The 5 “Ws” of sharing your birth story

Have you ever shared more than you meant to?

I know I have been there… When it happens about our births it can feel even trickier, particularly if feelings of loss of control are associated with the birth, if you’re now losing control over the story. If you can entertain the following questions, you’ll be more prepared over the next few times it comes up.

WHAT to share:
Not that you need my permission, but it is totally appropriate to just say, “Our family is in a whole new universe right now, we are adjusting!!” I remember when my mother passed away 17 years ago, it took me a few tries to realize that if someone said, “I”m sorry,” I could just say, “thank you.” I didn’t have to say, “it’s ok.” I didn’t owe them anything while they were offering of themselves to me. You can thank them and move on.
On the other hand, did you want to share? You might be really in the moment, and it comes natural to share your story. You might even feel like the belle of the ball and like all the attention! Many women create 1 min, 5 min, and hour-long versions of their stories.You could make it as formal as writing a birth story. Another cool and EASY option is record yourself while sharing your birth story with a dear friend on your phone’s Voice Memo so you have it as a memento. Or it can be as informal as making a quick mental note of a few parts of the story that you are proud of, and possibly one part that was hard that you can frame in a way that is useful for both yourself AND the person receiving it.
The trick is to give some thought to what feels honest and true to you that positions yourself in the most positive light.
If anything happened that you’re not happy about, it’s not your fault. Even if you were warned but couldn’t hear that warning as clearly then as you recognize it now. If there’s anything broken in the modern maternity care system, that is on the system, not on you. We are all doing the best we can with the information, resources, and skill we have in the moment.
Whoever you are speaking with, you could consider telling them in advance “I just want to share (without feedback)” vs. “I’d like feedback about x, y, and z.” Let people know what you’re looking for.

WHO to share it with:
Short answer is, no one has a right to your story, any more than you are obligated to answer a phone just because it is ringing. I actually felt prompted to write this post because I recently needed a doctor, and his wife happened to be 40 weeks pregnant #doulalife. At a follow-up visit, he shared some of the “nitty gritty” in a way that felt like he thought I expected details.
A friendly birthworker you met doesn’t deserve details just because you know they knows about birth and might be more curious about details. You don’t owe your story to: mothers, pregnant people, your doctor cousin, the person who takes yoga with you, the lady at the corner store, an “inquisitive” person keeping score on everyone at the office, or a mom trying to figure out who ranks where in the birth olympics. What about BFF? No, also no. I really don’t come across too much of this, but it doesn’t hurt to give it thought. Do any of these archetypes make you think of someone you’ll want to prepare for before you see them?
And how to deal with people who DO ask and pressure? Ideas:
“Too busy to chat about it right now!” or “Not ready yet. Just no. :-/” or
“Honestly it was great/fine, it just feels really personal! Amiright????!?”
Also a quick note about confidentiality – is this your story to share? If you did not give birth to that baby, quick check with that person for some input on what you share. Mindful on social media, do not post “I’m gonna be an uncle any minute!” – Please don’t announce someone else’s birth! Not to your community, school, whatever…
You also might want to think about who you DO want to talk to and actively seek that opportunity. You could also email me for names of birth counselors.

When to Share:
Any time you want. You may just want to refer to the thought points above before telling anyone. You may even choose not to look at photos of your birth for a few days (or as long as you want) so the memories in your head stay most vivid (although majority of my clients report that the photos helped them see the birth in a more positive light). You also may still have feelings years later. The right person even years later can shift your memories and emotions around birth profoundly.

Cafe? Living room? Phone? Any other ideas? It’s all fine. Except I personally don’t prefer episiotomy conversations over the thanksgiving dinner. Call me prudish.

And Why?
Oh… WHY. it’s everything!!!! Women rate their births as the most memorable events of their lives. That’s MY big why for being a doula. I help women have births that feels more like a happy event than a procedure. And it’s age old sport for women across the millennia. It’s cathartic. It can help you plan for the future if you’re ready to think about that too.

Women may need to share their story and if they chose to share with you, please listen and tell her how strong and ok she was and is. OR just listen and say, “that’s hard” The “all that matters…” speech is the birth world’s version of “what weather we are having!!” in the elevator. It’s trite in addition to being hurtful. She knows more than anyone what matters most is a healthy baby… she may ALSO just need to hear you say, “that sounds hard, I’m sorry.” Or “WOW, you sound like a rock star!!!!”

PS – I had beautiful transformative births. We need to hear positive birth stories to get more of ’em as a society. And what’s my secret?? 😉
Schedule a complimentary consultation to find out.
Sending you love and inspired visioning about what your birth means in the grand scheme of your life.
The birth had to be huge. It was your passage to parenthood. Like rocks become sand on the beach, your body and life shifts and changes to make space for baby. Blessings for your recovery and may you embrace all to come.

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