When hearing a mother’s birth story it doesn’t take long to get a pretty clear picture of the emotions she felt during her pregnancy and labor. When sharing their birth stories women (subconsciously) want to share their experiences and feel validated in their feelings and perceptions. While it is hugely important for the mother who is sharing the story to be able to freely express her emotions and experiences, it is also important to remember that each experience is unique and should not influence how another experience could be. When women feel empowered and uplifted by their births, it can make you feel like shouting from the rooftop how amazing the experience was to every pregnant woman you see on the street. And in a perfect world everyone would hear these stories when they are pregnant and walk away with their own perfect story to tell.
Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and not every birth follows the perfect, or even preferable, plan. This can be upsetting to moms who have recently experienced a traumatic birth, or who still have emotional ties to a previous traumatic birth and possibly increase the feelings of negativity towards their own experience. These feelings may remain inward and the person sharing may never even know the difference, or the negativity feelings could be projected outwards toward the sharer, sometimes in way that doesn’t appear to make sense. I see this occasionally on social media when a simple birth story being shared suddenly turns into an emotionally charged argument over a specific aspect of the birth or a choice in location, provider, etc. The mother sharing the story many times said nothing wrong or inflammatory, but simply shared her own experience.
When someone has had a difficult or negative experience regarding childbirth, they also often feel compelled to share it with every expecting mother. The birth story is not meant to be malicious or scary, but to share their personal experience and perhaps serve as a warning of what could lie ahead. This can be frightening to hear, especially for first time moms who may not have been exposed to more positive birth stories. From personal experience, I know I fell into the frightened category and before I started to seek out more positive stories all I knew about birth came from negative experiences.
There is so much healing that can come from sharing your stories and knowing that you are not alone in your experience. Additionally, it is from negative stories as well as positive stories that we are able to learn and grow towards providing the best birth possible for every mother. So the point I am trying to make is this: when sharing and listening to birth stories please remember EVERY birth is someone’s birth day, EVERY birth matters, and all the feelings that come with those births are important. But every birth is NOT the same and every experience is not the same.
You can have an empowering hospital birth, you can have an empowering c-section; the same way you can have a negative home birth or drug free birth. The difference is how you were made to feel during your experience. Did you feel empowered in your choices or where they made for you? Was your birth plan followed every step of the way, whether it was your optimal choice or emergency choices, and when things had to change were you consulted? Whether you had a positive experience or a negative experience please CONTINUE to share your stories and let’s all be mindful when reading and reflecting on them. Just because family A had a homebirth doesn’t mean they are doing it to prove a point or be better than anyone else. Just the same, if family B had an elective c-section after discussing the risks and benefits with their care provider, they made that choice based on what they feel is best for their family.
Arguing semantics of birth after the fact inspires no one, and neither party feels good about the interaction. Gently offering evidence based information and personal experiences to expecting mothers can make a world of difference. Asking questions and insisting on evidenced based, non-biased information from care providers and working to make changes towards baby friendly birthing standards makes a difference. Criticizing each other and using fear-based, disrespectful language does not. My birth is not better or more important than your birth. I do not make my birth choices to start a movement or send a message. So let’s all work to empower each other and instead of fighting with each other’s choices, let’s fight FOR each other’s RIGHT to choose. And next time you see an expectant mother, offer an empowering insight and share your story, but remind her that her own birth will be unique and special in its own right.
If you have a birth story you would like to share please do so here!