I have a deep and strange love of kung fu. I’ve just started studying again, after a four year break to have my two children. I have been back to kung fu for 1 month now. And, here’s what I’ve discovered – you should not mess with a woman who has given birth.
I started studying kung fu when I was in my early 20’s. I was the weakest link in my class; my classmates cheered the first day I was able to do 20 push-ups. They had all done the required 100 the year before. I did break someone’s glasses once, but only because he stepped the wrong way when I punched him (poor big-ego boy). Over the years, I developed good skills, though I never got very strong.
Then, I took a break to have kids. My first birth was scary. Labor was only two hours, and very intense. There was an asshole doctor and a midwife in serious need of assertiveness training. I spent 3 hours of being stitched with no painkiller, fantasizing about kicking the doctor in the head (he was, after all, right between my legs), but the proximity of his needle to my most sensitive zones deterred me. Wicked pain, yes, but I survived, and learned a little about assertiveness.
My second birth was everything we didn’t expect. Rather than being even faster than the first, it required 8 hours on pitocin (a labor inducer) to happen. It HURT. It lasted what seemed like forever, and I couldn’t have made it a single second longer than I did without medication.
The room was full to the brimming with supportive friends and childbirth helpers. This is important. There were WITNESSES, and lots of them. They were reverent, supportive, calming, and utterly silent in the moment’s of my son’s birth. Since that time, they have all spoken to me about what they saw, and how they experienced my strength.
When my son reached 6 months old, I was desperate to study kung fu again. I found a teacher and a school, and I get to go (a measly) two times per week. In those few hours per week when I am in kung fu class, I am a changed woman. Where I used to punch, and feel pain in my hand, I now punch and see the punching bag (full body size and weight) jerk backward. Where I used to kick and see flexibility, I now kick and see the bag actually lift off the ground. I feel superpowered.
Am I really superpowered? I don’t think so. I’m sure the folks in my class are still stronger than me. I’m not a muscular person, and I don’t think childbirth has changed that. But, the other day I had my first two hour class. After an hour, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I was fatigued, and thirsty, and thinking of my babes at home waiting for me. But then, I thought, ‘I built and birthed two babies. This is nothing compared to that. Bring it on!’ I kicked harder, I punched harder, I moved faster. I made it through the second hour with finesse.
Now, when I’m getting weary in class, I not only think about my children, but I also think about my friends who have built babies. We are invincible. Take my friend who built two nearly 8 pound babies at once, and birthed them vaginally with half an epidural. Don’t mess with her. And my friend who birthed her second child in her shower – accidentally – with only her partner in attendance. And my friend who arrived at the hospital minutes before her child’s birth, and who walked right past triage and gave orders (that were followed) to all medical personnel in the area. And my friend who carried a child in her belly for 9 months and found it so easy she was nonchalant (until the home birth, in which she cussed a lot and demonstrated phenomenal strength). And, none of my friends are the exception (well, okay, exceptional in some of the details); every person you meet was built and birthed by a woman. Every mother you meet is super-powered.
Don’t mess with me. Not only do I have the power to build a person, but now I’m also conscious of what kind of strength it takes to do that. My body can do and take more than I ever imagined possible before I had children.
Many people say that you quickly forget the pain of childbirth because “the end result is so worth it.” I don’t want to forget. I won’t forget. And, when I look at other mothers, I’ll remember then, too.
And, if you’re a nasty, evil person, beware – the next person you try to victimize may be a Mama, like me.