A Prequel to the Birth Story

 


Welcome to the October 2013 Carnival of Natural Mothering!

This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlower, Every Breath I Take, I Thought I Knew Mama, African Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Natural Birth Choices. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

 

I love birth stories. They make me cry those big, fat, happy life-affirming tears. I think it is absolutely wonderful that more women are sharing their birth stories. However, there is another story I think we need to tell, particularly if we are to be better advocates for natural birth. This story takes place long before a baby’s birth and even before conception. This story is the prequel to the birth story. It is the story of how a woman comes to view birth, before she has ever experienced it. A story that a woman’s family of origin, her friends, movies, TV and the media all influence.

When I was fighting for my VBAC with my son, I struggled to adequately articulate my motivation. It felt like people either got it or they didn’t. Sometimes I didn’t need to explain at all, they simply understood my intentions. Other times, no amount of explaining could convince someone that all my efforts were justified. I realize now that was because they had already written and closed the book on their prequel.

So, today, I’m sharing my own prequel. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never given birth or if you’re a mother of ten. Your prequel is likely already drafted somewhere in your subconscious. I’m inviting you to pull it out. Take a look at it. Make sure it’s the story you want in there.

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I can’t remember the first time my mom told me my own birth story. It was a narrative woven into our days in such a way that I feel like I always knew that my mom thought childbirth was easy. She had completely natural, fast, hospital births with both my sister and me.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my dad had made relaxation tapes for her to practice with throughout her pregnancies. She talked about the important role he played in our births, something that wasn’t as common in the mid to late 70s as it is today.

I have vivid memories of my mom having a very visceral response when we would watch a TV show or movie where a woman was screaming and yelling as she gave birth. “That’s not how I experienced it,” she would always assert.

When I was in my early 20s, my sister gave birth to my beautiful niece. She had a labor longer than either of my mom’s but also unmedicated. She never used the words “pain-free” like my mom had, but her experience further instilled in me a belief that natural childbirth was “easy” for women in my family.

When I started practicing and later teaching yoga, I quickly became an anatomy nerd. I grew fascinated with restoring healthy physical alignment in order to help all the systems of the body function optimally. The more I studied, the deeper my awe and respect for the human body became. I also began to grow leery of excessive and unnecessary intervention in the body’s natural processes and rhythms. When I did my prenatal yoga certification, years before I had my own pregnancy, the required readings all contributed to a belief in the female body to typically birth without medical intervention.

I was in my early thirties when I got pregnant for the first time. I had over three decades of prequel written into my story, but the devastation I experienced after losing my first baby added one final chapter, “The Researcher.” I found comfort and solace in facts, knowledge and understanding.

I am profoundly grateful for my prequel. It laid the foundation for me to easily make the choice for a cesarean birth when my daughter was footling breech. But, it was also the reason I was able to overcome so many obstacles and experience the amazing VBAC birth of my son.

What does your prequel say? How has or will it inform your birth stories?

 

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What do you think?

  1. Yes! Although I’ve never thought about it before, I now realize that my own mother’s stories of fast, unmedicated, natural births started shaping my expectations of what birth should be long ago. Your post encourages me to be very mindful as I tell my girls the stories of their births – shaping their prequel decades before it’s their turn. Thanks so much!

    by Victoria @ Green Idea Reviews
    on October 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

  2. Thank you, Victoria! And, I agree! My 4-year-old is currently obsessed with her and her brother’s birth stories. I know I’m helping write her prequel, so I’m super intentional!

    by Jennifer Hoffman
    on October 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm

  3. Interesting! My mom had a terrible birth experience with me. I was three weeks late, and after 24 hours of back labor, her body just quit laboring and I was born via emergency c-section. Then both my siblings were scheduled c-sections. I didn’t learn until last summer when I was pregnant that she had intended a VBAC with my brother but that that went out the window because my dad was scheduled to go out to sea two days after her due date. So they scheduled an early elective c-section for a couple weeks before that. Then I assume no one in the nineties did VBA2Cs, or something. I’ve never heard much about my sister’s birth and I don’t remember much, even though I was five.

    So I grew up thinking labor and birth in general pretty much sucked and that c-sections were probably the way to go. As an adult I’ve been more drawn to the natural living community, but all these stories of magical easy births did not match the reality I knew. Still, I did become determined to avoid a c-section if at all possible, though I continued to think of other interventions as not being the evils so many in this community think they are.

    And indeed, I was induced at 41 weeks, had an epidural to deal with those miserable pitocin contractions, but I succeeded in having a vaginal birth, and knowing my mom’s birth story with me, I don’t know that I would have succeeded at my most important goal without the other interventions.

    This is a good reminder of how our stories help shape the stories of our children. Thank you, Jen!

    by Katie
    on October 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

  4. Isn’t it interesting, Katie! I think it’s not only important to remember how our stories are impacting our kids, but also simultaneously reminding them that we can each re-write these so called “prequels” if we’re just willing to drag them from the darkness of our subconscious into the light of our awareness, just as you are doing when you make more “natural” choices than those your parents may have made years ago.

    by Jennifer Hoffman
    on October 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

  5. Ah, this is lovely. My prequel is definitely similar to yours. My mom instilled the view that childbirth is natural, and whilst painful, is completely empowering for a women. This was the view I took into my own labour, and I am so grateful for it :)

    by Christine @ African Babies Don't Cry
    on October 2, 2013 at 1:42 am

  6. Thanks, Christine! Hoping I give my daughter the same kind of prequel our mother’s gave us!

    by Jennifer Hoffman
    on October 2, 2013 at 7:58 am

  7. […] had a great time reading all about your Natural Birth Choices in the October carnival! We hope you will write again for the November Carnival of Natural […]

    by Anonymous
    on October 21, 2013 at 10:06 am