The Power of a Story

The Power of a Story

barbprofilesmallI’ve often wished that I could clone myself. Why? Because there’s an awful lot I’d like to accomplish in this one, wild life I’ve been given and sometimes it feels like too much for just one of me to try and get it all done.

 

One thing I really wish I had time for is helping more Mommas process their birth stories.

 

On a small scale, I’m already doing this. The families from my classes know how much I love birth stories. When we get together for reunions, I spend time listening to the birth stories of everyone there. I’m on the lookout for key information to help them reframe their births, if needed.

 

I want them to know where they were strong. I want them to acknowledge who supported them and how, specifically.  And I want them to be proud of their level of participation in this life-changing event.

 

In short, I want all women to have a birth story they can look back on as a positive experience.

 

One that informs who they are now as a woman, mother, partner, friend, and professional. I want all women to recognize what they’ve gone through in the ultimate Hero’s Journey that they’ve traveled in a matter of hours or days, that marks their lives as forever different, forever changed in ways both obvious and hidden – even to themselves.

 

I’m happy to say that most of the women I’ve had the honor of working with over the years have a positive birth story to tell – despite it looking anything like that on the surface. The majority of this has to do with her individual attitude, flexibility and openness to responding to birth as it unfolds in real time.

 

But, I’d like to think that they learned a little bit about this from my classes. I’d like to think that expanding expectations and embracing vulnerability before their births helped them process the reality of their birth after it happened.

 

But what about the women who haven’t had a positive birth experience? Maybe their birth happened just last week, or maybe 20 years ago. All too often, these women are told that a “healthy Momma, healthy baby” is all that matters, and they don’t get to finish processing this event in a way that allows them to move forward in their parenting journey.

 

It’s my theory that these women continue to process their birth stories (as I feel they must, until they can come to some form of closure) with unsuspecting and extremely vulnerable pregnant women.

 

I hear about it all the time in my classes. Mommas will complain how all they hear are the “horror stories” that other women, many of them complete strangers, tell them about their own birth experiences.

 

I think this is happening on a subconscious level. I don’t believe for a second that a woman processing her birth is intentionally trying to scare pregnant women with a negative birth story. I just think it’s the loop that they find themselves in as they try to make meaning from this experience that was life-changing, but maybe not in a positive way.

 

Oh, how I wish I could meet all of these women! I’d love to be able to sit with them and listen deeply to their stories. I’d let them process as much or as little as they felt comfortable with sharing. And maybe in the retelling of their story, I could try to help them reframe and then reclaim their birth story as their own.

 

I’d love for them to see, maybe for the first time, where they were strong, who supported them and how. Maybe they could finally begin to integrate this experience into the woman they are now. Maybe, in the process of this reclaiming, they could finally stop that negative birth experience processing loop with younger, vulnerable pregnant women.

 

To that end, I’ve created a document that I’m calling: “Retelling and Reclaiming Your Birth Story: An Exercise to Give Meaning to Your Experience.”

 

I think my invitation to retell and reclaim your birth story can be helpful as a tool to get the details of your birth down in a way that has structure. This can be a beautiful gift to your child. You can remember and reflect on their birth-day every year, and they’ll have something to refer to in preparation for the time when they’re ready to have children of their own.

 

I’d also like to extend this offer to any woman who’s had a negative birth experience that they’re still trying to process. I believe it can be a tool for healing and integration. I’m not a professional counselor, I make no claims about this. But in the busy-ness of our daily lives, we have forgotten the power of story and how it can transform us.

 

I think every woman deserves that opportunity for transformation.

 

If you, or anyone you know, might benefit from taking part in this exercise, please take this short four-question survey and I will send a pdf file of the “Retelling and Reclaiming Your Birth Story: An Exercise to Give Meaning to Your Experience.” Please feel free to share this offering far and wide – I’d love to help as many women as possible!

 

I’m also a HUGE fan of the live and local storytelling model for sharing and processing birth stories.

 

If you haven’t attended a Baby & Me, or New Mom’s Group (they have different names, but usually are quite similar in structure) — please consider doing this. They either happen in the hospital where you delivered, or the one that is closest to where you live, or you can find a community-based support group. These are usually free or very low-cost and facilitated by someone who is very familiar with all the things that new parents are faced with on the other side of becoming parents.

After brief introductions, there’s usually an opportunity for anyone new to the group who’d like to share their birth story to do so. Maybe you just sit back and listen for the first few times you’re there, that’s okay. But maybe you’ll feel like sharing your story.

 

Having a group of women who have experienced many of the same things you have just gone through listen to your story can have such wonderful results. Giving birth is BIG and we sometimes need to speak it out loud, and have it acknowledged by others who get it.

 

(Especially if your sweet and loving partner is not able to continue to process this birth with you. It happens, don’t blame them too much — I’ve coined the term “Birth Processing Burn-Out” to reflect this issue. Only YOU will know when you have fully processed your story. Even if everyone else around you is wanting you to just “move on already…”)

 

But, while I’m at it, I want to make sure that Partners get their moment in the sun to process their own version of the birth story.

 

Many times, because of the lack of hormonal juices flowing, the partner’s experience of birth can be very, very different than that of the birthing woman. Even if you feel like your birth was wonderful, your partner may have been traumatized by the sights, sounds and smells of birth. And there aren’t nearly as many outlets for them to tell or process these stories. Luckily, we have a few local resources that might help!

 

Seahorses PDX is a great gathering place for new Dads to be able to connect with other new Dads and share what might have been a challenging experience (even if it wasn’t for his partner!) There are Dad only meet-ups around town, and even some counselors who specialize in new Dads and their transition to parenthood.

 

There are many other local opportunities for new parents to connect and share their stories. Please look below and click away to see all that Portland and the surrounding metro area has to offer.

 

There’s even an opportunity coming up to hear parenting stories from women who’ve been doing It for awhile… The Portland Expressing Motherhood show is coming up on Tuesday, April 17, 20180 at The Alberta Rose Theater. There aren’t likely to be many birth stories, per se, but this event is by mothers, for mothers. And this just goes to show that the power of story doesn’t go away just because our children are no longer babies. The power of story is like your love for your child — it’s never-ending.