Recently, I stood in a parking lot speaking with a woman I had never before met. I quickly learned that she, like me, was the mother of three little ones. Soon enough she began telling me her birth story. Within less than 10 minutes of having met this total stranger, she used the term “vaginal” in our conversation. And I didn’t blink an eye. Why? Because words like that and situations like this have become quite commonplace since I’ve become a mother. And I love it.
Before having kids, I was a pretty modest person, at least modest enough to never use the word “vaginal” with a stranger, or even a very good friend. Becoming a mother did away with that problem. It’s not unusual for me to use the word “placenta” or “nipple” at the dinner table filled with mixed company. I understand that not everyone appreciates these sorts of stories over lasagna, but I do it anyway because motherhood has taught me that sharing stories is important and vital. I now realize that every mom has a story to tell, and if we allow a space for moms to tell their stories with openness and honesty, it could greatly improve the outcome and circumstances for others.
As the creator of a website that discusses the reality of birth, babies and beyond, I have heard many birth stories. And, I’ve come to realize just how important they are. Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking with a doula about writing her own story. She wasn’t sure where to begin or what to say. This is a woman who has cared for women as they have birthed their own babies. She has been a part of other women’s stories, but she hadn’t fully considered what her own story was. After I asked a few questions, she said, “thank you for helping me come to the revelation that I have a story.”
Here’s the truth: every mother has a story. Some are funny. Some are embarrassing. Others are full of unpredictable twists and turns. Some went according to plan and others were rude awakenings. But every woman has one. And every story matters.
And, here’s another truth: writing your story matters. How so? The act of putting your story into actual words can have a very therapeutic and cathartic effect on you. But, the benefits aren’t just for you. The following are four reasons why you should write your birth story:
Let’s face it, memories fade and especially so when sleepless nights and infant care are a part of your daily life. Taking the time to put your story into words as soon as possible will preserve details that your mind won’t recollect later. For instance, I nearly forgot about the guttural moans and groans that emerged from me during my third labor. It’s hard to believe something like that could slip my mind, but it happens. That’s why it is important to write your birth story to preserve it, reflect on it and remember it for your lifetime.
Through the research and interviews I’ve done for Unexpectant, I have come to realize just how important the stories we hear are, and how much impact and influence they can have over our lives. I’ve learned that if stories of c-sections are all a woman hears, she has a different perspective of birth than a woman who has been surrounded by women who believe in natural birth. Every birth is different, but the more stories we hear, the more perspective we have and the more educated we are on what the possibilities of birth are. So tell your story not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others, so they can learn from your experience.
Call me a narcissist, but I love talking to my mom about the day I was born. There is something about hearing the story of how I entered the world that somehow grounds and connects me. I don’t know if my son will feel that same way when he grows up, but the words are preserved for him nonetheless. Having written his birth story, I feel it is a gift to him (and his future wife) to understand how he was born.
Birth is a life-changing event in many ways. Regardless of how perfect or imperfect it was, reflecting on the experience gives you the ability to work through the events and emotions. Some will feel a great sense of empowerment from birth. Others will need time to work through negative emotions and memories of what happened. One honest mother told me that her kids were spaced further apart than what she had hoped for because of how traumatic birth had been for her. She needed time and space before she could go through it again. She needed the chance to heal. Writing a birth story allows a woman to organize her thoughts and gain a better perspective on her experience. It gives her the opportunity to release the story and heal.
So take a few moments to write your birth story. Put away the inner critic and just write about what comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be honest and real and uniquely yours.