The goal of this post is to give some pointers for mothers looking to process your birth experience through writing. Maybe, like me, you had challenging birth experiences. Maybe, like me, instead of feeling euphoric after birth, you felt a host of darker emotions.
I work as a writer, and so I write stories about most everything that happens to me. I seem unable to process an experience until I’ve taken the time to sit down and write it out. Never was this more true than in writing about my birth experiences.
Each time I was pregnant, I planned for a natural, vaginal birth supported by certified nurse midwives. Each time, I wound up having emergency cesareans for fetal heart decelerations. I had so much to process: the wide gulf between my expectations/hopes and the reality of what happened, the fear of knowing my sons were in danger, the physical and searing pain of recovery from abdominal surgery while having to simultaneously parent on zero hours of sleep. All of it left me reeling.
What I needed was someone to hear my story, to share it with someone and have that person just be there with me. Thankfully, I had my blog (and this one!) as vehicles to share my stories.
But what if you don’t have a blog, and you had a challenging experience, and you’d like to share it to see if this helps you find healing?
You’ve got options!
You don’t have to be a writer to write out your birth story. There is no right format, no right way to do it. It might come to you as a poem, or as a series of bullet points. Your birth story might flash back to you as clumps of words, or as a long and detailed narrative. That’s all ok!
To start writing your birth story, here are some tips to get you moving:
1. Try to remember what happened chronologically. What time did you feel a contraction? What time did you first hold your baby? What order did things happen in between?
2. Use all 5 senses to tell the story. What did it smell like in the operating room? Can you talk about the sounds you heard while you were pushing? What color was the paint on the walls where you labored? Was there a taste in your mouth after you first kissed your baby? What did the bed feel like on your skin?
3. Sometimes it can help to jog your memory if you grab an artifact from the scene, so maybe the shirt you had on or an image of a hospital gown or hair net will bring memories flooding back. I recently had the opportunity to see an epidural catheter, and that just opened a gate of sensory details I thought I had forgotten.
4. How did you feel at each stage, emotionally? Whatever the answer is, it’s the right feeling. Your feelings are never wrong, and sometimes just acknowledging some of the unpleasant feelings that emerged will help you move past them.
5. Read other birth stories! I love reading birth stories just in general, but I often feel really validated if I find stories similar to mine where mothers express feelings I didn’t realize I was feeling. I like reading stories from Birth Without Fear. I’ve published my birth stories on the Brain, Child blog as well as Birth Diverse.
Once you’ve written your birth story, you get to decide what to do with it. Maybe you just needed to get it all out and tuck it away for someday. Maybe you want to shred it. You can share with trusted friends or you can publish your birth story. The Birth Diverse site I mentioned is a great resource for mothers to share birth stories, because you don’t need to be a writer–there are no submission requirements.
I’ve been so thankful to be part of our local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN). If you have had a cesarean birth and want to share your story among a circle of women who have been there, chapter meetings offer a safe space for women to share their experiences and feel heard and supported.
For me, sharing my birth stories was a cleansing experience. I felt ready to process my emotions and get on with mothering my babies once I was able to work through my experiences bringing them Earth-side. If you’ve had a challenging birth experience, we hope this can be a helpful way for you to process as well.
Would you like to share your birth experience with our community? Leave us a comment and let us know.