Somewhere around the 24-hour mark, when I was in labor with Em, I sung out “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman” in the midst of a contraction. The room erupted in giggles as I sung, but I was in a groove. I was in pain. I was loving the pain. Not because I’m a masochist, but because my body was in the middle of its most heroic act in life, fulfilling its purpose, and totally rockin’ out with its bad self. I felt…well….strong and invincible and proud to be a woman, in that moment.
This feeling continued throughout most of labor and birth. Then there was the awe. Immediately after I gave birth, I was in awe—not just of my new baby, but of myself. When I opened my eyes after hours in a trance, after pushing my child through my body and successfully into the outside world, I felt a high like never before. Surely, part of that was the natural rush of hormones that women are blessed with after giving birth, but there was also the part that was the result of what I had just accomplished. I had survived 51 hours of labor, about 40 of which were unmedicated. I stayed awake for three days with no sleep. I made it the last 24 hours on only water, ice chips and a honey stick. I dug deep into a reserve that I was previously unaware I possessed. I overcame enormous obstacles along the way (read here, here, here, and here) yet never fully lost my spirit, my humor, or my determination. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And I did it. No one could do it for me. Damn, did I feel proud of that.
It occurred to me, in replaying the birth over and over in my head for weeks afterwards, that I had discovered what I was truly capable of. There was no way I could allow thoughts of insecurity or negativity to tarnish the experience or the feeling of pride I had in giving birth. There hasn’t been anything like that, in life, that has opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of my strength, courage, positive spirit or determination (even though I’ve surely conquered a lot). And so, I thought to myself, “what can I accomplish in life, now knowing that this reserve is here?”
Before giving birth, I often talked myself out of feeling confident or strong. I rarely did anything without a little self-doubt. I could make excuses then, I could act as if (and even believe) I could not conquer the challenges in front of me. But now, I can no longer ignore what I know is there. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman. I can do anything.
It’s been almost four months since I gave birth, and I still find myself contemplating these thoughts amidst the chaos that is motherhood. Motherhood is challenging and will test you, much like birthing. So, it’s not surprising that when I have moments of triumph—when I make it through a difficult hour/day/week/phase, for instance—I feel that same feeling I felt in childbirth. In fact, I found myself singing “I am woman” while out for a run for the first time since before I was pregnant. I hit the pavement and immediately felt a high. It was physically painful, yet I didn’t slow down or give up. And it was a bit emotionally painful too, given I have never been more than a room away from my child since she’s been born. It was a short run, but that didn’t matter because I felt strong in it. Mostly, I was glad to suddenly remember the song I sung out in labor, because I was reminded of that reserve tank and the fact that I have all I need, right here within me, to get through motherhood (and that run!).
To read my birth story, start here.