The Importance of Birth Stories

However, giving birth is not just about having babies. It is about women’s lives, women’s wisdom, women’s bodies, and women’s empowerment ~ Suzanne Arms

Something happened to me shortly after the birth of my first child. I was in hospital, pride surging through my veins, a squidgy baby only hours old nestled in my chest, and I found myself called upon to relay the events of my labour and birth to every visitor, well wisher, midwife, and room-mate.

Moments, events, smells, sights, sounds, physical sensations, and emotional connections of my journey to motherhood, only a matter of hours old, were so clear and lovingly stored in my mind to deliver in intricate detail. Every spare minute I visualised these moments, my baby triggering fresh memories, still so recent they were nearly tangible. All of these whirling memories merging to lay down the foundation of what would become my birth story. Even now, a decade passed, the memories are still as strong. The smells, the sounds, the faces, the kind words, the physical sensations, the emotions…….like yesterday.

baby no 5 and a first homebirth. AIMS Ireland campaign 42 weeks www.42weeks.ieI was intrigued by the amount of interest my birth story received; neighbours, colleagues, friends, family, the woman in the chemist….all wanted to know the intimate details of my birth. It was like I was suddenly part of a community I never knew existed – nor had interest in prior, truth be told – a community of women with a common ground; to have birthed. And it wasn’t one-sided. I was suddenly aware and took great interest in hearing other women’s birth stories. I lapped them up. I sought them out. I was elated by them, learned from them, and felt empathetic sorrow and anger from them. I began to understand how important birth stories were, not only for the first-hand experience of the woman telling them, but between women. The connections that could form through these stories. The understanding, the belonging, the bonding. An unspoken understanding.

The birth story is explored as one of the last remaining aspects of oral history among women.

Without exception, knowledge of childbirth has been a persistent measure of a feminine, woman-to-woman legacy. For most expectant mothers, this traditional communication has been an influential, primary way to learn about giving birth. This unique art of storytelling illuminates the specialness, subtlety, and emotional components of birthing. Because these highly-charged variables are minimized or absent in formal childbirth education, sharing birth stories becomes more long-lasting as wisdom is passed from “one who knows” to those “who need to know”.¹

The importance of birth stories.

Positive stories of healthy birth serve as a reassurance for expectant mothers. They are empowering. They can give confidence. They can teach, explain, highlight care options. They invigorate health care providers.

Stories of detrimental experiences raise awareness. They help provide a marker of where our services are going wrong and how we can change it. They can help us make different choices. They can help health care providers change the way they provide care. They give us a platform to campaign for better services for healthier births for babies AND mothers.

The 42 Weeks campaign’s Positive Birth Stories in Ireland section has been created to provide an extensive catalogue of positive stories of healthy birth in Ireland from women. We wanted to collect stories which are specific to birth in Ireland, in order to create a powerful resource for women birthing here.

What is a positive birth story?

We define a positive birth story as a woman’s reflections of her own birth experience in which she felt was a positive experience. A positive birth story does not reflect a specific kind of birth; this will be individual for each woman and her own needs and desires.

We hope you enjoy the birth stories on our website and more importantly, we hope that you take something away from them – for yourself or for someone you think will benefit from them.

All birth stories and images featured in 42 weeks have been generously shared by members of the public in Ireland. If you would like to take part and share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch through the website http://www.42weeks.ie, through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/42weeks or follow us on Twitter at @42_weeks.

References:

1. Birth Stories: A Way of Knowing in Childbirth Education
Jane Staton Savage, RN, MS, LCCE
J Perinat Educ. 2001 Spring; 10(2): 3–7.

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