Posted by doularama | Filed under Birth Stories
I think most of the people scanning the pages of Midwifery Today understand the potential of the positive birth story—how empowering it is to know from someone else’s experience how beautiful birth can be, the trial and triumph. It is also important, however, to understand the power of the negative birth story and why it is told.
Perhaps many of the women who share stories of woe need validation or closure. It could be that they are still trying to understand what actually happened during their births. It is also possible that they are all about the spectacle. In a culture that doesn’t value women and their powerful role as mothers, a good sob story can be a source of pride.
I sadly admit that I told my negative birth story, too. I tearfully offer my public apology to the dark-haired woman at the Hale and Hearty soup shop. Honestly, I think I was jealous. I think I needed to convince myself that I hadn’t missed out. I regretted it almost immediately but it was too late. She, with her big belly, sat next to the table I shared with my baby girl and told me that she was having a homebirth.
“I wanted a homebirth,” I said, “but my husband and my mother weren’t comfortable with it. It’s good thing, too, because I think I would have died if I had been at home. I hemorrhaged right after she was born and again the next day.”
The words flowed effortlessly. At the time, I believed everything I had said, but why did I need to say it? Before the woman started eating, she put her hands together and prayed. I can guess what she was likely praying for. After, she gazed dreamily out the window while she ate. I hope she tells a beautiful birth story, and maybe includes a bit about the horrible woman she met one day at lunch.
For a long time after my daughter was born, I mourned the loss of the birth I had envisioned. There were so many things I didn’t know when I was pregnant, and only discovered after giving birth. That is why I became a doula, to help give other women in our society the chance to know.
Last year, I was saddened to receive an e-mail from a client who, at 39 weeks, perfectly comfortable in her strong, robustly pregnant, yet delicate, petite body, wrote:
Lately I have been bombarded by women who want to share with me all their negative stories, how much pain I will feel, how I will want to give up, how I don’t know what pain is until I try to labor without an epidural. All of it really disturbs me. Why would they want to transmit such images into my mind right before I birth? It seems like they think they are being helpful. Yesterday I was meditating and thought of all the thousands of women who’ve been passed these images of pain and who pass them on to others in kind. I felt so sorry that it goes like that for most of us. I want to see this as having potential to be anything, and like that woman in the video you showed us, view it like a celebration.
I apologize on behalf of this culture for the way pregnant women are being treated. I don’t know why so many women choose to share such stories. Maybe they feel a need to justify for themselves why they chose to labor as they did. Do not doubt your decisions or your body. For all the women who can tell you their horror stories, so many more have tales of victory and empowerment.
That particular client’s birth turned out to be one of the most beautiful I have ever experienced. It seems to me that, as much as we need to help spread the good birth stories, we also need to listen to the bad ones with a helping spirit. Maybe we can listen with compassion and offer to explain why so many of these births are typical, but far from normal. Mostly, though, we need to continue to help make the positive birth story the only one there is to tell.
This is a preprint of Why the Negative Birth Story?, an article published in Midwifery Today Issue #99, p. 19 Copyright © 2011 Midwifery Today, Inc. http://www.midwiferytoday.com/
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