Pregnancy, giving birth, and meeting your baby are transformative experiences that will undeniably change your life in innumerable ways. Whether you had a formal birth plan, with your preferences laid out ahead of time, or you took a more “go with the flow” attitude, the experiences, emotions, joys, and disappointments that occur throughout pregnancy and the birthing process have the power to deeply change one’s perspective on what they imagined the experience might be like. The stories we tell about this profound experience can impact how we view ourselves as parents, as individuals and can potentially play a role in our feelings about future pregnancies.
Opportunity to Reframe
Often, the stories we tell and hear about the birthing experience are brushed with a negative color. We rehash what did not go as planned or the challenges that we experienced. Re-telling our birth story offers the opportunity to view the experience through a new lens. Many women have a birth plan outlined ahead of time and sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way they had envisioned, which can result in deep feelings of disappointment, shame, guilt, and even questioning their fitness as a parent. The act of retelling the birth story from onset to ending, provides an opening for the mother to process and recognize pieces of the story that were not part of the original narrative. The very events that were originally perceived as failure, can be recognized as strength, adaptability, and resilience, which are all valuable traits to have as a parent.
The Gift of Being Heard
Many women feel unheard and dismissed by healthcare professionals. After having a baby, a woman typically encounters a physician at least 6 times in the first 6 weeks of infancy, but sadly, these encounters are often examples of missed opportunities to screen for conditions like postpartum depression. Giving a woman space to share and ascribe meaning to her birth story is an opening for deep self-reflection.
The magnitude of having a baby is often minimized by society, so when we struggle with aspects of it (or all of it), we can feel alone with those feelings. Telling your story allows you to process your journey, from first finding out that you’re pregnant, to meeting your baby for the first time.
The Legacy of the Birth Story
The tradition of storytelling is universal across all cultures and the stories that we tell ascribe meaning to the events that carry on through generations. Hearing their birth story recanted can fascinate a child and give them a sense of uniqueness by hearing details about the day they were born. My son has never stopped laughing at the story of him peeing on Dad when he first met him!
Sharing your birth story can be a therapeutic tool for you and it can be beneficial to share it with other women, especially women who haven’t had a baby yet. Women frequently share thoughts after their birthing experience like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be so hard”? or feelings of fear after experiencing tearing that they did not expect. In an effort to shield others from birth stories that sound scary or painful, we deny them the opportunity to be informed and prepare them for all of the possibilities. By sharing our story we are helping normalize the actual experience, and helping future moms better prepare. By doing this, we leave them to deal with surprise events during birthing that they may find difficult to cope with during the postpartum period.
If you have experienced a traumatic birth, the process of telling your story may be different, and that is okay. You may need more time before you open up, or you may be more selective with who you share your story with. If you find yourself needing more time, writing out your birth story first may be a helpful and healing first step.
Your birth story is layered with meaning, emotions, and endless opportunities for exploration and growth. Retelling your birth story acts not only as a source of healing for you and potentially your partner, but it can be a valuable resource for other women on their own journey into motherhood. Retelling your birth story provides an opening to discover aspects of the event, such as strength and resilience that might get overshadowed by negative experiences, like unexpected medical interventions. If processing your birth story is something you would like to explore, working with a therapist or joining a local moms support group may be the right step for you.
It’s okay not to be okay with the birth story of your child, but it’s important to talk to someone about it. It’s also understandable if you’re the kind of mom who needs to work through your delivery experience by sharing your story. Your story deserves to be told as many times as you need.