We’ve all heard about the “birth high” women get after an unmedicated birth, right? The rush of oxytocin, the leftover endorphins, the surge of adrenaline - I’ve heard it’s a thrilling experience comparable to feeling "high".
But I want to talk about what happens after that initial glorious rush. I want to include women who didn’t have an unmedicated birth, because in my experience this “high” doesn’t apply just to natural births. This high applies to many women, medicated or not. Birth is a euphoric experience.
First off, birth is a deeply emotional, physical, sexual, primal, powerful part of a woman’s life. It brings up a part of you that you didn’t know existed and forces you to acknowledge your authentic femininity - your incredible power as a woman. As Laurie Stavoe Harm puts it, “There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that childbirth is painful - it’s that women are strong.”
Much as I wanted it, I did not have an unmedicated birth. I did not feel the rush of joy and triumph immediately after the birth. In fact, I was painfully numb until the next morning. Then I began to feel the power of my own high as painful procedures were done...things that normally would have panicked me - getting my catheter taken out, having fluids injected into my IV line, nurses tending to the brutal tear “down there”, having to swallow horse sized pills… Only, riding on those feelings of super woman strength, they didn’t cause panic. I remember thinking to myself numerous times, “If I can labor like I did, if I can survive the back labor I did, I can do this. This is nothing!”
I felt a strange mix of empowerment and disappointment at the birth I had. I mourned and obsessed over the birth I didn’t have during my stay at the hospital, all the while feeling stronger than I’d ever felt. Though let down over my outcome, I somehow still felt incredibly empowered.
The feeling lasted for days. I came down with mastitis shortly after my daughter’s birth and had to have blood drawn from my a vein in my hand. Normally I would have freaked at the prospect, but still riding on my high, I took it in stride. I took each of my daughter's night awakenings without dismay or fear. Again, I remember thinking to myself, “If I can labor like I did, if I can survive the back labor I did, I can do this. This is nothing!”
Gradually, the invincible feeling faded, but I am still in awe of how strong I felt those first few days. I am in awe of how strong I was during labor. I am in awe of my body and my instincts.
What was your experience after birth? Did you feel empowered or "high"?
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