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.
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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