Our birth stories? They are important. So incredibly powerful and important. We tell them over & over; sometimes aloud, often to ourselves. Their memories stay with us, down to our bones sometimes. I can tell you about my son’s birth, in great detail, even after 31 years. I haven’t forgotten a thing. I remember how I felt every moment; physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Who we choose to share our birth stories with? That's also really important and powerful, in a different way.
Last week I was catching up on past episodes of The Birthful Podcast. Pam England, author of Birthing from Within was the guest and the topic was “Healing Your Birth Story.” In it, she shared that there are many kinds of birth story listeners.
The two most common being:
The Competitive Listener, who will listen to your story and add facts from her own birth (or the birth of a friend or family member) to illustrate that hers was shorter/easier/more peaceful or longer/harder/more frightening.
The Judgmental Listener, who doesn’t mean to be, but her 20/20 hindsight often leaves the teller feeling that she should have made better choices. This listener asks questions like “did you try __________ before asking for an epidural?” Or “Why would you want to suffer through labor without medication?”
When we tell our birth story to someone who is listening through a filter of their own values (or all too often, their own birth trauma), we will frequently leave out details that we actually really need to discuss, but are fearful will be responded to in a way that could result in further strife.
Ms England suggests that we may want to be careful with whom we share our birth story. Her advice? Choose carefully someone who will listen deeply. One who will respect your feelings, your choices, and the process you need to go through to digest your birth.
Choose a Compassionate Listener.
Our postpartum doulas are specially trained in compassionate listening. We often hear the birth story told at every support visit. Sometimes, in it's entirety. Often times, in bits and pieces as they're ready to be discussed and worked through.
It’s an important part of the support we provide.
We allow a safe place for our new parents to talk, laugh, cry, question, and explore their thoughts and feelings about their birth and how their experience might shape them as new parents. I’ve found that in my work as an overnight doula, the wee hours of the mornings are particularly conducive to the sharing of intimate thoughts and feelings. When the home is dimly lit, quiet, and baby is feeding, it’s a time when new mothers whisper their memories and feelings about their birthing day.
We also frequently hear birth stories, the parts that are ready to be told, in our monthly New Moms Group. This Saturday in fact, the topic “Processing Our Birth Stories.” It’s a cozy place to share our thoughts and feelings in a small, intimate group, facilitated by Postpartum Doulas & Emerald Doulas owners Ashley Collins & Suzanne Lee.
If you are in a place where you might be feeling ready to share your birth story, in a safe space and among a room of compassionate listeners and friends, we invite you to join us. No RSVP is ever required. No judgements. No competition. Just open ears, and open arms.
-Melanie Patrick, Birth Doula and Owner of Emerald Doulas