The Strength You Didn’t Know You Had

There are some times in life you need to fall back on reserves you didn’t know you had, times you have to remind yourself what you’re made of.

For me, giving birth to my daughter was one of those times. I gave birth to three children, and each birth was vastly different. The first birth taught me sacrifice–I had a C-section with my son, because I was too scared to try other methods when the doctor said he wasn’t moving into position. My third child, my youngest, was a much easier delivery; once I had an epidural and my body relaxed, she moved naturally and I only pushed for ten minutes before she emerged. But my second delivery, the birth of my wild red-haired daughter, was more of a struggle. Because I’d had a C-section the first time around, I had to fight for the birth I wanted by leaving the obstetrics practice I was attending and choosing to sign on with a midwife. In order to prevent another C-section, I decided not to take any medication that might lessen the pain.  And even with Pitocin (synthetic hormones that intensified my contractions) I gave birth naturally after three hours of pushing and 15 hours of labor. When it was all done, I welcomed one of the most giant newborns I’d ever seen.

It made sense then, why her birth took so long. I didn’t understand during the labor. It felt like an endless struggle; no matter what I did, I couldn’t find release. But when I saw how big she was and how small I was, hindsight helped me understand. Just like in life–sometimes we don’t understand why we’re going through something until it’s over and we finally have clarity.

But what I remember often was the moment I realized I was in this thing–at least at the most intense parts of labor–alone. There was some part of myself I needed to get in touch with during that labor, a part that showed me no matter how many people were there to help and shepherd me on my way, it was up to me to get myself through. There was no going back–only forward. And I could either prolong the intensity or shorten it, depending on how willing I was to dive in. So I dove–into the deepest, darkest part of myself, the place where there were no-holds-barred, and I committed to getting that baby out. And when it was done, I was relieved and proud and elated. The work was mine alone. I had done it. Meanwhile, everyone in the room got to experience the joy.

This is what it means to find the strength that comes from within, the strength you didn’t know you had. It’s there, often as only a whisper, and then it becomes a voice that calls, a shout perhaps that says you can do it–you always could.


Image: “Muscles” by Lerkoz

Categories: motherhood

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