Sometimes, when I look at my daughter and see how much pain and effort go into growing her tiny little body, I think ‘why! Why is the human body so flawed, that it needs to go through things like teething, stomach cramps and learning to walk?’. I want to protect my baby from it all and find myself questioning the creator of the human body. If we were a computer, we would be send back to the Apple Store immediately, because man, we are not finished products. We are so vulnerable, helpless and unfinished when we are born. And it takes a lot of pain, discomfort, falling, trying and failing, frustration and disillusionment to become an actual functioning human being.
A disclaimer before you read on! I realize I am very lucky to have a healthy baby. I don’t mean to offend anyone with this post.
Growing pains suck
I hated seeing my baby in agony the first three months, when she had tummy aches because her intestines were adjusting to life outside of the womb. I feel terrible when I see her grab her cheeks or ears, because her teeth are hurting. My whole being cringed every time she fell on her head when she was learning to roll over, sit, stand and now walk. I feel scared when she is eating a new foods and starts coughing and choking on it, because she is still learning how to cope with this whole food eating-business. ‘Why!’ is what my body screams, when I see her struggle with hers.
When you think about it, the human body is pretty amazing. It’s nothing less than a miracle that from basically Nothing a baby is formed. It’s fascinating how our vessels, nerves and muscles are connected. For a layperson on a subject of the astonishments of the human body it is almost magical how we wake up every morning and everything just works. The body is incredible. But it is also flawed. We are beautiful creatures, subjected to something or things way stronger and greater than ourselves. To God maybe, to nature for sure. But why, when the body of an adult already isn’t without its weaknesses, defects and shortcomings, do our babies have to go through all these extra, uncomfortable phases? Why does being a human and growing equal suffering?
Why Growing Equals Suffering
Now, I know most religions give a helpful answer to this question and a lot of people find peace or comfort in that. I am not disputing or even touching that in this column. Even though I don’t go to church I do find solace sometimes in the idea of something divine that is greater than myself, because this world is just way too complex to just ‘be’.
But I do think I have found an answer to my ‘why’- question, as to why is my baby suffering in her body and why is that normal. When I say normal, I mean she is a healthy girl – I am extremely grateful for that, because I know not everyone is blessed with a healthy baby – so her suffering is nothing out of the ordinary; it’s something every baby has to go through. Let that be clear. But why?
The short answer is: she is making it her own. She is taking possession of this physical ‘thing’ she was given. Let me explain my train of thought.
Make it your own
Let’s say you bought or rented a house. You got the key, you turn it in the lock, you open the door to your new home, step inside and… you start living. Uhm, no. You start working. Because you have to paint the woodwork, put in floors, tear down walls, put up shelves, bring in the furniture, unpack boxes; make it feel like a home. Like your home. The last owner might have thought it was fine, but that doesn’t mean it meets your standards and needs. It takes a lot of effort (pain, sweat, tears, money) to makes the new house your own.
And it is the same with the human body. I ‘gave’ Isaya her body (with a little help from our donor). She grew inside me. When I gave birth to her she started breathing, drinking, sleeping, living with that body. But it wasn’t and still isn’t fully her own. It was made with love, both mine and the donors genetics and I did my best to make it a healthy body by taking care of her. And the process and struggle of turning her given body into her own body is quite similar to making a house into a home.
There is no growth without friction. No conquer without a fight. No development without hard work. It sucks but when her tummy hurts, she learns something about her body. When she falls trying to walk on her own, she learns something about her body interacting with her environment. When she chews on and digests a new food, she is learning how to make things her own. Because the hardship doesn’t only enable her to grow into her body, she is also learning how to interact with the outside world. She is getting to know her abilities, her strength, her limitations. She is learning how to deal with discomfort, with disappointment, frustration, pain. And she is learning about the boundaries and obstacles in the world around us. Basically, teething is preparing her for a time in her life when the outside world is coming at her full speed and she needs to be able to either receive it, digest it and make it her own or keep it out, protect herself and preserve what she has. Which is a healthy, strong body, with a happy, beautiful soul.
All we can do as parents, is be there for our babies, in their struggle to make them feel at home in their bodies. To guide them in the right direction and keep them safe when they try, taste, learn, feel and lose things. I’m not saying there is a point to all suffering. I am saying this suffering, it has a reason. And that is to help our babies become who they really are.