How we hear about birth from our own mothers can shape our ideas and experience from an early age. What were you told about your own birth? How do/will you tell your children about theirs?
I asked my mum to write my birth story up. She’s told me it many times; the stories of my sister’s and my birth were some of my favourites when I was a child. She always focused on the positive bits – getting to meet us, the elephant shaped meringues my dad brought to my sister’s birth, my zero birthday party with cake and everything.
A chemist and a microbiologist, they decided to birth me themselves in 1978 at home in Sunderland and prepared a sterilised kit for delivering me. I don’t think they were hugely prepared beyond that kit, but they both had a real believe in women’s ability to birth. I hadn’t realised until I was pregnant in 2006 and read Janet Balaskas’ ‘Active Birth’ quite how radical their approach was. Here’s our birth story in my mum's words:
After we passed your due date I spent 3 lovely weeks soaking up sunshine.It was a warm summer so I didn't feel like doing anything at all, and that's more or less what I did.
Soon things were under control again. We now knew that the reason for the slowness was that you were a 'stargazer baby! Sounds lovely even if it is a slight problem. They offered me gas and air to which I said no thanks at first but eventually we decided that it would be OK. When the tanks were brought in it turned out that they were empty! Nevermind we didn't really need it anyway.
You had stayed at home with the midwives, Joy and of course your sister.
Daughters who had heard the stories of their births more times wrote more descriptive and positive accounts and showed higher self- esteem and stronger attachment to their mothers than daughters who had heard the stories less often.
Julia M. Hayden & Jefferson A. Singer & Joan C. Chrisler
As well as the bonds formed between mother and daughter through the pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience. The way we hear our mum's experience of birth can shape our perception and experience of our own birth experience; even down to the way we use words to tell our birth stories. I treasure the telling of this story. The use of words like 'stargazer' and the matter-of-fact telling it's always had. I wonder if it was a help to mum to approach it in this way too, retelling the story in her way.
What's your experience with hearing and telling birth stories?