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Why You Need To Talk About Your Birth Story

Photograph by Twenty20

I had it all figured out, years ago.

I would get pregnant, find a fantastic midwife, and when the time came, would deliver a healthy baby into a tub of warm water. Of course, I would catch my own baby and only cut the cord at the perfect moment. My husband and I would go home the next day with our beautiful baby in tow.

When I finally did get pregnant, over four years after I came up with this flawless pregnancy and childbirth plan, it was after years of expensive infertility treatments. I would be on blood thinners my whole pregnancy, throwing the idea of a midwife out the window. I saw a high risk OB and had to go on blood pressure pills halfway through my pregnancy. My baby remained stubbornly breech and at 35 weeks, we started talking about the possibility of a C-section. So I started researching gentle cesareans and continued attending our childbirth classes, still determined to have the birth I wanted, even if it had to be a C-section.

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My water broke on its own at 36 weeks and four days—the morning I was supposed to head to the hospital to be further evaluated for preeclampsia and possible delivery of the baby. Instead, they delivered my still-breech daughter via C-section early that morning. By noon I was hooked up to magnesium to prevent seizures with a nurse who camped out in my room and sent away visitors. It never occurred to me until later how dangerous my situation really was.

Yes, my baby was healthy. I was relatively OK. But my spirit was broken.

After a six day hospital stay, we were finally allowed to go home. I was de-conditioned from near constant bed rest. My blood pressure was still elevated even on high doses of medications. I still couldn’t bring myself to look at my incision. It was a far cry from the birth I envisioned. Yes, my baby was healthy. I was relatively OK. But my spirit was broken.

Let me say that again: My spirit was broken.

My birth experience was traumatizing. There are events that happened during my stay that I still haven’t talked about. Instead of feeling empowered, I was left feeling broken. I was disappointed and found myself grieving the birth experience that should have been.

As the weeks passed, I found myself talking with my friends who came to visit with me. They would hold my daughter and ask how it went and the floodgates would open every time. The more I told my story, the more I realized I’m not alone. That so many others didn’t get the births they wanted either. I’d say to them, “It was nothing like I thought it would be.”

And they would say, “I know, mine wasn’t either. In fact, here’s what happened to me…”

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This is why we need to talk about our birth stories. Because they matter. Maybe you were disappointed in how your labor and delivery went. Maybe you are facing post-traumatic stress from a birth that was scary or life-threatening. Maybe your stay was extended with a baby in the NICU.

Or perhaps it did go well. Perhaps you had an unmedicated birth, something you never thought you could do. Or your C-section was entirely uneventful and even planned out, but still. You had your abdomen sliced open.

Whatever your story is, it’s important. It matters. It’s a story of empowerment, of trauma, of blood and tears and pain and it’s all yours.

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