Pushing Through the Pain: Life’s Afterbirth Experience

No one tells you all the pain you’ll endure immediately–and years to come–after birth. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…you name it, it’s happening. Though this conversation is not about having a child, I have to begin with the process of birth that I endured to bring this full circle in which you may be able to relate, whether you’ve had a child or not.

After being in labor with my daughter for almost 36 hours, unmedicated, I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and she finally arrived. The most excruciating pain I’d ever endured was now gone, so I thought. I held her for about 5-7 minutes–the most joyful feeling–then my doctor told me it was time to remove the afterbirth. This is the last step of the birthing process: where the placenta that was in your body to give your child all of its nutrients is removed.

What I didn’t know is that after experiencing the most painful turned beautiful experience, more pain would come. My doctor pressed on my abdomen and I pushed to remove the final remnants of life that was still in my body. What was inside of me to give life to my child was incredibly painful, but necessary, to remove.

When I think about some of the things many of us women endure–the beginning or ending of relationships, self-discovery through friendship, the demise or elevation of careers, building families or the desire to do so, feelings of low self-esteem and poor body image–there’s a common denominator: whether the experience is joyful or its antithesis, there’s an afterbirth process.

The experiences that seem to shape who we are the most cause the most necessary pain. Something that was once imperative for us had to be removed because it’s no longer giving us, or those around us, life. Like a placenta after a child is born, it’s no longer needed after the child is born. After you’ve received the blessing, you have to push away things that no longer serve you because it’s taking up space and can create additional blockages in a once clear path.

Life really throws some crazy curve balls in which you may have to give birth to a new self way sooner than you’re ready. Like a child, when this new self is born, you’re really unfamiliar with this person in an eerie way. Who am I? What do I like now? What are my current boundaries? What am I not willing to endure? Being forced to answer these questions when you’re just getting to know your new self is scary as hell.

For me, the afterbirth that I was forced into signaled a deeper rooted issue. I’d been so dependent on being the ‘amenable, super chill, don’t want to rock the boat’ girl in every situation that what was once a strength became a severe weakness over time. That weakness had reached its peak and before it destroyed me, it had to come out. Aside from figuring out this new being you’ve become, you’re also asking yourself why this is happening now and what’s next because everything feels, and looks, foreign.

What an emotional roller coaster it is to experience birthing pains, the joy of a new beginning, and the mourning of what your life once was before this process, all at the same time. Following your dreams is scary AF but necessary to avoid regrets and to feel fulfillment. Removing yourself from certain situations, careers, and people’s lives is scary but necessary for self-preservation. Saying YES when you really want to say NO is playing nice, but cheating yourself. Saying NO when you want to say YES is protecting yourself, but operating out of fear.

The afterbirth process is painful, uncomfortable, and really messy, but it’s what you do with it that makes the experience worthwhile. For anyone going through this process of figuring out who they are after your old life was taken from you and you’ve evolved as a new being, I want you to know it’s up to you whether the process is going to be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare. It can, and will be both, at times, but which side will you ultimately lean on?

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