The Power of Birth Stories


Reading birth stories is a great way to prepare for labor. But it depends on the birth stories. If you hear nothing but drama which is often the case, as the dramatic ones tend to be told and retold, you’ll be too freaked out. Freaked out by the idea of pain, or freaked out by what can be “done to you.” But hearing only about perfect, even orgasmic, births can set up some unrealistic expectations.

Usually, what helps is to read stories alongside intelligent commentary. In The Big Book Of Birth by Erica Lyon has lots of birth stories– some are medicated some are not. Each of them is given some context by Lyon, who keeps coming back to the point that there is no perfect birth. Another thing that helps is variety! When Rebecca and I wrote From The Hips we spoke to hundreds of women about birth and got as many answers to questions like, What does a contraction feel like? What helped you cope? What didn’t?

A new book called, Belly Button Bliss: A Collection of Happy Birth Stories edited by Jennifer Derryberry Mann, promises to deliver lots of birth stories without the fear. Yesterday, babble excerpted a twin vaginal birth story from the collection; it’s a fairly straight-forward story, without the heavens opening up or the floor sinking away. There are technical details, which I appreciate:

“By 5 a.m., I had only progressed to 5 centimeters. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours, and I hadn’t been back in bed since my water broke. I contemplated the relief an epidural would bring, but I feared it would slow my labor even further.”

In this story mom delivers her twins vaginally. If this is something you’re considering, stories like this can help. You’ll learn that A) it’s possible and B) that it’ll take a bit of work- getting a supportive obstetrician or midwife and being educated about how medications can help or hinder the progress of labor. You’ll learn that twin vaginal deliveries in hospitals can take place in the OR, in case surgical intervention in necessary.

Reading birth stories online are great but if one of them leaves you in a panic, talk to your care-provider or childbirth educator about what you read in order to get some context.  A combination of stories that help demystify both normal birth and medical procedures seems to provide the right balance.

photo:EraPhernalia Vintage/Flickr