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  • Ana Sofia Valdes

Six Things Birth Taught Me About Myself

There are many surprises from the moment you find out you are pregnant, but I feel like pregnancy is very well covered and talked about. Everyone is focused on the nine months of pregnancy and the "big issues" of giving birth. They are also focused on all the "firsts" and all that is new with the baby.

Meanwhile, mama is going through a lot as well, physically and emotionally. It is important to acknowledge all those changes and surprises. So without further ado, these are the six things I have been most surprised by during this experience.


My body's ability to feel pain, deal with it, and then forget it.

Everyone knows giving birth is painful. Yes, there are natural and artificial ways of dealing with that pain. Still, even with those, it will be painful. This is nothing new or nothing I wasn't expecting, but nothing you can read, see, or hear will prepare you for this type of pain because it is like nothing you have ever felt. It is paralyzing, comes in waves, is felt in different parts of your body, and changes constantly.

Most importantly, it is manageable. By this, I don't mean to say "millions of women have done it, so deal with it" I mean to say that it is not the type of pain that will shut your body down. It is an intense and momentary feeling that no doubt you want to stop, but it is not more than you can deal with. That was the feeling I had during my very long labor (31 hours). The pain was paralyzing for the length of the contraction. In between, I was paralyzed because I was scared of the next one. Still, I never felt I couldn't handle it. I don't think this has anything to do with my pain threshold; I believe it has to do with something my hebamme told me seconds before giving birth, and it stuck with me, she said: "from pregnancy onward, children have a way of pushing you to your limits, but don't worry, no matter what, they will always know when to stop before they break you."

And she was right, just when I started feeling exhausted and like I couldn't anymore, I pushed once more, and there he was looking at me, and as of that moment, the pain started to fade away. Little by little, over the next hours and days, the memories of the paid were gone. I have an idea of what I felt because I remember the moments but not the feeling. I am amazed at how my body can block or forget the most traumatic experience it has gone through.


My body's ability to heal.

Yes, it was a long and hard road; I'm not going to lie. I had a horrible postpartum that felt eternal, but the recovery is impressive knowing what my body went through. Our bodies are amazing.

Just as a warning, this does not happen overnight. It will take time and require a lot of self-care, but your body will recover, and when it does, it will be a better version, a stronger version, a life-creating version.


Breastfeeding does not come naturally at all!!!!

I thought and knew that there can be many breastfeeding issues, but I never thought it would be so difficult. For one of the most significant examples of perfect nature, breastfeeding is far from instinctual or natural. It requires practice and determination, and although I will cover this thoroughly in another post, it is 100% worth it. Once we both mastered the skill, it gave us time to disconnect from the world around us and connect with each other.


The power of adrenaline.

After Max was born, I spent about a week with barely any sleep. It wasn't because he wasn't letting me sleep, although I mean, yeah. Still, it was more the adrenaline that I was feeling after birth. Your survival mode kicks in and allows you to function although you are exhausted. Since then, I haven't been able to sleep much because he is not sleeping through the night even after a year. Like a really good friend told me, "moms don't sleep; they take naps." And, amazingly, I manage; I am about 98% functional on very little rest, before, less than 8 hrs of sleep would make me completely incompetent.


My body is not my body anymore.

I knew that my body would go through significant changes, but all I was really expecting was bigger boobs and extra weight, and it wasn't, not at all. Every pregnancy and everyone is different, and so are the changes it goes through. I have friends who have never lost so much weight as in postpartum, and I have friends who gain weight like crazy. For me, the changes were confusing. Right after giving birth, I looked at myself in the mirror and didn't recognize me. My boobs were HUGE, my belly was saggy, but my legs had never been skinnier. I couldn't exercise during the pregnancy, so I had lost all the muscles in my legs. As time went on, I started noticing more and more changes that I did not expect:

-One boob was 4 times bigger than the other;

-My back and shoulders were wider;

-My shoe size changed;

-My skin was always dry;

-My curls were gone;

-My belly was shrinking, but if I inflated it, I could still see the emptiness birth had left.

-My general physical condition was terrible, and exercise felt like I had never done it. It was starting from scratch with a weak and sleep-deprived body.

Little by little, I am getting to know my new body and learning to love it. To tell you the truth, I never learned to love my previous one, so I am taking this as an opportunity to change my relationship with myself and learning to love it all.


New packaging, new content.

As time goes by, I also find myself surprised about the new person I have become. I always knew that a baby would turn my life upside down, but I never expected it to change me this much.

It turns out I can be a patient person. Who would have known? This is something I was always apprehensive about because I have very little patience. I snap very quickly; it's hard for me to handle frustration. But now, every day, it amazes me how patient I am with my little guy. I'm not going to lie; I still lose it, but it's a lot less often with him, and I have learned to take a timeout right before it happens. It is something that I need to practice every day, but I am still very amazed that counting to 10 is not required as often as I thought.

I also feel like I am so much more in touch with my instinct and with my feelings. Proof of that is this blog. Having a baby has made me feel everything so intensely. Breastfeeding has given me time to process those feelings and put words to them. I never knew the value of sitting still and just thinking for 5 minutes every couple of hours.

Having my baby has been nonstop surprises. Becoming a mom is a chance to rediscover the world through their eyes, as they learn all the new and exciting things out there. It helps you redefine your limits and is a chance to rediscover and redefine yourself.

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