My birth story.
Fourteen years ago today I was precisely 40 weeks pregnant with our second child. Yep, it was my estimated due date. It was also the day after we had new sod go in our newly landscaped backyard. Frustrating the avid gardener in me, the landscapers did not “tamp down” the new grass, helping the roots to connect with the soil below. This was not acceptable and off we went to the equipment rental company…my mom, my full belly, and I. There, I rented a metal roller, the kind you fill with water and then roll it across the grass to help tamp it down and smooth out any unnecessary pockets. The men at the rental store asked if there was someone at home who would be doing this for me. To which I answered, “No, I plan to do it myself.” Aghast, he asked when I was due. With cheer in my voice, I said, “Today.”
Somehow that day I did manage to get the 250+ lb roller out of my minivan and roll the grass! Thankfully, I have photographs to prove it as I can hardly believe it myself. That night, I sat exhausted in my favorite chair after putting our toddler to bed and proudly proclaimed my gratitude that I had not gone into labor. I was beat!
It’s sort of funny how those things go, a large proclamation to the Universe and then…yep! Our son was born just after midnight that evening.
But this is where sharing my birth story (in this manner at least) ends. What happened between that proclamation of exhaustion and our baby’s arrival just after midnight is sacred, special, and remarkably, transformatively, intimate. How might I communicate just what happened that night and all that occurred inside my soul during those hours? To do so would be to invite you into a part of my being I share with only a few of my most beloveds. Birth, to me, is a lot like your most transformative and intimate sexual experiences. Not that birth is sexual itself (although it can be). Rather, I mean this is in terms of who I let in, with whom I share these moments, their profound sacredness and in how inconceivably difficult they are to translate in ways that allow others to enter the moment with me.
And so for me I share the story of tamping the grass, I share the story of our older son meeting our new baby for the first time, I share the humor of his being born just a few minutes “late,” but what occurred within those bookends, those moments are for me, my family, and our intimate circle with whom we carefully and selectively choose to share them.
Few hold the strict stance on sharing their birth stories that I have, nor do they need to. Each birthing person gets to decide for themselves how they share or don’t share their unique birth story.
It is, after all, theirs to do with as they please!
I have found that new parents who share their birth stories in thoughtfully selected, supportive and even therapeutic environments, often find that the act of telling their story supports them on the path of healing and integration. Therapeutic and healing story-sharing is most effective when there is little to no concern for how the story will be received. In other words, helpful birth story sharing thrives where the values of acceptance, non-judgment, and empathy are foundational.
As a birth professional, I apply a “do not share” standard to how I hold the stories of births I attend. I may reveal a snippet of a birth story in my teaching or writing, always with a specific learning objective and without any names or features that could be identifiable. I have my intimate group of trusted colleagues where I can go to process my experience, what happened, what I did and didn’t do, where I felt strong or powerless, where I wish I’d done things differently, what I can learn and grow, and where I shone brightly in my personal genius (that we each have). Birth is powerful. We all need sacred circles within which we can be witnessed, but that is far different from processing publicly on social media.
I am on call to doula for a birth as I type this. This mother’s estimated due date was yesterday. It is no wonder that I reflect upon my own labor 14 years ago as I await the call that could come at any moment. The phone will ring and I will drop everything to support a couple as they step across the threshold that will transform them from couple to family.
If I am fortunate enough to be there to share in this experience, I will hold it as a profound gift, a shared intimacy, a few moments of magic woven together in a unique and privately shared rite of passage. As such, the story of their birth will be theirs alone to share if, when, and how they desire.