Giving birth can be one of life’s most intense experiences. Childbirth is a physical feat, but there’s also the emotional aspect of staring into your baby’s eyes for the very first time.
Like many experiences, with time, the details of our births can fade, and our memories shape-shift. Writing our birth stories down is a powerful way to preserve the story of our children’s birth—for us and for our kids.
Here are 6 tips to capturing your birth story.
1. Just do it
The first step to writing your birth story is simply to get it out as quickly as possible, preferably while the details are still fresh in your mind. You can scrawl it out longhand, type it or even record yourself telling the story—do whichever is easiest and fastest. Don’t try and edit it for spelling or comprehension at this point, just capture everything you remember. You can go back and hone your story later. If you're having a hard time getting started, try answering these questions: What were you doing when you realized you were in labor? Who was present during the birth? What sounds, physical sensations, or smells do you remember most?
Was there one tiny moment where I stayed connected and advocated for myself?
2. Gather information
After you get your recollection of the birth down, you can invite others to share their perspectives. “There are multiple versions of a birth story—there’s the clinical sequence of events, the version from other people who were there and perhaps a video or photographs that were taken,” says Leah Deragon, co-founder of Birth Roots. Ask your partner or doula to share their perspective of the birth—they might have a different recollection of the timeline or remember other things that you don’t. You can incorporate what they share into your birth story.
3. Get your medical records
“I encourage people to request a copy of the records of their birth. How you experienced your birth might be quite different from the medical sequence of events,” says Deragon. Having a copy of the medical records of your birth can add another layer of understanding to your story. When we’re the ones laboring or giving birth, it can feel like it’s happening outside of time—seeing a medical professional’s account of your birth offers another unique perspective.
After you’ve written down your birth story and perhaps added the perspectives of other people who were present for the birth, you can go back and edit your story. You might ask a trusted friend to read it and point out any sections that were unclear. At this point, you can also embellish it a bit—for instance, you might want to write it in the form of a letter to your child, or add in some details about what you were doing, thinking and feeling before your labor.
It’s very common to have a birth that doesn’t go according to our expectations, or even one that feels traumatic. In writing and examining the story of the birth, we have an opportunity to look at it differently. “Women can ask themselves, ‘Was there one tiny moment where I stayed connected and advocated for myself?’” says Deragon. Focusing on that moment can change the way we think about the birth, and make it easier to accept when a birth goes very differently from what we’d hoped or planned.
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6. Save and share—if you want
Once you feel like you’ve captured the story of your child’s birth to your satisfaction, make sure to save it in more than one place. If you’d like, you can share your birth story with friends and family—many people love to read birth stories. Or, you can keep it private, knowing you’ve taken the time to capture the memory of one of life’s most powerful experiences.