Labor amnesia

I have been reflecting today and all week on my labor trying to get my birth story finished. I began to feel sad and at a loss, as I was not able to remember a lot of the details or the chronology of events in the labor process. I was really taking it to heart.

I was trying to remember and be able to articulate what a contraction felt like and couldn’t. I also wanted to remember what I was thinking or doing to deal with them. I want to be able to describe details…but I cant remember many of them.

Today, while I was breastfeeding Elliott I opened up a book I was reading to prepare for childbirth, called Birthing from Within. I flipped to the chapter on endorphins. It basically summed up what I was feeling, by saying that during a natural childbirth, your body produces endorphins as a natural response to pain. The endorphins cause a haze that soften your memories and protect you from lasting trauma. It goes on to say that endorphins cause amnesia about pain and allow for a misty magical memory of your labor. In opposition, it says that when you get an epidural that the natural endorphin haze is lifted and you have a more acute memory of details, which often when retrieved are more traumatic and vivid.

After reading this I felt better about not being able to remember. I felt very at peace during the labor process, and ‘inside my own head’. It felt natural and I felt in control of my body.

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One thought on “Labor amnesia

  1. I had labor amnesia in the weeks right after birth for all 4 of my labors (2 medicated and 2 with absolutely no interventions/medications). Ironically, my most vivid, traumatic memories are of my first unmedicated labor and my most pleasant memories are from my second unmedicated labor and the most recent epidural-assisted one.I think the amnesia has more to do with the general fogginess of the newborn days (lack of sleep, postpartum hormones, the overflow of emotions, etc). You feel like you are soaking it all in and suddenly you wake up one day and wonder where the time (and memories) have gone. It might just be me, but with every child I’ve gone through an intensely emotional period where I felt like I had lost something – whether it be the feel of the baby stirring within my womb, what a contraction felt like or all the details of bonding with my newborn.The good news is I found that a lot of the memories gradually returned after a few weeks/months. It’s kind of like a pleasant dream – the harder you try to remember it, the further away it seems. When you don’t force it, the memories seem to find you. Studies have shown that women remember details from their labor with uncanny accuracy as long as 20 years later whereas a labor partner’s memories fade with time.I’d suggest writing down the facts that you can remember (these are more easily forgotten) and save the emotional aspects for when you re-read your story later. You can’t capture it all in one sitting. Some aspects will never have the clarity of the moment you experienced them but your story will still be very unique and personal.Good luck!

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