The Awesome Power of Birth Stories
As you progress through the stages of labor and birth your child, you may feel a wild, almost animalistic instinct where your body just knows what to do.
Likewise, after giving birth, you may feel a similar instinct to talk about your birth story and experience. Some women explain it as a compulsion even.
What’s really going on here?
Birth stories are an important part of postpartum healing. Birth stories are also a way to pass our knowledge onto other women who are desperate for a glimpse at how real life birth works.
Childbirth can be an enigma
So much of what we know about birth today is from what we see on TV. Unfortunately, those depictions are often as far from reality as you can get.
According to many TV shows, pregnancy stories go like this:
- Your water breaks, then
- You immediately burst into active labor
- You need to rush to the hospital
In reality this is very rare. The stages of labor generally play out much more slowly.
Childbirth is not a medical crisis. And yet due to its depiction as an emergency in the media, many mamas fear or dread childbirth.
The true story of childbirth often goes untold
How many actual childbirths have you seen? For most people, that number is zero.
These days, labor and delivery are concealed. Kept secret. Hidden away.
Consider this: It wasn’t until the 1970s or 1980s until dads were generally allowed to be present for the birth of their children! (source)
Why is there so much secrecy around childbirth?
In the distant past, women would pass on their stories to their daughters and granddaughters. More often than not, older siblings would attend the births of their younger siblings.
But over the last two generations (or more), moms’ and grandmas’ stories were silenced; they may not have even known their own story. This is because starting as early as the 1910s women were having “twilight sleep” and other medicated births.
Twilight Sleep and the promise of pain-free birth
Twilight sleep began in Germany, championed by Dr. Bernhardt Kronig and Dr. Karl Gauss, but quickly became popular in the U.S. based on how women described their experiences.
Women reported having great birth experiences, sleeping right through labor and waking up to greet their healthy baby. One woman said that it was “like a fairy tale.”
The problem? I mean, besides the fact that mamas couldn’t immediately hold, bond with, or breastfeed their babies, nor could they remember anything about the births of their children? Besides the fact that the drugs depressed baby’s central nervous system, which often contributed to difficulty breathing?
Women undergoing twilight sleep also went a little bit nuts.
Turns out the hit of morphine wasn’t enough to actually dull the pain—women were still very much in pain—they just had no memory of it. They were so drugged up during the procedure, however, that they acted like crazy people. Patients thrashed and screamed and clawed and scratched. They had to be strapped down or placed in straitjackets like mental patients to keep from hurting themselves.
In fact, it’s widely believed that if husbands had been allowed in delivery rooms back then, the practice never would have been allowed to continue, and certainly not for as long as it did.
How modern pain medication changed birth stories
Fortunately, pain medication for childbirth is much safer and less terrifying today than it used to be. But even these safer labor interventions have changed the landscape of childbirth and how we share and understand birth stories.
You likely have someone in your family who experienced some form of anesthesia during labor and delivery and may not fully remember their birth story. Or perhaps they do remember but it was so clouded by fear and interventions that it’s not as helpful to you as it could be.
Maybe your friends all had planned epidurals and told you about how terrible the pain was until the magic of the drugs kicked in.
Not having any idea what to expect, and maybe even having wrong ideas of what to expect, can put a lot of fear into a new mother’s heart.
When there’s lack of information about what a normal, healthy birth looks like, mom’s defer to doctors to lead the way. That means that they may not ask questions about whether an intervention is necessary, assuming the doctor has their best interest at heart. Most doctors do care for their patients but may not have all of the information about how unnecessary interventions undermine the natural birth process.
So what’s the solution? Birth stories!
If you’re hoping to have a natural childbirth, reading other natural birth stories is key! When you read birth stories you can absorb all of the collective knowledge of women who have been there.
You’ll see what normal birth looks like, which can significantly reduce your anxiety and fear.
You can also see that normal birth plays out in many, often unpredictable, ways. Some stories can give you inspiration that even if the birth didn’t go as hoped, like if a C-section is necessary, mamas can still have a natural birth experience via a gentle cesarean.
Having this knowledge can help reduce fears and anxieties and help you commit to a natural birth.
When you share your birth story, no matter how it played out, you are helping validate other mothers’ experiences. Sharing birth stories brings REAL birth back to the collective consciousness.
Sharing birth stories helps to normalize natural birth (meaning a birth that was allowed to progress as it should, even if interventions were needed) and sweep away fear.
When you read birth stories as a new mama, they can help you to accept your own experience. You’ll see that countless other mamas are in the same boat as you.
We all have an important story to share and we all have something to learn from others stories.
Birth stories: A way to celebrate your awesome achievement
Giving birth is a marathon event, and writing out your story helps you observe and celebrate it.
Maybe it didn’t go as you hoped, or maybe it went perfectly but in a totally different way than you could have imagined.
Whatever the journey looked like, writing your birth story and sharing it can help you celebrate this amazing thing you did, and the amazing life you gave birth to!
Birth stories: A way to process a birth that may not have gone as planned
Let’s face it, not every birth proceeds perfectly according to your birth plan. Writing your birth story is an important part of processing your experience.
Even if you never share it with anyone, writing your story can have a profound impact on your emotional healing.
But if you do share it, it may help someone else who also had a less than ideal birth to know they aren’t alone and that their story still matters.
Why read birth and labor stories?
For some of us birth junkies, reading birth stories is just plain fun. Birth is one of the most amazing experiences, and reading the stories is like getting to experience that amazing journey all over again.
If you’re an expectant mom, reading birth stories is a great way to prepare for your childbirth. Birth stories can help you to know what normal birth looks like and to find confidence in your ability to birth naturally. It can help eliminate some of the fear associated with birth, especially if (like most of us) you’ve never seen a birth before.
Home birth stories
All birth stories are important, but if you’re planning a home birth you may be interested in hearing home birth stories. They can help you acquire confidence to do something that feels right, but can be looked down upon by the mainstream society.
Home birth stories are so important to show that home births (for a normal, healthy pregnancy) are safe and desirable.
Welcome to the largest gallery of birth stories online
Mamas just like you have submitted nearly 2,000 birth stories to the Mama Natural gallery. You can filter the stories by:
You can also search our birth stories by keyword.
Happy reading and best wishes to you!