Stories are fascinating, and I’m not just talking about fiction here. The method of handing down knowledge from one generation to the other began with oral recitation long before the printed word and perhaps this primal desire is the reason why women invariably feel the need to share their birth stories.
I’ve been mulling over doing a series of my previous three birth stories in the lead up to Number Four for the following reasons: one is to remind myself that every birth is different yet no less miraculous and wonderful and two is because I find them a fascinating phenomenon.
You’ll be sitting in a group at a social gathering – be it a casual barbecue or formal dinner – and the women will start to chat together. Even if they’ve only just met, there is a relatively predictable pattern to the conversation that ensures. At first it starts out as general niceties – the weather; their work; their other halves. Then, if they are mothers, it will move onto their children. Once a sense of familiarity has been reached – the ratio of wine consumed being directly proportional to the speed with which this occurs – the birth stories will often start.
If you’ve ever been through a birth yourself, you’ll understand why. No matter if it was a good or horrendous experience, it’s a badge of honour every woman wears for the remainder of her life. I would liken it to a warrior’s story of undergoing an epic battle on all three fronts of physical, spiritual and mental.
I use the word “battle” to describe labour and birth, not to emphasise pain or drama (even though there’s often plenty of both), but rather to highlight the power and long-lasting effects that such an experience has on you.
Ina May Gaskin, hailed as the mother of authentic midwifery, said it best:
“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”
You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie there, Ina May.
Birth stories are unique to each mother … and in turn, each child they have. Every one of my three birth stories are as totally different as the baby that arrived at the end of them. Each one gave me an opportunity explored my strengths and weaknesses at that given stage in my life, offering a glimpse into my inner self and what I was capable of handling.
After hearing other mothers’ birth stories over the years, I also recognise that I was incredibly fortunate to have three positive outcomes that only served to build up my confidence and resilience as a mother.
I only know the following tidbits about my own birth story from my mother:
- I was three days late and the start of her labour interrupted Sunday lunch
- I was breech so they whacked Mum out on drugs to deliver me
- I spent time in a humidicrib but when I kicked out the bottom, they decided I’d survive
- I was born at 5.55pm Sunday night but Mum didn’t get to see or hold me until Monday afternoon
- I had a weak palate so when I cried I sounded like a lamb bleeting (that was Dad’s contribution to my birth story. This was back in the day when husbands didn’t get to go in with their wives for the birth. He was waiting outside when the nurse wheeled a whole bunch of babies past. He smiled at the funny cry and she said “Don’t laugh – that one’s yours”.
- Dad insisted on carrying me out of the hospital, against hospital policy of a nurse doing it.
Mum is coming over to spend time with me before and after Little Miss arrives and I plan to ask her for more details about her birthing stories. It makes me wonder if it is a generational thing or she just didn’t want to scare me before I had my own stories to tell.
In fact … I don’t know if I’ve ever shared all the details of my birthing stories with my children. Perhaps it is considered too intimate and the stories share too much of our true selves? Maybe we don’t want any negative experiences we might have had to be misinterpreted by the child that was part of it until they are old enough to understand that the birth stories are actually not about the baby at all but about the mother?
Maybe we are just so busy in the first 18 years of their life on earth that we just don’t get around to it …
Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to share mine.
Kids, have I ever told you how I met you ….