As women we need to share our birth story. Some people believe that we, as new mothers, enter the land of motherhood with the birth of our first child. However, when your child is born sleeping, the birth story gets complicated. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t have the right to share my birth story. After all, I feel as if she wasn’t really born in some ways. She was born dead; I didn’t give life to her, not outside of the womb.
I would argue that motherhood starts, not with the birth of your child, but when you first dream of your child and of becoming a mother. When you start the process of trying to conceive your child, in your mind you are taking steps towards becoming a mother. Then when you are pregnant, and planning for your little one’s future arrival, you have bloomed into motherhood, both in physical form and within the soul. Maybe the actual birth of your child can be compared to the climax in a story arch, the pinnacle turning point. For a woman who has lost her child before labor or right after, birth is truly a turning point.
We as women have an innate desire to tell our birth stories. Psychologically, telling our story helps us heal. Even if our babies were born alive we would need to process the emotional and physical pain we just experienced as well as gain understanding of our new role as a mother. But for mothers who have lost their baby in childbirth, right after, or while still in the womb, sharing the birth story is so important. We as childless mothers need the validation that we, too, went through the pain of bringing life into this world; we went to the fire and came out the other side, except I would say we got a little burned in the process. We need to be heard and validated through our story telling; we need other mothers with living children to say that we are mothers too. We need people to realize that we also made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to bring our child into this world. Sharing the birth story is part of the induction process into motherhood.
Sharing the birth story for mothers is sometimes part of sharing the death story, which can be equally as important in understanding your child’s life. Recreating these narratives and telling them again and again helps us process the pain, helps us come to terms with our child’s existence and the reality of their death. In recreating the birth and death narrative we are taking steps towards helping ourselves heal and helping ourselves process the loss and trauma of the event. And yes, what we have been through is traumatic by definition.
In psychotherapy, a narrative is a story we tell ourselves. Every time we tell a story, according to Narrative Therapy, our stories then change, because we change the story by just telling it. In doing this, we allow our brain to file away different parts of the story; parts that are hard or parts that are traumatic. Through this process we learn how to come to terms with the loss and the trauma, by slowly accepting the reality of our current situation.
I believe it is our right as mothers to have our birth stories heard and validated, even if they don’t end in the happy ending we hoped for, the way that 99% of other pregnancies do, with a live baby. In some ways I believe our birth stories are more important, because it is one of the few moments we have with our child. One of the only things we are able to do for them, besides honor them as we move forward in life.
Your birth story has a purpose; it has a meaning, a lesson to teach you, and to teach others. Share your child’s birth story. Share your child’s death story. By sharing your child’s birth story you may be one step closer to healing. You may not be ready now, but when you are, remember that your child’s birth story matters too.