The war on pain has not only robbed us of resilience. It has sold us a mirage that is making us miserable.
I am a man and cannot imagine childbirth. I am 90 years old, so when my children were born I was barely allowed inside the hospital ... certainly nowhere near the room wherein my wife was participating with God in the creation of a new human life. But I know all about pain associated with one's children. At its apex for us was the loss of them -- one at 35, one at 40, one at 64. In between, there were other anxieties, other disappointments, other struggles we might easily have done without. In fact, if one chooses to focus on the negative aspects of parenthood it can seem more bother than its worth. But that is true of anything ... and all things. A lesson my time on earth has taught me is this: Nothing acquired without cost has lasting value. Another lesson? The difference between horror and joy is attitude. I thought the worst of my life was the death of my children (and it was) but then I lost my wife. Every day I thank God for the time I had with them, for that is what gave meaning to my very existence. God is good, and we -- all of us -- are truly blessed.
Congrats on your new arrival!
20 yrs ago I gave birth to my one and only child. It was a lousy pregnancy. I was sick the entire 9 months, all day every day. I managed to keep some things down but felt horrid most of the time. I also had restless leg syndrome, and depression because I felt so crappy all the time. I labored for 18 hrs, pushed for 2, then went in for a C-section. She was 9.3 lbs and I have a narrow pelvis/hip region. But she finally arrived and she was my little ball of sunshine. I never felt so much love and joy and know I never will. Not like that.
I tore my rotator cuff during this time. I came home with my infant and a script for 3 weeks of PT. Off I’d go, infant in carrier, between feedings, changes, naps, and on very little sleep I just did what I had to do.
I honestly believe because the pregnancy was so difficult and that was now over, other stuff did not seem so hard.
20 yrs later I was in the same hospital, in the trauma unit. Last Tues I a tractor trailer ran a red light at high speed and t-boned right into my driver side. I was pinned in the car. I have a fractured pelvis and 3 fractured lower vertebrae. 11 stitches in my arm. I’m using a Walker to get around.
That baby, now an adult is here helping to take care of me as I heal, along with my husband.
All I can do is thank God I survived and thank God for my family. I am suffering but they are here with me to help me get through it. My daughter had other plans for her spring break but chose to be by my side instead.
There’s the meaning behind my suffering an awful pregnancy and injury during delivery. There are others too. I am truly blessed and grateful and yet experiencing the worst pain right now and I did nothing to deserve it. But life doesn’t care.
Wow. The author articulates the problem of pain and the resulting crisis that the war on suffering has brought about, in a manner both moving and profound. I believe this modern attitude harks back to the Original Sin of mankind, that of wanting to be like gods. We are tempted into hubris and never anticipate the folly of it as we plunge ahead, wreaking havoc and moral chaos, smacking our foreheads and wondering why.
Another brilliant piece from the Free Press. Congratulations to the author on her newborn.
Very thought provoking article. For me, some of my most painful times, were the times that defined whom I’d become, and how I could do better.
What an excellent, thoughtful piece to begin one's Saturday morning. The stupidity of humans is perhaps only exceeded by our hubris. This entire society we've created - of vast wealth, freedom from hunger and disease, comfort, entertainment and security - can be wiped out in a matter of minutes by a man-made or natural catastrophe. I'm currently reading The Children of Ash and Elm, a history of the Vikings. Had not known that a series of volcanic eruptions in the AD 500s had blotted out the sun for years, leading to crop failures, starvation and the erasure of population from swaths of the northern climes. Imagine that today with seven billion hungry mouths to feed. We can also see society crumble from a nuclear exchange and EMP or, more likely, our electric grids fail due to the green madness of unreliable wind and solar. Not sure where this musing leads except to observe that a nation that places itself in the hands of a corrupt, senile and imbecilic leader of a cabal of carnival freaks is not likely to fare well in any calamity. Especially when the populace has become so soft, indolent and compliant that they let a relatively mild virus put the nation into a lawless lockdown and tolerated medical stupidity on a massive scale in the name of "soy-yence." Perhaps a little pain is good for us and more reliance on the Stoics is required?
Love this essay, and Mazel tov on your new child!
Just remember, women have been giving birth for the ages, our bodies are designed for this, and that you are strong and fierce!
Never have I felt so strongly about what I would suffer for and defend as I have when my children were born.
I remember during my first Ironman triathlon (2.1 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run), at around mile 18 of the run, it was dark out (I'd started in the water at 8am), and the field had spread out. I was all alone in my misery, physically & mentally exhausted and hurting. Suddenly I remembered being in childbirth, (I had given birth twice, without an epidural), in the transition phase, which is near the end and typically the hardest. I thought, "this is the closest my male competitors will ever get to experiencing the extreme physical, emotional and mental challenge of enduring suffering in a very solitary place." It occurred to me that this may be why these extreme endurance events sell out in minutes. Perhaps in our relatively easy, comfortable lives, a part of us yearns for the suffering, and the profound joy and accomplishment of reaching that finish line. This was an excellent essay. My OB-Gyn could not understand why I would eschew the epidural. He said, "Why would you want to suffer when you don't need to?" I didn't bother explaining myself, but I was thinking, "There is always a price to pay for taking the easy road" (I was afraid of possible side effects eg chronic migraines, back issues). I often think to myself, and I tell my kids: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." I believe we parents need to do a better job of role modeling doing what's right, which may often mean not doing what's easy. I'm a therapist, and I firmly believe that if we focus on prioritizing sleep, exercise, healthy diet, time in nature, connecting with others, meaningful work, setting limits on screens/social media, nurturing a spiritual practice - we could prevent and solve so many issues.
You can ignore him, you can pretend he doesn’t exist, you can stick your head in the sand, you can make yourself believe he’s something else, but mean ol’ Mr. Reality will show up at your door, and you’ll pay the price for being alive sooner or later.
“What does not kill you makes you stronger”. Nietsche
Delayed gratification and overcoming pain and suffering with introspection will deepen your soul.
Fascinating article. Deeply insightful. With so much to comment on, the gem that grabbed me was, "the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in the 1970s and 1980s in the name of individual rights and dignity"
We don't hear nearly enough about the root cause of modern vagrancy: utopian ideals. I'm in Atlanta with my daughter and not seeing a lot of dignity. Although I do see a lot of individuals whose mental illness and/or life choices are making life unbearable for everyone around them.
Yet no one has the courage to propose the obvious solution: institutionalizing the mentally ill and the dangerously addicted for the benefit of both those suffering and for society at large.
Brilliant article, thank you.
This reminds me of the recent article regarding obesity and Wegovy. It’s only human nature to wish to trade the discomfort of exercise and diet for a weekly injection. However, what exactly is the trade-off we’re making? Sure, Wegovy is extremely effective, and you will lose weight while taking it, but it comes with its own side effects. The most worrisome of them, to me, is that it indirectly and inevitably reinforces poor lifestyle choices. For example, if a person has a goal of eating fewer Cheetos but takes medication that’s effective no matter how many Cheetos they eat, then any attempt at lifestyle change is rendered useless.
As a result, you lose the wonderful, painful process of refining yourself. A person who denies themselves old desires (Netflix, Cheetos, whatever) when they desperately want to give in becomes a disciplined, perseverant person. Disciplined, perseverant people can contribute more to society, their families, etc., and thus feel more purpose. This is the ultimate goal: to get people in the best position from which to contribute and flourish. Discomfort, suffering, and strife are requisites in this. Instead of trying to escape or modulate the process, we should recognize its place in our personal development.
“But eradicating suffering in this country—or at least striving to reach that utopian goal—has come with some unforeseen consequences.”
Nothing could possibly be *more* foreseen than the consequences of giving progressive left-wing utopianism a try for the 378th consecutive time. We have been telling you this literally the entire time.
Democrat ideology is essentially based on the idea that there doesn’t need to be suffering and that the only reason there is suffering is because Mean White Guys™️ in tuxedos got together in a back room and constructed society to benefit themselves and this is why we suffer. Because their plan was mean. An appealing narrative if you are nine years old and slow.
The idea that there doesn’t actually need to be suffering can easily be tested by walking into the forest in a swimsuit and seeing how the next 48 hours go. Obviously working at Wendy’s for not as much money as you would like is a gigantic upgrade over dying in the forest.
We humans need something against which to measure ourselves. It’s both evolutionary and psychological. How will we know what we’re capable of if we don’t stretch and push ourselves? And genes were not passed down by those who sat shivering in the cave when the wolves came down out of the mountains. Do not mistake me when I say that in one sense I understand what Nietzsche meant when he wrote “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The kernel of truth there is that it is during that ordeal of experiencing pain, discomfort, and uncertainty that we discover who really we are.
Thank you so much for this piece. I completely agree. I believe my suffering in life has given me the full human experience. As a mother, my childbirth experiences were mind-blowing. I suffered, yes, but there was beauty in the sacrifices, out of love for my babies, and it opened my eyes to the amazing capabilities of what the human body could endure. I revered every mother who had come before me since the beginning of time.
There is one suffering we can never escape, and that is death itself. I lost my mother in my 20s. Another experience of suffering and a grief journey that shaped me to who I am today.
There is plenty of suffering in childbirth and its aftermath (pregnancy related and child rearing) yet to come: my advice would still be to take the epidural. It’s a marathon not a sprint...
Excellent article. I live in a cold weather state. My kids walk to school nearly one mile each way (not both uphill 😀) with a group of kids. Once the weather drops below 30, the other parents start driving their kids. We still have our kids walk. I feel my job as a parent is to keep them safe, not to make them comfortable at all times. It’s good for them to overcome some adversity. They were fine walking in the cold weather, with good coats and hats. It gave them a feeling of accomplishment and resilience to start each day, not to mention some exercise, time to talk IRL, and fresh air. I never understood why the other parents needed to prevent their kids from feeling cold for 20 minutes.