From the moment a mother (or her midsection) announces her pregnancy, she is inundated with a barrage of birth stories from friends, family members, and even strangers. These stories tend to center around themes of pride, shame, or blame. Most mothers-to-be listen politely while looking for the nearest exit, and a few bold ones will tell people that they would rather not hear negative stories as they prepare to meet their baby.
However this scene plays out, it’s an awkward interaction. The pregnant woman feels imposed upon, and the storyteller may feel some temporary relief from not being heard, but she will ultimately lack a feeling of resolution from this one-sided interaction. Perhaps there is another way, where everyone can benefit…
If you have never given birth, then the person who stands before you has been initiated into the world of motherhood through her birth and may just hold a pearl of wisdom for you – if you can excavate it! As your belly grows, you draw nearer to your own rite of passage. As the uninvited birth story begins, you have an opportunity to disrupt the dismal warnings, the list of “shoulds” and “should nots,” and the unresolved trauma to ask about something more meaningful that could actually help you prepare for childbirth.
You might ask this initiated mother questions like…
- How did you cope through the pain and intensity? If their answer is an epidural, you might ask how they coped before the epidural or how they knew it was the right time to get one.
- When was the first time you felt like a mother?
- Tell me about a time when you felt supported? Was there a moment when a partner, doula, nurse, midwife, or doctor really came through for you?
- How did you prepare for birth? Was there a class you took? Did you get advice from a wise elder? What was helpful? What wasn’t?
- What do you know now that you wish you knew before labor? Before postpartum? Before raising a child?
- What was something you did during birth that surprised you? What was one small thing that you managed to do that you never thought possible? How has it affected you even after the birth, knowing now that you are capable of doing that surprising thing?
When you ask solution-focused questions about the deeply meaningful physical and emotional aspects of a birth, you can find ideas about what may work or not work for you. By tapping into the lived wisdom of the women who want to share their experience, you may gain new insights or begin to reflect on aspects of birth that you had never thought of before.
When you stop the story of pride/shame/blame it pulls the other person out of their habitual way of telling their story and allows them to focus on what worked, when they felt connection, what they learned, and how they changed as a person from giving birth. You just might both walk away with some fascinating new ways of thinking about childbirth!
Give it a try, and let us know how it went!
Nikki Shaheed CD(DONA) is a certified Birthing from Within mentor in San Antonio, TX who is passionate about helping parents prepare realistically for birth and recover emotionally from birth. She loves sharing folktales and going on bike rides with her three kids.