Being a birth professional and total birth story junkie, I am always thrilled when women are willing to share their birth experiences with me. I love to hear the incredibly different ways women embrace and undergo what is essentially an identical process, biologically speaking. Because no two women are exactly the same, the story is always different.
Of course, I am always delighted to hear about a birth that went the way that everyone hoped for. But something interesting happens when a woman has negative feelings or regrets about the way things went. Maybe she had wanted to try a natural delivery, and decided to use medication after all. Maybe baby was in distress and the best course was to deliver the baby via Cesarean, or maybe a C-section was planned from the beginning. Maybe she was torn or injured, or had a very long, drawn out, exhausting labor. These stories are so often capped by these eight words: “But at least I have a healthy baby.”
I wonder, when was it we started telling women that their experience in childbirth doesn’t matter? That whatever happens, they have to stuff it down and just be grateful their child is okay? Obviously, every parent wants their baby to be whole and healthy. That is a given. But in this case, there is a lot more to the picture.
Regardless of how it happens, childbirth is a moment in a woman’s life that becomes permanent in her memory. Sights, sounds, smells, and the way she felt are often as vivid as if it happened yesterday, for her whole life in many cases. Interestingly, though, the thing that she remembers best isn’t necessarily whether the birth went according to plan. What she remembers is more emotional and primal: was she supported, heard, and honored by the people around her? Did she feel safe? (Simkin).
These three words can describe the kind of birth a woman will remember positively for the rest of her life:
Supported. When she needed something, was someone ready to help her? Did she feel alone or connected to a loved one? Was there someone beside her helping her through contractions?
Safe. Did the trusted individuals in her birthing space treat her, her birth, and her baby as sacred and special? Did they respect her choices, give her time and information? Was the environment cozy and comfortable, or bright and clinical? Did practitioners rush her process or give expectations?
Heard. If she came in with a birth plan, was it read and respected? When she cried out, who came to her side? If she needed a change of plans, did they listen? Were her concerns met with compassion and information?
Friends, a healthy baby is not the bottom line. Your birth experience matters. Regardless of your preferences, no matter your expectations. Protect your life-long memories. Surround yourself with the people who you trust to hold your space for this sacred occasion.
I'm Katie. Owner and operator of Daisy Doula birth services, wife, mama, friend, singer, cook, amateur photographer, and a PNW gal born and raised. Here I explore birth, motherhood, and beauty in the daily humdrum.