Mind over Matter


Yesterday I flew home from Kauai. As fate would have it and to my surprise, I started experiencing terrible menstrual cramps pretty much right when we were boarding the plane. And my cramps are BAD. Always have been. Not just uncomfortable…they are debilitating. I take strong pain relief medication so that I can carry on with work and life.

So there I was…starting a five-hour plane ride…in a whole lot of pain…and without any pain medication. Yep, no pain medication on hand. Aside from my physical pain, I was also mentally distraught. I was SURE that I couldn’t make it five hours without pain medication. The pain seemed to be getting worse and worse.

I figured the flight attendants should have some kind of pain medication, so I asked and found out that the process to distribute medication is very involved. They have to announce to the entire plane that they have a medical situation and ask for a doctor on board. If there is a doctor on board, the doctor comes over and “inspects” you to see what’s wrong and figure out why you need medicine. If the doctor concurs that you do need medicine, the flight attendant then calls some medical company to let them know that they will be distributing medication. They then proceed to document all sorts of information and sign several liability waiver forms. And THEN you get your medicine.

That sounded embarrassing and way too complicated, so I took a deep breath and told myself that I would have to figure out other ways to deal with the pain. I started breathing deeply and moving around (while still in my seat) until I found comfortable positions. I turned my focus on calming my mind…accepting the situation for what it was and trying to work through the pain. I would glance over at my husband, he would grab my hand and say, “You’re tough. You can do this.”

Then something incredible happened – the pain started to dissipate. It didn’t completely go away, but it became tolerable. Once I accepted that I wouldn’t have medicine and I would have to pull myself through this, my mind kicked into high gear and it did just that. The human mind is so incredibly powerful.

As I was reflecting on the experience, I couldn’t help but think about childbirth. I’ve read quite a bit about the importance of your mindset during labor and delivery, most recently from Ina May Gaskin’s book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Since I’m an avid exerciser, I have used the mind over matter technique, but dealing with intense physical pain is different, at least until now. I now have the motivation to continue to strengthen this skill so that when the time comes for me to deliver my babies, I will be ready.

Moms – what are your mind over matter experiences during childbirth?

Leave a Reply