I’m not sure if it's normal to love birth stories as much as I do. I think when a baby is first born you’re supposed to ask things like, “What the baby’s name?” or “How much did the baby weigh?” No, my favorite first question for new parents is, “How was the birth experience?” And I have yet to find a parent who isn’t willing to tell their story.
I had the recent pleasure of visiting two moms in two consecutive days who recently gave birth. Both are dear friends of mine. I saw Becky, who gave birth to her first baby, Anastasia Belle, on May 13th and Maura on the following day, who had her second child, August Elliot, on June 7th. After bringing the mamas food, offering them moments of relief holding their precious cargo (and wrestling my own jealous toddler), I enjoyed listening to every detail of their birth stories. Both beautiful and unique, each with plenty of drama and humor. But there was another similarity between their two stories: they were what we could consider calling, “quick, easy births.”
To summarize Becky’s story, her water broke four weeks before her due date. She and her husband rushed to the hospital right away. When they checked to see how far she had dilated, the contractions started in a hurry. A few short hours later, she was holding sweet little Anastasia, who, despite being pre-term, was a healthy 5 pounds, 12 ounces.
Maura had a different story leading up to her little one’s birth. She’ll be sharing more on this later, but here’s the summary: labor was on and off for over three weeks before August made his appearance. A few days after her due date, she finally started to feel the wave of strong contractions that Saturday afternoon. When her water broke (funny enough, for the second time apparently… who knew it could reseal?), she and her husband took their trip down to the hospital and delivered less than three hours later from when contractions began.
As these beautiful, powerful women in my life recalled these moments, their words glowed with accomplishment and joy. They were thrilled with their birth experiences that they shared with their partners and their newborns. And yet, one part stood out to me that Becky’s husband, Scott, told me: after Anastasia was born, a nurse told them, “Don’t tell the other moms how easy your birth was.”
The reasoning, I suppose, is obvious: it would seem like bragging. The other moms might think there’s something wrong with them if their birth doesn’t go as smoothly. I’ve heard this before from people, and it simply baffles me. Why? Because it doesn’t seem to apply the other way around. I’ve never heard from a woman who had a difficult birth, “Don’t tell the other moms how difficult your birth was.” It seems almost as if the fear of birth is being intentionally perpetuated.
If you watch most birth shows or watch women giving birth in film, it’s almost always depicted as something frightening. People rushing around, mom is screaming in agony, people are yelling at her to push. It’s no wonder there’s so much fear surrounding the subject of birth. And you’d think we would be telling moms with easy births, “Go tell your friends about your experience!” But no, they’re told, “Don’t tell anyone.” It seems like it’s doing future moms a disservice because of the way many prepare for birth: they prepare for a long, hard birth, opting for more interventions and not being prepared for it to be quick and simple. For example, something they often don’t tell expecting mothers is that they can’t administer the epidural if she’s too close to pushing. If this happens, wouldn’t it be better if these moms were better prepared to have an impromptu intervention-free birth?
I won’t pretend giving birth is a walk in the park. There’s a reason they call it labor. I also won’t deny that women often have terrible, even traumatic experiences. But in my own experience, it seems like for every woman who tells of a bad birth experience, there’s a Becky or a Maura to counter-balance it. I say, let there be no shame in sharing any birth experience. Let us continue to tell our stories, all of them, and to always use them to uplift and inspire our sisters.
Congratulations, Becky and Maura, on your new arrivals. Thank you for telling me your birth stories, and for letting me share them.
Thanks to Victoria for writing this lovely blog post!