Rewriting Birth – Making Peace with Your Birth Story

Thank you for joining me in some collaborative parenting discussion.


The process of writing out my birth stories brought me to realize the wide reaching importance of how we tell the story of our child’s entry into this world. If you feel upset about your birth, this article will help you work through your feelings, rewrite your birth story, and live the empowered version so that first experience with your child is one you always cherish. Feel free to read my birth stories here if you like – first, second, third, fourth.

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As the mother of four, I have told birth stories many times. It was when my oldest child referred to her birth as “the worst” that I realized I needed to take a good look at how I was telling my stories.

The stories we tell not only affect us, but our children and anyone else involved. When a story is fresh, involves heightened emotion or trauma, or we can’t seem to find a positive bent – it is worth while to explore the possibility of rewriting. The process allows you to see your experience and story for what it is, consider and choose new perspectives, and honor the meaning it has in your Life.

If you find that when you tell your birth story (in your own head or to other people) you are overwhelmed with guilt, anger, sadness, frustration, other low feeling emotions, or even a sense that things just went wrong or not as expected – I encourage you to consider the following steps to rewrite birth.

Tell your birth story as is. This isn’t the time for the empowered version. Tell it like you feel it, with both yucky and beautiful parts. You can do this in several ways.

One way is to sit in front of a mirror and tell your story to yourself, noticing how you feel as you tell it. This allows you to hear yourself tell the story without the attachment to what another may think about it. Do it a second time with a piece of paper and briefly note what parts hold the strongest emotion – such as “When I talk about getting the epidural I feel sad” or “When I talk about the c-section I feel angry” or “When I talk about the moment I realized my baby was dead I feel like I am going to die.” Get as detailed as you want without writing the full story. There will be more opportunities to go into detail later.

Another is to enlist the help of a friend or someone who was not at the birth. If you are really close with your partner or a family member who was at the birth and can simply listen, feel free to choose that person. Ask the person to simply listen as you tell the story, without giving any feedback. If this person doesn’t have experience doing this you may consider choosing another person who can just listen, or consider it a mutually beneficial experience. You get to tell your story as this person gets to practice listening. This allows you to feel heard, notice when you might be telling the story to get validation or confirm that you are a victim, and hear yourself tell the story. Tell it a second time and ask the person listening to make brief notes when it seems like you feel especially emotional, angry, sad, or otherwise upset. When you’re done, ask the person to share the notes without judgment. What you need to hear is what they heard, not what they think about it. Or you can just ask to see the notes.

Simply observe your experience. There’s no right or wrong and you’re not really looking for anything here; just telling and listening.

Record your birth story as is. Now that you’ve voiced your story, write or record it in some way. You can create an audio, video, or type it out. Again, this isn’t the empowered version. You may wonder, why so many times? So you can get it out of your head, feel your emotions around it, and really see what’s there. Recording the birth story will also help you see a progression as you rewrite it if you choose to look back.

Record or tell your birth story without judgment, just facts. This is not a detached version, just a very factual version. You can do this in first person as though it’s still your story, or you can change it up and tell it as if it is someone else you are talking about. Notice what parts are more difficult to tell without judgment, and what parts you feel grateful for.

Now sit with these versions of the story for a few hours, days, weeks, or months (please, not years) while you review the parts that still hold low feeling emotions. When I say “sit with that version” I mean, accept it for what it is. That is the story that comes out of you at present. And you are working to rewrite an empowered version, not a fantasy-alternate reality version, a version that speaks to all aspects of your experience as you grow into motherhood. A version that allows you to reap benefit from struggle and suffering.

You can review the parts that have low feeling emotion in several ways. You can draw a line down one piece of paper and on the left write down the hard parts of the birth that still bother you. On the opposite side of the paper you can write down what you learned and how that situation could possibly be of benefit. Maybe you felt forced to stay in bed, which helped you learn that you really like freedom of movement and you now advocate for that with moms, recommend a doula or support partner, chose to talk with your OB, nurse, or hospital about it, or in some other way you have or can see turning the situation into more of a positive in the present.

Another way to review the rough parts and make peace with them is self-forgiveness. We can think we need to be perfect and do everything as we think we should. There is value in stretching ourselves to meet goals, and at the same time looking back while beating ourselves up is the same energy that will bring us to repeat a choice that doesn’t serve our well being. So, simply open to forgiveness around those parts. Be willing to have a new experience with those feelings. That is often the start. If you are spiritual, take the hurt you feel to the loving Creator and ask for help. Trust in the ability of the unseen to assist with relief in these areas of your life.

Consider meditation as a way to go directly into the story and meet the emotions with awareness. Sometimes we need to sit in the moment with uncomfortable feelings, just breathe, surrender, and allow a release.

When you are ready, rewrite your birth story. Do this in a way that affirms for you and your child that it was worth every second, the initial negative perceptions do not determine your relationship or your child’s mark in life, and was more beneficial than traumatic. This may or may not be easy.

Start by writing down the most difficult parts of your birth on one side of a sheet of paper. Directly across from each point, write down what you have learned and what you know now in present tense terms. For example, if one one side you list “I was cut open when all I wanted to do was push my baby into my arms” on the other side you may list “I was raw, open, wondering,waiting, feeling, numb, sad, and excited at the same time. I learned that even though I did not have the birth experience I expected that I am strong, and my love for you is stronger than the experience of disappointment in the circumstances. I learned that I can face anything and move through it, even when it is excruciatingly difficult, and that I can grow even when I feel challenged.” Use your own words and allow a gradual progression from what you felt at the time to what you are feeling now, and even to what you would like to feel about the experience. Imagine how it would feel to be at peace with the experience. What thoughts would be present? What would you believe about yourself, your body, and the process of life?

You can also retell your story in the mirror, to a trusted friend, or other person who can listen non-judgmentally. Notice how it feels as you focus on what you have learned does and does not work for you, what you deem very important in birth, the parent-child relationship, and relationships with those who are around you during important and sensitive times such as birth – and what you appreciate about the experience.

Allow this process to unfold with a focus on acceptance, healing, and appreciation. Acceptance happens in various ways. Someone can accept what is on the surface – only to be annoyed, frustrated, or disappointed on the inside. Inner acceptance often comes about through the choice to consider a change in perspective, a strong desire to heal, and the willingness to embrace appreciation of some sort even when we feel defeated.

Sometimes healing looks like examining our thoughts that tell us our experiences should not have happened, should have been different, or that if we just would have done XYZ all would be perfect. Examination of the relationship between the thoughts we think, how we feel, and how that affects our lives can be a challenge.

As parents, I feel we are up for the challenge. This isn’t about self-judgment, it is about choosing differently one moment at a time. The basis for this is in recognizing what is ultimately true about us inside of the stories we tell, which can be discovered through meditation.

I invite you to consider the way you tell the story of your child’s birth and if you choose – rewrite the empowered version for you, your child, and the generations that follow.

 


Are you are struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something invaluable with you: hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this challenge.

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14 Responses to Rewriting Birth – Making Peace with Your Birth Story

  1. Lauren September 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    “I learned that even though I did not have the birth experience I expected that I am strong, and my love for you is stronger than the experience of disappointment in the circumstances. I learned that I can face anything and move through it, even when it is excruciatingly difficult, and that I can grow even when I feel challenged.”

    Oh my goodness, Amy – such beautiful, inspiring words. I hope lots and lots of mothers find solace and peace from the tips in this post. Great job.

  2. Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Thank you for writing this post and for this wonderful advice! Baby is 14 months old and I still haven’t written my birth story. I fully intended to do it for the most recent birth story carnival and even told the carnival host I was definitely participating, but then every time I sat down to write the post, I simply couldn’t do it. I’d really like to write Baby’s birth story soon, so this post is very timely for me. <3

  3. Amy Phoenix September 9, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Thank you, Lauren. Yes, I am seeing the value of just this process in the entire journey of parenthood since pregnancy and birth are such influential aspects of our relationships. I may offer a class around it at some point and I’m certainly open to discuss it more with parents who are interested. :)

  4. Amy Phoenix September 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Great, Charise! :)

  5. Darcel @ The Mahogany Way September 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    This is wonderful! I am going to put this into practice, hopefully son. I shared it on my Birth cafe wall on Facebook.

  6. delunasylaberintos March 13, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    Thank you very much for this post. It’s really inspiring and usefull. It could be a wonderful tool to heal birth wounds. Could it be possible to share it in my blog? I’ll need to translate it, but I’ll try to do my best. Thanks in advance.
    Warm regards,
    Ana

  7. Amy Phoenix March 13, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Yes, Ana, feel free to share the post on your blog with my short bio that is below the post and a link back to Presence Parenting. I am glad you found it helpful. Much love. :)

    • Ana @ delunaslaberintos March 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      Thank you so much, Amy. Of course, I’ll link your web and your bio. I’ll let you know when it is ready.
      Warmest regards,
      Ana

  8. Amy Phoenix March 14, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Absolutely, Ana! Look forward to hearing from you. Take care.

  9. Krissy March 27, 2012 at 3:25 am #

    I’m not sure why I’m commenting since I can’t do this exercise. Something tragic happened to me a few months after my daughter was born and I have since lost all my long term memories including my daughter’s birth. :(

    I am very very emotional about the fact that I never got to finish writing down the precious story of her birth and my labor. I started writing it in the first few days after she was born, but only got a few sentences down. It was the most amazing experience of my life and now all those wonderful emotional memories are gone! I wish wish wish I could remember so she could read it one day. It would have been so special to share with her and put in her baby book.

    Its really hard to handle and accept. My family isn’t very caring and doesn’t understand to lose your memories is to basically lose who you are. Memories are one of the most important things we have.

    • Amy Phoenix March 28, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Krissy, thank you for sharing.

      Memories do make up a large part of our identity. I can only imagine the frustration you may feel. It does sound like you have an amazing opportunity to embrace life one moment at a time – even if it is through the circumstances of memory loss. Possibly this will be a guiding point for you, from you and what you are dealing with in all of this and that valued memories will surface in time – or the joy you experienced will be presented again in your life in new ways that you can savor right here and now. I am not attempting to minimize your experience at all, just offer a bridge between the frustration and the experiences you have in the present. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. :)

  10. Becky March 28, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    This is a wonderful article. I gave birth 25 years ago and I know that to this day, I do not tell the story of it well, unless I want to make it sound better for a patient in labor. In fact, I have considered that my labor experience led to PTSD along with my PPD. But I always know it gave me the greatest gift ever. I will work very hard on this as I see the importance of this exercise. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amy Phoenix March 28, 2012 at 9:17 am #

      Thank you for reading, Becky, and for being committed to creating a new experience for yourself around birth. It will ripple out to those you care for as well. Much love to you. :)

  11. grandma julie July 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    thank you for some direction when re writing my 3 birth stories (1969, 75 & 77). i firmly believe we should all write them while they are fresh in our heads even if that is several yrs later.i have learned that time does steal some memories…but i also like the idea of re writing. i have said many times that my first hospital birth is what caused my 2 home births but that does not take away how special that first birth was to me. choose your words carefully and realistically and consider their impact on those involved.

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