03 Jan The Importance of Birth Stories
Each child’s birth into this world is unique and every story fascinating. For the mother, childbirth can be a tremendous and transformative experience.
A Birth Story is a woman’s account of her personal experience of childbirth. The telling and hearing of a birth story is an important transmission for learning, processing, healing and sharing both for the mother and whomever hears the story.
Her words, Her Say
As with any story, it can be subjective and include as much or as little detail as the mother feels necessary. It is really important that the details within the story are wholly chosen by the woman herself, as opposed to the medical profession or any other person present at the birth.
Subjective licence is important within the story even if she omits or ‘over emphasises’, or doesn’t accurately describe medical detail. This is because every mother has the right to ownership of her birth story.
It is precisely this ownership of story which allows her a sense of control and autonomy when reflecting back on her experience and it is the feeling of control and autonomy which allows for acceptance of her childbirth experience no matter how things went.
In this way, a Birth story can be a powerful tool for processing and healing, which is especially important if any trauma was experienced in childbirth.
Indeed, it is staggering to read that according to the Birth Trauma Association UK, whom refer to recent research, about 30,000 women a year experience birth trauma in the UK, and this is just cases that are reported!
Instead of being joyful and happy, the experience of giving birth may have been frightening. As with any trauma resolution it is important to be able to make sense of events, contextualise and reconcile details to find closure. This can take time and support and requires careful acknowledgement and awareness of one’s situation in order to move forwards.
Childbirth as an initiation into Womanhood
Once childbirth has been experience there is no going back to who you once were, you are forever changed. This change can be profound and formative for a women. She may have a new perception of herself. In an ideal world every woman would love and respect the new version of herself.
Further to processing and healing aspects of her experience, a Birth Story can be a way for a mother to express her deep joy, her awe of life and her feelings of empowerment as a woman.
I’ve shared with friends how the true secret about childbirth isn’t how difficult it is, but rather the real secret is how strong women really are. The experience requires you to draw strength from places that you didn’t know you had strength.
Not only is physical strength required as you ride each contraction but also emotional strength as you reach your edges and limits. Mental strength is called upon as you make what feels like some of the most important decisions of yours and your baby’s life during the twists and turns of what takes place.
Like a climber reaching the peak of a mountain or a marathon runner reaching the end of a race, a woman in the throws of childbirth, no matter whether vaginal or Caesarean, journeys so far inwards, she reaches the precipice of her power and touches the deep places within the core of her consciousness to bring new life earth-side. This is no small feat!
It is an indescribable ineffable journey that only she and her baby do together. A journey that is sometimes spiritual and sometimes very mundane. A journey that is sacred yet also messy and gritty all at the same time.
When one goes through such a deep life affirming experience (which in some cases may even come close to death), it feels only right to share the story with others.
Birth Story as Knowledge Sharing
Story-telling has always been an important way to transmit wisdom and make the surreal feel real and the impossible feel attainable. So in addition to benefiting the mother, a birth story benefits other expectant mothers who hear the story.
Hearing what happened to other women helps an expectant mother prepare for her own child’s birth.
An important thing to bear in mind is that a pregnant woman is highly sensitive which makes her highly attuned to her instincts and her intuition which is a valuable evolutionary protection mechanism for her baby.
However this increased sensitivity is a double-edged sword in that any negative information she receives, can create a heightened reaction from the expectant mother.
Therefore a Birth Story with negative details that incites fear can weigh on an expectant mothers mind and have adverse affects rather than serving as positive preparation.
So it is vitally important that an expectant mother consciously seek out positive birth stories and avoid negative ones. This is challenging within our culture, media and society which seems to over emphasis negative, shocking or fear-mongering portrayals of birth.
Nevertheless there are many positive birth story resources now available. Read Positive Birth Stories by blog author and Course Director Tammy Mittell on Tammy’s Blog here