-ridden depressive to a wheelchair-bound hermit within a matter of months.

Growing old does weird, unpredictable things to the body.

She had to be removed from her home and she removed herself emotionally from most of her friends and her family. She was weary. She was so very depressed. She was not her best self. She created more than a bit of discomfort to some of those around her.

She was done.

Is that how it always is? The discomfort? The GET ME OUT OF HERE?

Perhaps.

Maybe it’s the discomfort that gets us all ready. To come in, and to leave.

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10 thoughts on “When Birthing and Dying, Discomfort Prepares Us

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  1. Very insightful post. That emotional pulling away speaks to me as I witnessed it in my own mother many years ago. Being ready to go is a natural part of the cycle, however painful and sad for the rest of us. Thanks for evoking it so beautifully!

  2. You said what we are all thinking, She has been ready for a long time, Let us hope what we were taught as kids growing up that she will be reunited with your Grandfather, her family and all her friends in the after life.

    You have a wonderful family that loves you and that means a lot.

    Nick Manzella.

  3. Beautifully written, mama. I send you a giant virtual hug. So true, these parallels between birth and death. This hits so close to home for me experiencing them both so close together recently ( over a year ago already!) when I was supporting my pregnant mamas while supporting my dying Dad. Life changing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Loved this post! My dad passed away last February and we did his palliative care at home. He was so ready to go, but it was the hardest thing ever to watch. I don’t regret one single moment. Thanks for sharing!

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