Thursday 25 October 2018

The Importance of Telling Positive Birth Stories

This week is Home Birth Awareness Weekend and it was has been really lovely seeing so many people joining in and sharing their personal experiences of home birth. Less than 3% per cent of mums choose to have their babies at home. I meet so many women who say they didn’t realise home birth was an option, or they didn’t think they would be allowed one, or they didn’t have the support of their partner.

I wanted Home Birth Awareness Weekend to provide a platform for those of us with home birth stories to tell. The more we talk about our experiences, the more normalised home birth will become. And the more normal it seems, the more women will consider it and make an informed choice about where they want to give birth.

Negative experiences account for most of the birth stories retold on a daily basis. For some reason, society cannot get enough of those birth horror stories. When I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first child, negative birth stories were all I heard. It was as though the mere sight of my bump reminded people of the horrible birth story they’d once heard and, for some unknown reason, they would immediately tell me about it.

I was feeling understandably anxious about the birth. I just had absolutely no idea what to expect. It is impossible to imagine birth before you have experienced it. I had no idea what contractions would feel like or whether I would be able to cope with the pain. And the constant barrage of negative birth stories didn’t help. Luckily, I had a friend who had recently had a very positive birth experience which she shared with me. And my mum has always spoken positively about birth so that mindset helped, too.

Some women do have negative birth experiences, I am one of them. I had one beautiful and onenot-so-beautifull experience and the difference between them was huge. I know how important it is to be able to talk about negative birth experiences. I know how hard it is to keep all of those feelings of anger and disappointment and vulnerability inside. I know that I needed to talk so badly that I couldn’t keep it inside. And I know that talking helped. I know that talking and talking and talking that horrible day to death helped me to process my thoughts, it helped me to disect my feelings and move on. We cannot censor women’s experiences and we shouldn’t try to. Women should be free to tell their stories.

What we do need, however, is some balance. We cannot have a culture where only negative birth stories are heard. We need to make sure a mix of all experiences are spoken about often. Pregnant women need to hear positive birth stories to, to help them make informed choices about their own births. We need to speak up about our experiences so that people know not all births end in intereventions.

It isn’t always easy to speak up about your positive birth experiences. My first daughter was born in a pool in the living room at my first house. My labour was six hours long and the pushing stage lasted 29 minutes. I used gas and air for the last hour and a half, but before that had only the pool, paracetamol and breathing techniques to keep me calm. I focused on my breathing, I fought the fight and flight impulse, and I felt in control. The room was lit with candles and it was silent apart from the gentle encouragement from my husband and midwife. It was the best experience of my life. I felt amazing afterwards. I felt empowered and strong and loved. It could not have been more perfect. But it is hard to say that in a room of women sharing their bad birth stories.

I can remember sitting in a room with about 10 other women all sharing their birth experiences. The women spoke of birth interventions, forceps, emergency sections. They all spoke of the trauma of birth, and the fear they felt, and how they were still coming to terms with their experiences. The health visitor turned to me, “And how about you, Fiona? How was your birth?” I said it was nice and she was born at home, but that was all I said. It felt wrong to talk about how empowering it was or how much I loved it when I was sitting in a room of women who were struggling with their own experiences.

Occasionally, I stumble across other women who have had good birth experiences and together we talk about how amazing birth is. But, generally, I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want to make other women feel bad. I have had a bad birth, I know how much it stings to see that things went to plan for other women. I know how hard it is to deal with those emotions of jealously. And yet, I still want to hear those positive birth stories. I still want women to tell me about their birth experiences. I want those positive experiences to be shared as far and wide as the negative ones. I want pregnant women to know that birth can be beautiful and calm and empowering.

So, with all of that in mind, please join me in telling your home birth stories for Home Birth Awareness Weekend. Tell your friends about your experiences, share your story on social media and be sure to use the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 so that women considering home birth can find your story. The world is already filled with negative birth stories, so please join the conversation and make your voice heard.

fb com


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...