I have never felt more powerful than in the hours after giving birth. Powerful and empowered and proud. Incredibly proud. Of my new baby, yes of course. But also of my body, which I came to realise was so unspeakably perfectly and purposefully designed. Immediately post-partum, my body was flawless. To me, anyway.
The delivery of my first child was a dream. It could not have gone more smoothly. He arrived after just one hour of active labour. The nurse broke my waters at 7am and he came at 8:02am. In that hour, my body performed sublimely – a marvellously strong and brilliantly efficient machine. It was one of the most intense hours of my life, to be sure. The contractions were indescribable – like savage waves of red, hot pain, or surges of electricity. “Every single one was doing big things,” the midwife said afterwards, or something to that effect. I felt it all, with no pain relief. The rawness and lightening intensity of contraction upon contraction. I felt my body take over and it felt good. I walked around, I kneeled on the bed, I rocked on the exercise ball, I screamed, I swore. I sweat and vomited and then pushed when, suddenly, I just absolutely had to push. Just 10 minutes later and there he was. Helpless and whimpering – and perfectly beautiful – right there on the hospital bed. Yes, it hurt – but (thankfully) I didn’t need any stitches.
Henry was placed on my chest for more than an hour. He quickly did a breast crawl and fed – an incredible sight to witness. And in that hour after birth I was SO HIGH. I have never known a high that HIGH in my life. More than any drug could induce, I am certain.
Immediately after that I was back on my feet and showering. Walking around, caring for Henry, eating, hugging my husband, talking to the nurses. I recall one nurse flicking through my file: “How old is your baby then? Oh, he’s two hours old, is he?” She looked up at me from the paperwork. “Would you like a seat, dear?”
I have not always had a good relationship with my body. I spent many years fighting against it and treating it with absolute contempt. But in that moment, mere hours after giving birth, I felt fiercely powerful. My stomach wobbled like a balloon full of water, I weighed more than I ever had in my life and I had black bags under my eyes. Yet somehow, I felt exquisite.
In the weeks since my body has continued to amaze me. It has nourished my baby through breastmilk that is designed uniquely for him and his needs. My body has returned to its normal state of functioning. It didn’t take long for me to be able to go for runs again, play tennis, dance to my favourite songs. It allows me to somehow survive on very little sleep. My body is a little worn now, but it continues to go above and beyond. For me, for my son.
I look at my baby and I look at my body. And I am in awe. Wonderment. I have more respect for this vessel than ever before.