Friday, August 04, 2006

Karate lessons experienced in life

I arrived at the place where I volunteer in the early morning hours to see a young lady, looking like she was just old enough to be out of her teenaged years, bent over in pain, standing in the rain outside of the faciility. Her distraught face echoed fear, and panic.

I came up to her and asked if she was o.k. She responded that she was in labour. She had walked all the way from her home to the facility in labour.

My experience told me that the cold rain was tightening her muscles, and that she needed to be indoors not outside. I encouraged her to enter the building. She went and sat on the inner stairs of the entryway. As we spoke together I found out that she had been in labour since early afternoon the previous day. She had not slept all night. She was standing in the rain watching for a taxicab to come bring her to the hospital. Her mother and father were in the building.

I caught one of the workers of the building as they entered, and informed them of the situation. She went in, and looked for someone willing to drive this girl to the hospital.

As she spoke I would see her eyes tighten in pain, and she'd have short contractions that were about 3 minutes apart. Each contraction brought panic in her.. I could see that trapped animal look that one gets when they realize that they can't run away from what is happening. Each succeeding pain was worse and worse for her because she was anticipating them with fear.

I remembered something that my Sensei had taught me about breaking mental patterns. I broke into her spiral of panic and said suddenly "Hey? Where is your favorite place to be in the whole world?"

She gave me a look like "This lady is totally nuts!", but her body relaxed as the suggestion of thinking about a "safe" place filled her mind with calming images. I saw her breathing slow down, and deepen. I encouraged her to keep that deep calm breathing when the next pain hit. I could see that she had developed no skills to handle the challenge of childbirth. She moaned loudly, and tensed every muscle in her body, bending forwards into herself causing the pain to be even more severe. Her breathing switched to the paniced quick breaths again. Tears filled her eyes, and she turned to me helplessly saying "It HURTS.."

I said to her solemnly "Your brain is stronger than your body, it doesn't have to hurt, you need to relax.. think about things that make you relax. Use your brain to control this.."

Hope started to fill her eyes, but as soon as her contraction started tightening, panic filled her again. I placed my hand in front of her face, and tightened it into a fist saying "Do this.. and picture putting all the pain into your fist. Tighten.. tighten.. think only about that fist holding the pain.. now when the contraction stops, let the pain go.. relax your hand, and your body." She did as I instructed. Her face looked a little skeptical, but she had nothing else to cling to, so she tightened her fist. The contraction stopped, and she looked at me with confusion.

Another worker from the outreach came to us with the parents. He was going to drive them to the hospital. Relief flooded the face of the young woman... she went to the vehicle as fast as she could in her condition.

I walked away from her remembering something else that my Sensei had taught me. It isn't when you are in the middle of a self-defense situation that you can work on your self-defense skills. At that moment you only have what is in you... it was all the training BEFORE that would give you the tools to handle a confrontation successfully. This is what I saw happening to this young lady. She wasn't ready for the moment of childbirth.. she had no tools to help her cope with what was happening.. so when the challenge hit, all she had was panic, and fear. There were so many things that she could have done beforehand to prepare, to understand, to make her experience of childbirth less painful. It was far too late for her to learn these coping skills when I was standing there before her doing what I can to support, and calm her. I could only give her some hope, and some ideas, but she didn't have any confidence in them because she didn't have experience with them. So THAT's why we do so much repetition! That's why we work towards developing the right mindset, skills, and knowledge as we train.. it's so that we have them when we need them.. IF we need them.


John Vesia said...

My understanding of childbirth/labor is that it's quite possibly the most profound experience in pain. I think it's very giving of you to volunteer for an outreach program.

supergroup7 said...

The experience of Childbirth/labour is totally beyond words. I have survived 7 of them. There is no comparing it to anything else. What helps you is to have prepared yourself with mental tools to keep a calm spirit in the face of the barrage that happens to you during that moment.

Thank you for the compliment towards volunteering. I don't see it as "giving" of me. I enjoy offering my abilities, skills, and service to the building up of the world around me. Each time I volunteer, I help my neighbour be happier which in turn helps me become more joyful.

It is hard to describe the good feeling that burns in your heart when you can hear how your small offering has touched that other person's life so deeply.

I really like this quote: "When you were born, everyone around you was smiling and you were crying. Live your life so that when you die, you're smiling and everyone around you is crying. "

lizzie said...

I'm really glad that prepares and trains us phyically and mentally.

I like that quote too supergroup.

Ruth said...

She was very lucky to have you turn up there. What a wonderful experience.

supergroup7 said...

Yes Lizzie, karate has more than one benefit when you really take hold of it, and LIVE it.

It was an experience, Ruth.. but in a way it haunts my thoughts, and reminds me of how important it is to prepare ahead of time especially when I am aware of the challenge coming up.