This past Sunday at Mass, the deacon opened his homily with a familiar story.
I had heard it many times: two babies are in the womb together, and one twin asks the other, “Do you think there is a life after this?” The other twin responds that he doesn’t understand why there would be a life outside the womb. They have everything they need, everything they want. What more could there be?
His twin replies that she has felt pressure and pain, even in this beautiful safe-haven of everything they need. She believes that stress must be leading them to something more, must be preparing them for something better.
As a mother, I heard that story a little differently this time around. I now understand the pressure and pain the babies refer to are contractions. I understand how active a child is before birth, how like they like to explore their space inside mommy.
And I know more than ever how much growing can hurt.
Pain is a consequence of sin, especially labor pains. It is the first thing God says to Eve after she eats the forbidden fruit: I will intensify your pain in childbearing. But the amazing thing I discovered during labor is that the pain is good. The pain is bringing my baby closer to me. The pain is bringing my child into the world.
Growing is painful because we are being moved, whether we like it or not. Moving away from our parents, working jobs, having kids, all the things that really make us “grow up” are hard. They’re painful. They’re moving us away from where we’ve been and into the unknown.
The pain of labor is said to be the worst physical pain anyone can go through. Yet mothers go through it every day. Women give birth at all ages and stages of life. Why? Because the pain is worth it. We understand the pain is for our baby, who we already love more than anything in the world.
Life is full of pains of all kinds, but it’s easier to bear our crosses when we know why we’re carrying them. It’s not always clear where pain is taking us, but we do know it’s leading us somewhere. The only way to truly carry our crosses is to have faith and hope that God sees us, knows us, and loves us like a father, and will never abandon us. He always knows where He’s leading us, and sometimes He has to lead by growing pains.