No doubt by now you’ve heard them. Well-meaning friends, even strangers, who can’t help but share with you their traumatic birth story in all the R rated gory detail. As you listen, your heart rate increases, it becomes harder to swallow, your body responds in panic to what you are hearing and your mind, unfortunately, is taking it all in, filing it for use down the track.
Now, please hear me out, as I speak with all love and respect. If you are reading this and have experienced a traumatic birth, I am so incredibly sorry. My heart truly breaks for you and with all that I am I wish your outcome had been different. A horror birth story should never be wished upon anyone and I hope you can find the healing you need. There is a time and place to grieve, to speak openly and rawly about how you feel and professionals who can guide you through. Inadvertently though, when these horror stories are shared, more often than not with a first-time mum-to-be, these stories multiply to now become, potentially, a part of her story. It was never hers to begin with, but now she has taken it on board, whether she wants to or not. Why is it in our society that we so freely share negative experiences, and yet the positives are so much harder to find? We are quite literally surrounded by negativity in so many ways and pregnancy, birth and parenting are by no means exempt.
What good is it going to do to share with someone just how awful your experience was, I ask from my high-horse? Do you think it’s going to be helpful or hindering? No, it doesn’t ‘prepare’ them. It freaks them out! As if they’re probably not freaking out enough already! Do you really want to make someone more fearful? More anxious? More concerned? More confused?
I don’t know what it is, whether by sharing the trauma and the horror they feel they are preparing you for how ‘bad’ it’s going to be, or whether it somehow, subconsciously even, validates or vindicates them and what they went through? It’s human nature for us to get a little competitive about who had something ‘the worst’, but I’m putting my hand up and declaring that it’s time to stop. Our words are so incredibly powerful. Let’s use them to encourage, inspire and motivate. To empower and build confidence. To be their biggest cheerleader and confirm: “You got this girl!”
And for you, gorgeous pregnant mumma, if you hear a negative story coming your way, here are some suggestions to (politely) stop them in their tracks:
“Sorry, can I interrupt for a moment? I think I can see where this story is headed and I’m so sorry for your experience, but I am doing my absolute best to put myself and bub in the best possible position for a positive birth and that means not listening to the horror stories.”
“I’m sorry, I want to be respectful but I just can’t hear about traumatic birth experiences.”
“Thank you for wanting to share but if it’s not positive and encouraging, I’m going to ask you to please not.”
These sound very formal when written and they need to be conversational, so have a think for yourself and of course put it into your own words in a way that you feel comfortable. But do prepare your own spiel and please don’t be afraid to use it.
At the very least, it may cause the wannabe sharer to consider the power of their words and hopefully think twice about spouting off to the next unsuspecting pregnant woman they meet.
I’m believing that you, like me, will be one of those who freely & excitedly shares their incredibly positive birth story. That it will change outcomes and that it will help break the stigma of birthing being this awful, traumatic ordeal.
Should you find yourself having heard an unpleasant story, either accidentally or intentionally, Catherine Price & Sandra Robinson in their book ‘BIRTH: Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to your Baby’ give some excellent advice (pg 322):
“Hearing other women’s birth stores may create fears (or add to them), perhaps leaving you upset, bewildered, angry or anxious about the impending labour. However, listening to a variety of birth stories, even scary ones, can help you gather ideas so you can explore different support tools that might be useful.
For all the positive birth stories you hear, perhaps ask: ‘What worked for you?’ or ‘What made a difference?’ For all the negative stories, perhaps ask ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘What would you do differently next time?’
Things to remember with birth stories are:
- Each woman’s experience is unique. While most women describe their labour as painful, this does not necessarily mean it was unpleasant.
- Labours vary immensely. Other women’s stories cannot bring you to a full understanding of what your labour will be like. You need to remain open and just wait and see.
- If feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that this was their experience. You are not this woman and your birth will be different. You and your baby will have your own unique story.
- Good birth stories can have a positive and powerful effect, so listen out for them. Some women find they are a great source of relief and motivation when preparing for their own labour and birth.” (which is why I do what I do!!!)