When I was pregnant with my first child, I was captivated by the topic of childbirth. I reasoned that most pregnant women are enthusiastic about discussing the possible circumstances of the upcoming birth in great detail because the approaching event is a great mystery that will ultimately be filed in the core of her identity. Ask a woman of any age to share her birth story, and most of the time she will describe not only what happened that day, but also how she felt. Our birth experiences, positive or negative, remain with us and affect how we view ourselves.
As I nervously anticipated the birth of my child, I heard many birth stories from other women and wondered what type of birth story I would have to tell when I became a new mother. Some stories sounded traumatic, causing me to wonder why those who told them felt the need to share such anxiety-provking information. Were the women trying to scare me? Were they trying to warn me? I could not find a reason for why the stories of trauma needed to be included among the range of experiences shared by women who had already passed through this common initiation of motherhood.
Finally the first day of my labor arrived! Though I was excited, I quickly felt that my experience was not following a pattern of normal labor. For the next 25 hours, I struggled through confusion, mystery, pain, and despair, the whole time knowing the story I would tell to others for all my remaining years of life was being written as it happened, minute by minute and hour by hour.
As I struggled to cope with my experience, wanting to quickly reach the finish line when I would have a baby in my arms, I realized why women gain so much satisfaction from sharing the scary stories, the happy stories, the challenging stories, and the inspirational stories. They are amazed by the strength they never knew they had, and they are proud to describe such a powerful event and to say that they were capable of the experience of surrendering to nature.
For some women, birth is like completing a science experiment: labor begins, and the body instinctively does the work to deliver the baby. For others, challenges arise, and interventions assist the woman in birthing her baby. In either case, the one detail that binds all of the stories of women together is the unspoken strength that carried her through it. She may later tell the story with joy, fear, inspiration, or sadness, but within the emotions that come and go throughout her description, there is the strength of a woman that allows her to face any fear or pain and make it through the transition of becoming a mother.
I have now given birth to two children, one cesarean and one unmedicated vaginal birth. Both experiences took to me to a place where I discovered I could face my fears and that my strength had always been there for me, ready to carry me through the challenge of childbirth. It is fascinating to know that all women carry such solid strength within them!
In the past year, I finally followed the strong desire I felt to become a birth doula. Though I had never attended another woman’s birth, I felt deeply drawn to support women in the transition from pregnancy to birth. It wasn’t until I was in the presence of other women in labor that I truly understood why I was inspired to provide such an intense form of support. Witnessing the strength of a woman as she and her body write her birth story is witnessing empowerment. The image of a laboring woman is powerful and beautiful! Reminding a woman to have confidence in listening to herself and watching her surrender to nature and her body allows me the opportunity to be repeatedly reminded of the strength of a woman! I can’t think of a more meaningful experience!