Why Don’t People Talk About Their Good Birth Stories?

As soon as you get pregnant, people start telling you their birth stories. Why aren’t any of these inspiring?As soon as you get pregnant, people start telling you their birth stories. Why aren’t any of these inspiring?

Throughout your youth and especially during your pregnancy, you do your best not to let the scary stories sink in, and you have your baby. Afterward, you tell your own story. What you say and how you say it matters more than you know.

I had a cesarean for a breech baby. It probably wasn’t necessary. But at the time, I felt it was my only option. I told myself that this special surgery was saving our lives. I had to. In order to arrive at the hospital and lay on the table for them, I had to tell myself that story.

I continued to tell myself that story for a few months. I’m glad I never told it to anyone else.

For each birth, the story I tell depends on who I’m talking to. It’s my story, and I can tell it however I want.

For a long time, I hid the unimaginably positive aspects.

Related: Lawmakers Seek to Make Home Birth Midwifery Legal in Kentucky

When I’m wearing my birth educator hat, sitting with groups of new parents who are telling their stories, there’s a lot of talk therapy. The scary, difficult, painful, awful experiences get the most time. And that’s okay.

What’s most troubling is that those with good, empowering, spiritual, triumphant birth stories often feel hesitant or embarrassed to tell them.

Though sad, it makes sense. If someone just spent 20 minutes emotionally enumerating the difficultly, the fear, and the bad luck they experienced, it feels heartless to counter with, “I thought it was great! I feel so good about myself now and can’t wait to do the incredible work of birthing again someday.”

Maybe not that good. But I think a lot more of us have good birth stories than it seems. These are the stories we’re less likely to share.

For one thing, it feels like wrong time/wrong place. Why would I tell my most intimate, personal moments to someone who may be hurt by it or think I am showing off, got lucky, or judging them?

Lots of these amazing birth stories happen outside of the hospital. People don’t want to hear about that. If you didn’t die during a home birth, it’s because you were very lucky. Telling your story often gets you a response of thinly veiled contempt.

Oh! I could never do that. You’re brave. After my first, I will never birth without a level III NICU on site.”

 “You didn’t have anything? Wasn’t it bloody? I wouldn’t want to deal with all the mess. Where was she born? A friend of a friend accidentally had her baby in the toilet.”

“Wow. Is that legal? Did you, like, bite on a strap of leather?”

We’re talking about something that is deeply personal. When you have a good birth story, there will be very few intense, intimate, life-changing events that can compare to it. This is true even when it’s a difficult story, but in that case it’s often not as hard to share.

Related: Birth: How Leaving Home is the First Intervention

And that’s the problem. When we only tell the troubled stories, the social construct of birth gets more and more scary. If 80% of the stories we heard were positive, we would approach childbirth very differently than we do.

Tell good stories, but never be dismissive of any birth story. Everyone gets to share what they want because everyone’s voice is important.

Even when it sounds to me (a birth-knowledgeable but admittedly outside, non-medical, third party observer) like the problems in my friend’s birth story were almost certainly caused by the medical staff, I would never challenge their perception of the story.

Their story is sacred. It’s true for them and they have a right and a need to tell it. These stories are important. They tell us: All Is Not Well With Birth Here. I believe they have helped to fuel some of the recent changes in maternity care. But let’s not hide the other side.

My argument is that the good birth stories are even more important to tell. And here is why:

Unfortunate or negative birth stories are especially impactful when they include mortal peril (perceived, threatened, or real). Often these stories include how the medical establishment saved their life or that of their baby. Sometimes this happens, of course. And we’re grateful for it.

But the overwhelming majority of medical interventions, including — and maybe especially — ‘emergency’ cesareans, are not necessary and do not save lives.

More often, interventions make labor harder and less safe. Speaking about intervention regularly as if we were categorically incapable of birthing babies under our own power is dangerous.

We begin to collectively believe that without medical intervention, we aren’t capable and we aren’t safe.

The perception that you aren’t safe, that your body is flawed or broken, is medically and spiritually dangerous. The lack of confidence and trust it engenders can cause slowing, stalls, and increased pain in labor. Fear is anathema to oxytocin, the hormone that contracts your uterus.

It tragically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t believe you can, and then you can’t. Afterward, you go tell everyone how it is and the fear cycle continues. The negative, medically-augmented birth stories become more abundant.

So here is my call to action: Don’t be ashamed of your good birth story or hesitant to tell it. Can you be bold and say the good things, too?

Whatever you have to say about the power of your body, the miracle of birth, the people who made a bubble of safety around you, the strength that you found within yourself: say it.

If your labor or birth was at times fun, spiritual, empowering, beautiful, or a great growth opportunity, let’s hear about it. Tell us about how you did it on your own, about how you came to terms with a complication, about how you talked to your baby through the whole thing, about what angels came to your side.

If you have a story you can tell that way, tell it first and often. If you tell your story first, you don’t have to feel bad following a really troubled one.

Wait for the right time, but find all the right times and say it loud:

Birth can be amazing. It’s not ridiculous to expect it to be beautiful.


21 thoughts on “Why Don’t People Talk About Their Good Birth Stories?”

  1. YES!!!!! This!!! We need to share the possitive, empowering birth stories, if it even helps one other woman to have her own possitive empowering birth, you helped someone else! Then they too can pass it on!

  2. Thank you for this. I am a grandma now, having birthed five babies all kinds of ways. My first was a frank breech baby who was planned to be a home birth that ended up Caesarean in a hospital. My second I had to fight to have a VBAC in a hospital, going back to the French Dr. who performed my Caesarean (at 37 weeks I switched). She entered the world feisty and loud and vaginally. My third was born at home, caught by my wonderful sister in law CNM– at her home 2.5 hours away. Her cord was cut by her “big” two year old sister. It took three to get to perfect and to be okay with the first, who was breech, and is now considered a “won’t come out” rather than a “can’t come out”. I finally understood how mind works over our bodies and fear is all consuming.
    My fourth was posterior, born at home with her auntie catching. She arrived to have her big 5 year old sis cut the cord in the presence of her cousins, grandparents, and siblings. My fifth, and final, was born in my own bed in my own house with my friend, a CNM who had attended many Amish births and built a local birth center. After going the gamut in birth, I know that I am blessed with a strong body and a strong mind that can battle for all babies. I struggle with my daughters’ and daughter in laws’ struggle with experiencing a birth that is a wonderful memory when modern medicine seems to ignore parents’ and babies’ wishes. We have to keep fighting the good fight with educating and supporting all women in their journey. Thank you.

  3. Hurray! Good for you.. I enjoyed this article so much.. my births although not pain-free, were good experiences, but I get to listen to horrible stories all the time, and I become some tough old cow, that has no delicate feelings like they do.. Another thing the doctors and hospital like is.. you had a hard time, you almost lost your baby, but we saved it..good advertisement, even if the truth is stretched, or if they caused the complications by their interventions….then had to save the baby or mother from what they caused.A good doula, or Grandma, on the scene to encourage and cheer on is a great asset.. and I enjoy my role as a birth assistant.

    1. While I completely agree with the general theme of this article, some cesarians ARE actual emergencies and not just “good advertisement”. No doula was going to be able to untangle my son’s cord knot from inside the womb when his heart rate inexplicably dropped from 130 to 50 bpm. And I had no induction, no epidural, and was handling my 10th hour of natural labor great up until then. Let’s not discount real emergencies here because they still do happen.

  4. I love this! There are far more positive birth stories out there then the scary! I am a midwife birth assistant and childbirth educator and we have an overwhelming amount of positive birth stories! Having said that, even I sometimes hesitate to share my story.

  5. Yes! I had two long, complicated and completely comfortable unmedicated births, and one fast, fun, also comfortable precipitous birth, all using childbirth hypnosis. On the day my oldest was born, I told our joyful birth story to a friend whose response was, “Oh, no, no, no. No one wants to hear about a birth you liked. I’ll help you come up with a better story to tell people.” He was completely serious!

    I teach Hypnobabies now because that is what helped me to have amazing, comfortable and truly enjoyable births and I want everyone to know that can be an option for them. It breaks my heart to hear about all the terrifying stories my students have been told, and I love the idea of more people sharing their positive birth experiences!

  6. I have never felt comfortable telling my birth stories. I had four vaginal births without incident, the longest of which was 4hours. I felt that I couldn’t tell it because it seemed that all around me had war stories and it seemed to turn into a competition; who had the longest labour, the most painful experience, the worst epidural, the most complicated caesarean, the biggest emergency, the worst cracked nipples, worst mastitis, worst breast abcess etc etc.
    I was told that I was lucky. No one seemed to think it odd that there were so many war stories around childbirth. But you look at the media, movies, childbirth tv series and they all portray childbirth as terrible and long and complicated and above all, spending most of your time on your back in stirrups!
    I now work as a midwife and I can tell you that it is the odd few that go pear shaped. They are the exceptions rather than the rule, and in those cases emergency interventions are swiftly put into place. We do the best we can to try and make it less traumatic than it needs to be, and always follow up with debriefing sessions for the parents.
    But we need to stop telling mums to be that it is horrendous and awful. We should be supporting them and encouraging them and telling them what helped us through it, instead of pushing them through the doors of the birth unit carrying fear with them.

  7. I had so many mothers talk to me about their labour and how great it was after the epidural and just wait for that sweet relief and tell me I am crazy to even try and go without it.
    To each their own, but I was determined to have a drug free labour. I had Midwives and my wonderful husband by my side and they continued to give me the strength to believe in myself and my body’s natural ability to open up and bring my daughter into this world. I accomplished my dream and my baby girl came out healthy and beautiful with no intervention of any kind. I can’t say it wasn’t painful or hard, it was incredibly challenging!! However, I am incredibly proud of myself and my birth story and will gladly share it with future mothers who don’t believe it’s possible to have a natural, unassisted birth. It is, and it’s wonderful.

  8. thanks for such a good article. I feel that i can’t share my story either, afraid that i will be taken as the exception. My daughter was born with hypnobirth method, while on my fours. Amazing feeling. Keep up the positivity.

  9. The reason you don’t hear then is because they are few and far between. I had my first–and only–at 19 and had so many older relatives acting like it was nothing; ‘Oh you’ll breeze right through it’ was the prevailing attitude. I only wish they had been more truthful. I was completely unprepared for the horrific agony of childbirth. There were no epidurals then; I had a spinal block but not until I actually went into the delivery room after almost 18 hours of the most horrendous pain, worse than anything I could ever have imagined.

    1. Pretty sure that’s not true. I don’t talk about mine a lot because I don’t want to make people like you feel bad or get offended or get lambasted for my choice of a homebirth (either the “you’re so brave, I could never do that” or the “you’re so stupid, you could have both died” varieties). So I just keep silent and let people tell their horror stories, many of which most likely originate from medical interventions (not all, but plenty do-the problems I had with my first certainly did).

  10. For my 5th baby’s birth, I sat cross-legged in a stuffed rocker &, on each contraction, gripped a small comb across the diagonal of each palm. It was something I had read & had always wanted to try. It was very effective! My awesome midwife Kathy realized at transition that she could manually nudge the tiny remaining bit of cervix out of the way, and I immediately transitioned to pushing. It was a completely blessed experience, & so interesting to learn new things about childbirth after multiple births.

  11. My mom had nine children, eight at home, including me in the early 1950s. People asked if we were too poor to afford the hospital. My father was a natural practitioner. Today, one needs $ to afford a home birth as most people have health insurance and most health insurance covers maternity care, so home birth expenses would be out of pocket.

    I had my children at home also. If I had my first two in the hospital, they would have been c/secs because the complications I had would have been handled that way in the medical maternity ward – posterior labor, long labor, deflexed head, shoulder dystocia, asynclitism. My birth outcomes were “unremarkable”, and I did not even need a stitch after any of them. I recovered well and uneventfully. I am now a grandmother and my health is great. I have no lingering problems from poor obstetrics, poorly done abdominal surgery, adhesions, or scar tissue.

    I usually do not tell my birth stories to others. I am usually the only mother sitting there who does not share. The few times that I have shared, I notice that few women want to hear the happy story, so I often wrap it up quickly. Most women enjoy hearing and telling the drama of the doctor that saved their baby from the terror of labor; this is mirrored in the media whenever birth is portrayed in a movie or tv show. I noticed it is much like men telling war stories or stories about sports injuries.

    I am proud of my births. Looking back on my life, my births are the one of the few things that I orchestrated myself by taking care of myself with nutrition and exercise, by finding the best attendants, and by educating myself and preparing my mind for the event. Success.

    My children are grown and they are healthy. I thank God every day for guiding me

  12. Thank you for sharing this article, and many of the women who have shared your experiences! I love giving birth!! I cannot tell you how many women I have watched their jaws drop to the ground when I tell them that. I am a mother of two young children and my sweetheart and I wish to have ten or more! My babies were both born in birth centers, and when I have others unless I feel otherwise I will be having them in my home. I meet women weekly who have struggled with sharing their positive birthing stories. I believe that it is up to us to ask women about their positive experiences.
    I was born and raised on a dairy farm, I grew up watching our cows give birth naturally and without a lot of fuss and nonsense. The few cows that needed to have interventions, we helped but it was maybe three every year (that is out of 100) our lesson can be taken from the natural act of birthing from my cattle. Our bodies give birth similarly to all other animals. As women I believe that if we tune into what our bodies are saying we will know if it is necessary to have medical interventions. Are we running to interventions unnecessarily?

  13. My second birth was sincerely magical, beautiful and essentially pain free. To be honest though, in a room full of Mom’s who did not have that experience, I find it can make them feel bad. That is why, as much as I want to shout my story from the rooftops, I find that I usually just keep it to myself.

  14. I love this article!! I feel so guilty telling people my birth story- like my good story will somehow diminish another woman’s struggle during labor-
    I had a doula for my pregnancy, was prepared as best as I could be- had all my questions listened to and answered- the day I went into labor we had people over for a pool party- I swam with everyone during my early contractions- completely at ease. later on got to the birthing center and was at 9cm already- I barely felt more then a light cramp. My actual labor only last just over an hour. I had no interventions, no medication, no stiches or tearing. I have never in my life felt more confident, powerful and at peace with myself. Every part of me trusted what my body was doing- I was just along for the ride. It was incredible. I love to daydream and reminisce about it.
    And I feel horrible telling any one this story.

  15. This! My birth was literally magical! It was so amazing. I look back & my photos and am just in awe. We need to share more empowering stories. We’re told so many scary stories as if we should fear birth.

  16. I have a GREAT birth story. I’m not sure why this writer is so insecure, she needs to shame c-section moms for believe their doctors, but alas it happens a lot. Don’t worry though I’m not a victim, I’m a mother who trusted her health care provider in a time of urgency and that is humbling. If your wondering why my birth story was so Great! Well it involved an amazing epidural, lots of bodily fluids, hours of pushing, emergency c section, allergic reactions and then bam the greatest ending ever ( and the only thing that matters to ME, since it’s my story I can tell it however I want right ?) a beautiful amazing baby boy.

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