Storytelling is quite powerful. It can be sweet, expressive, soul-revealing. Storytelling can disguise parts of you that you don’t want to reveal and still allow them to be present. Storytelling can entrance a person and soften them to explore themselves or others around them without being defensive. It can share all aspects of human emotion. It can be quite entertaining, possibly embellished each time it is told. It can also be dangerous not just to those to hear it, but to the teller themselves.
The power of birth story holds all of these facets. The intimacy, the intensity, the moment that can never be replaced and the soul, the baby and relationship that are tied to this unique story are all parts of birth story. It is a journey, a relationship, a transformation that can set a foundation for a lifetime.
Sometimes the power of birth story can even scare people. It can bring up fears for others about to give birth or – in most cases -reveal fears of the teller of the story. It can house a history of shame, guilt, regret and even try to teach a lesson or put those issues on another. Putting one’s own birth story issues on another woman, especially when pregnant, is not healthy. She usually is not in the place to process it or remove herself from it.
There are those who believe in the importance of only telling positive birth stories especially since our culture is dominated with ones of fear and negativity. And, yet, with birth, who defines what positive can be? It could even be the triumph of birth against all odds, a cesarean birth, or the unexpected easy, natural birth. Positive could be fear and anger and hurt transformed into true healing after it’s over. Positive could be the rite of passage of moving from a story that contains dis-empowerment and trauma to that of being a positive force in how one moves on from that moment. Story is created by each of us. As we listen, if we listen deeply, we imagine ourselves or others in that role. By doing so, we evoke bodily reactions and emotions. Story plays itself over and over sometimes with variation. It can even be seen as a type of ritual of habit. It can release chemical messengers during its telling to lay it deeper in the body. Sometimes with negativity upon our own stories, as they get repeated again and again, that negativity becomes a mantra exposing our abuse, victimization, feelings of entrapment – sometimes we feel its for other’s education or prevention of the same experience when it may not be.
Negativity in story cannot be ignored. This is part of a process of healing. It is acknowledging your feelings, the events that happened, your reactions to them, the views of one’s self, the affects it has on who you are or think you are and even the affects on your relationships with others.
So many times negative birth stories are laid down and thought to be locked in a closet to be ignored – now and then creeping out through self-esteem or when triggered by events or people. These stories are much like the story of “The Girl with the Golden Hair.” No matter how well some women can bury their experiences, evidence of their existence still escapes. On the other hand, sometimes the story begins to wear a path deeper and deeper each time it is told. I mentioned earlier the mantra, but this story becomes the way things “are” digging deeper like grooves in a record. With positive mantras linked to high self-esteem this can be empowering and useful. With negative mantras, the positive parts of the story can become overshadowed by the negative highlights of loss and fear or guilt and shame. When negative birth stories begin to imprint life and leave no room for transformation, they become dangerous. Dangerous not just for the individual, but for the relationship with the child born from that birth, for it is still that child’s birthday. It is a story of the family being born.
We must have the positive birth stories and the negative stories in our community. But when the danger of negativity is blocking your own soul, body and relationships from healing, it is time for another transformation. In fact, it may be that the transformation of birth itself – due to the circumstances – was left incomplete for the birthing family.
How does one begin, or in some cases, complete, such a journey? Physical stories for both mom and baby can be addressed. Have you noticed that the baby has a story about its own birth? Have you looked and listened and acknowledged this? Some practitioners can help with physical release especially for mom and baby. They might include biodynamic craniosacral therapists, play therapists, and pre- and perinatal psychologists, postpartum counselors and therapists and more. It might even be the mother herself, really tuning in and listening to the baby. Helping release and acknowledge emotional blockages of babies and children is important since so little has been hidden or locked away, it is a perfect time to work towards health. How they move, grunt, tone? Where do they move their eyes? Is their story even different than the parent’s story? Have you watched kids and even babies express this? Have you acknowledged them? Sometimes it is the emotional and / or mental blockage that can be the gate to open. Some Birthing from Within mentors usually hold Birth Story Circle workshops either for women in groups or individually. These workshops work on the emotional and mental blockages exploring parts of the story that actually might be healing in itself. In doing so, the needle that is caught in the groove on a record is able to expand its story or even get out of the groove that has been dug long enough to open a mother to a different perspective of herself and even her relationships. Reframing negative stories can not change the past, but it can empower one in the present and the future.
Negative birth stories that keep digging the grooves like a vinyl record as it spins, not only need to be deeply listened to, but also the women need to be allowed to explore new aspects of those grooves and new aspects of psyche and of self-esteem. As women heal themselves in and outside of childbirth, their negative stories – or even negative moments in positive birth stories – can become the impetus for transformation and healing – many times of themselves and others. The process may be through self-work or with or in just re-framing their own power in their birth story. For inside both negative and positive stories, there is a birth warrior, a heroine of impeccable strength and character, yearning to be recognized.