What’s the value of writing about what happened during birth?
Writing your birth story as a way to remember, process, reclaim, heal, and honor your experience. Writing is very therapeutic. Emotional, autobiographical storytelling can be a path to truly owning your story. We’re talking about writing more than just a factual timeline. Even just briefly writing your story can have substantial impacts on psychological and physical health even months after the storytelling. It gives us the opportunity to find our own voice and learning how to express ourselves in a healthy way.
If your birth story is a trigger to you, thanks for being open to this experience. My encouragement for writing your birth story is so you can get it out of your brain and see your words on paper. If at any time this writing exercise is too much, please:
- stop writing,
- call a girlfriend who raves about her therapist and get her therapists number,
- schedule a meeting with a therapist,
- share your birth story with therapist.
That’s my honest to God advice. Seek help now! While the memories and experience is fresh and raw! Trauma lives in our bodies. Move the trauma OUT!
Ok, so whenever you’re ready…
Explore your memories
Begin with a mission of remembrance. Look at pictures from that day. Watch the video. Talk to your birth doula, midwife/ob, and partner. Ask them what they remember of the day. Jot down any notes from stories you didn’t know about during the time, or if they remember details you likely weren’t paying attention to, such as the timeframe.
Rely on your five sense to retell your birth story
Think of how it felt in your body to wait, to push, to cry, to reach out and hold, to smell, to kiss and taste. Use all of your senses setting the scene with you as the heroine of your story. Write out the feelings that flood your body as you remember.
Enough thinking about it, get to writing about it.
Limit your time writing the first rough draft. You can literally set a timer for let’s say 30 minutes to get the story out of your head the way you hear yourself tell the full story in your head. Put it down pen to paper (or fingers to keys 😉 and be done with it. My best writing secret is to do just that. Maybe that’s actually not a secret and I was taught to do it that way as a writer in college. Regardless, that’s an excellent strategy for my ADHD self with looming deadlines.
Write the first draft quickly and thoroughly.
Your first draft isn’t the time to judge. This is word vomit. And just like actually vomit, you don’t spend too much time looking at the details. You’re not writing, then erasing. You’re not even correcting your spelling, being politically correct, and you’re not rephrasing what you “actually meant.” BECAUSE there’s no need to share this version with anyone. After the timer goes off, walk away. Mentally and physically, leave it alone for like 24 hours.
First editing sesh:
Coming back to your writing with a fresh mind will help you see flaws more clearly. This is your second draft and the purpose of this draft is to rearrange paragraphs. Make major structural changes as you clarify what happened as well as everyone’s role during the birth.
Second editing sesh:
Improve sentences with details. Think of the people in your story. Are they dynamic characters? For instance, you can really go into how your care provider made you feel and what was going on between you and your partner. These are juicy details. The janitor who came in to change the trash in the middle of while you’re trying to push a watermelon out of your vagina would be considered a static character. Mention the incident with a brief description of how it made you feel, then refocus your story back to you.
This is the time for tidying everything up by using concise words and proper grammar.
- Word vomit the first draft
- First edit is for major structure changes
- Second is for story enhancing details
- Third is clean up
To share or not to share:
Now, depending on your purpose for writing, you have the opportunity to decide what you want to do with your birth story. You can take the pieces of paper in your hand and set it on fire. Letting the experience go and let it be. This is a great way to heal, actually.
Watch the flames as you meditate on the fact that it’s over and that it was gift:
Or, maybe you’re just itching to share it. Sometimes we can heal just by being raw and real with others who then feel comfortable to be the same with you. You’ll see you’re not alone in your experience. Plus, your story might reach someone who needed to hear it. Someone else who needed to heal from her birth experience. #twobirdsonestone
Still need help writing your story?
Here are some questions just to get you started. Answer one or answer all. Doesn’t matter. This is just a way to help jog your memory.
- What was your due date, and what was your baby’s actual birth date?
- Give a brief synopsis of your birth.
- What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
- What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
- What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
- What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
- In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before, during, or after the birth?
- What do you remember the most?
- How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
- What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
- How would you describe your recovery?
- How has your perspective of your birth experience since the birth?
- Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
Selfishly, I totally wanna share my birth stories. I’ll be brief. Promise. Here’s the cliff notes from my birth stories:
What was most important to me during the births of both of my babies was having my support team in the room with me. That’s what my ob’s remember the most about my births: the crowd in the room. It was fun, though. I would’ve been terribly bored and lonely without the women in my lives being there with me. Women who’ve known the pain and struggle of childbirth. Then with my second, I added my best friend and one of my nieces (neither of which have given birth, but I wanted to give them the experience of witnessing it live!). While I loved having a crowded delivery room, I really wish I would’ve hired a doula. There’s value to having a professional support person who’s trained to help you achieve the birth you want to have.
My ob and I planned induction for no other reason than I begged the doctor to get me un-pregnant. I was uncomfortable, irritable, and impatient. I wanted her out ASAP. Monday morning came along and I strolled into the room where I would spend the next three days. Immediately, pitocin was started, but I wanted to wait for the epidural in order to get a taste of what labor pains feel like. I got to 3 centimeters before I tapped out and begged for an epidural. I had a terrible time getting the epidural, pushed until I felt like I was gonna have to push until I died, and then had a terribly unforgiving episiotomy that took entirely too long to recover from. Ultimately, I wanted to do everything the hospital staff told me to do. I wasn’t interested in rocking the boat. I wasn’t empowered in my labor and had a very difficult time recovering for months afterward.
By my second pregnancy, I was beginning to see the value of the natural way of life, but still wasn’t emotionally and mentally able to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting. Labor with Lij started spontaneously after a day of swimming in Boone Lake. I was so proud, happy, and ecstatic to have gone into labor on my own and to feel natural labor contractions.
I got the epidural despite not actually wanting it because the staff was so convincing that I needed it even though I wasn’t suffering. I was handling those contractions just fine. I sobbed while getting it thinking back to that first epidural experience. Not to say the entire birth was a bad experience. I had many beautiful moments: most memorable being the super moon outside my window, my family and friends next to me, and being just a bit wiser this go around.
I would love to read your birth stories if you’re willing to share them with me. And I can also recommend an amazing therapist if you feel like it would be beneficial to talk to a professional counselor about your birth experience.