By: Gloria Miles
It's so important to me to remember the stories of my births. The details may be a little fuzzy after some time, the events might not be recollected in exact sequence, but the important parts are all there. I do enjoy sharing them, especially with my children.
I believe that everyone who has given birth should share, in part, their stories. At the very least, to those who are important to them: their partners, their close friends, children. This benefits the listener but also the person telling the story.
Before we had textbooks, before we had blogs and seminars and classrooms, we taught each other by storytelling; sometimes by songs. This act of passing along wisdom and lessons through storytelling has been going on since we could speak and across cultures.
Why share birth stories?
Birth stories are part of this culture, believe it or not. However, most are in the form of fictional stories spread through television or movies that are erroneously displayed as this terrible event that must be endured in order to meet one's baby. Others are more dramatic and shown on the evening news as an event that could have gone so wrong! And yet, miraculously, everyone is somehow fine. Learn more at eight!
Birth stories from real individuals, shared in a safe space, can be a way to educate everyone who may give birth in the future to their first or even fifth child. Every birth is different. Every story is different. Every experience is different. Sharing birth stories adds to the normalcy of this biological act. Most birth stories are lovely but uneventful. When pregnant, it's important to be reaffirmed that this is a normal, biological experience that one is equipped to handle. Normalizing labor and birth is important.
Some people want to give birth in a manner that is very different from their mothers, from their friends, or from the disapproving individual on social media. If this happens, it's even more important for that person to hear of labors that went along the lines of what that individual was planning. For instance, if one chooses water birth, it's awesome to hear all of the water birth stories. If one chooses to give birth in a birth center, then hearing all of the birth center experiences can be affirming and uplifting.
Of course, this is also true for those who need a cesarean or who may be higher risk. Sometimes fear comes from simply not understanding or knowing what is to come. Anxiety and fear can be eased what will happen is explained.
Not every birth story is bright and happy.
Sometimes labor or the birth or both ends up being scary, traumatic, or simply traumatizing. Perhaps the epidural didn't take and the experience was not what was planned. Perhaps the birth center water birth ended up being a hospital transfer. Nothing "terrible" has to happen in order for the individual to feel disappointed in the experience.
And yes, sometimes terrible events do transpire during the labor or birth or both. We've all heard the stories of a patient being abused by the hands of those who are supposed to be helping this laboring individual. Sometimes a birth does not have a happy ending. These births, while very difficult to share, should still be allowed to be shared with whomever the individual wishes and in a safe environment. This can serve as a way to process what happened. It can help heal. Bottling these stories up within oneself in order not to scare or offend can be very harmful.
I sometimes feel as though these birth experiences are muted and not allowed to be shared within the same walls of others and I wish that would stop. I left a Facebook group once that was supposed to be a safe and open place to share experiences of "natural" births and the owner would chastise anyone who used words like "painful" or "scary" or the like. A birth story was shared that ended with, "I think any mother will understand. Birth is the best and worst experience ever [because it hurts]." The group owner congratulated her and asked she refrain from discussing the pain more or to edit her story.
Validation and processing
I think it's important to validate every feeling. My second labor felt uncomfortable but I was surprised at how little it really seemed to hurt. I remember walking into the hospital and hoping I was actually in labor. When I was admitted, I was nine centimeters with a bulging bag. With my third, she was a whirlwind of a birth and labor was so intense--and yes, painful--that pushing was a relief, an experience I hadn't felt before. These are my experiences. As I sit writing all of this, about eight months pregnant, I wonder how my fourth experience will transpire. And yes, even with the variety of discomforts, pain, and elated emotions, I am planning another home birth.
It's important for us to process our experiences. This is how we learn from ourselves, this is how we heal, this is how we grow.
The good of it all.
However, as birth stories are spread, as people share, and as others listen, it will become obvious that for the majority, labor and birth is simply part of life. Most are satisfied with their experiences, most are proud of what they accomplished, and most will remember these events for the rest of their lives. This means that sharing these stories, all stories, will show a pattern of how normal this is, of how it's okay to daydream about the day, of how there's not really much to fear. And for some, sharing their stories will be part of the healing process that's crucial and necessary for their own mental and emotional health.
Before childbirth education classes, before doulas, before books and websites with advice, there were just stories passed from one generation to the next. This is how childbirth education was taught. This is how support began.
Want to contribute?
Please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share. You can share with your name and pictures, with no pictures, or even anonymously.
Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.