What follows is an article I wrote for the Waikato Home Birth Association magazine around four years ago. I thought it would be an appropriate 'blog' to post on this site now because the book of NZ home birth stories that I have been compiling, editing and writing for over the past five years is finally off to the printers! It is going to be such an inspirational and informative book for its readers, thanks to the efforts and generosity of the many writers who shared their birth stories for the book. The book is called Where the Heart Is . If you want to be kept informed on when and how to buy a copy or about how you could attend the book launch on November 1st please like my Birth Rite facebook page as this is where I will be posting regular updates.
Writing Your Birth Story
My mother is currently in the process of writing my birth story… thirty-three years after the event! I requested that she write it as a lasting record of a very special occasion (as any birth is), made even more special by the fact that she was quite radical in her desire to birth me at home (home birth in NZ during the 70’s was a rarity). It is a story that I will pass on to my children, and that may be handed down through many generations…maybe even to an era where home birth is the norm and great-great-nan will be known as one of the leaders in NZ’s home birth revolution! Regardless, it means a lot to me to have a record of my birth, especially as I believe it was, in large part, the reason I became a home birthing woman myself.
For those of you who haven’t yet written the story of your baby’s birth, I would encourage you to consider doing so. Whether your own experience of giving birth was one you would describe as beautiful or traumatic, empowering or disempowering, it is your story, and there are many reasons why it is one worth recording. It is an important piece of your history and something that helped shape you into the mother you are today.
If you had a dissatisfying birth experience you might feel negative about recording such a difficult time. However, creating a personal narrative of your birth may prove to be quite a healing experience. Through writing our story we come to better understand that story, in part because writing allows us to tap into our unconscious. We use writing as a form of self-analysis and it helps us to create order in the things that have happened to us. Also, it has the power to heal us and help us grow by giving form and sense to what has affected us.
As you write your birth story, previously unrecognised feelings (anger, sorrow, acceptance, guilt, gratitude, powerlessness, or a multitude of other emotions) may surface. Questions about how you were cared for during your labour and how you responded to various aspects of your labour may arise. Seeking answers to those questions and revealing the circumstances that led to any negative emotions you uncover is a valuable process that can ultimately reap tremendous benefits.
Going into your next pregnancy you will be armed with greater wisdom and the power that accompanies knowledge. You will have a better understanding of your needs, including the sort of midwife you want caring for you (and the sorts of questions you need to ask in order to establish whether she is the right midwife), where and how you want to give birth and the type of people you want support from during your labour.
If you are someone who feels very positive about your birth experience, writing your story can provide many other valuable benefits, especially if you feel willing to share your story with others. At the very least, your child’s birth story will likely become a valuable record for them when they are to become a parent themselves.
Birth in NZ has, in large part, become such a medicalised and impersonal experience. Often, it seems, little consideration is paid to the emotional, spiritual and psychological journey of the mother and her baby, and the rest of the family for that matter. First-time mothers-to-be are frequently bombarded with ‘horror’ stories of birth, further encouraging a view of birth as a dangerous and scary procedure. Through sharing your beautiful birth story with others, you offer inspiration and positivity to those who are frequently in desperate need of some.
During both of my pregnancies I could not get enough of reading others’ positive birth stories. ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ by Ina May Gaskin, became my bible, and I craved the arrival of my next Home Birth magazine in the post for the wonderful birth stories contained within.
One last suggestion I will make is that when you write your birth story, write it from your heart. Writing about how you felt; what challenges you faced and how you overcame them; and the type of atmosphere you created for your birth, are much more relevant to understanding what you went through than a simple timeline of events is.