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Processing Your Birth Story

by Shelley Rahim
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journal writing

Writing Down Your Birth Story Supports Emotional Integration

by Shelley Rahim, RPYT, PAPC

As you enjoy your babymoon be sure to find some quiet time to write down your birth story. 

For many of us, when we start the writing process, we begin with what I call the, “medical story.” The medical story is a recounting of what your physical body went through, such as, “First my water broke….and then at about 8:30 I was 5 cm dilated… then when I was 7cm I got an epidural” etc. While it may be helpful to document these details of your birth, what matters most is the “emotional story.” The emotional or psychological story is a recounting of how you felt while laboring, giving birth and those first few days postpartum. It’s reflecting on the small moments where great shifts happen. Moments that might get overlooked if we’re too busy thinking about the things we wished didn’t happen. When reflecting on the emotional story, we meet new parts of ourselves and begin the process of rebuilding who we are becoming. Reflecting on the difficult moments and how we got through them allows us to make meaning of them and discover new aspects of ourselves. When we create an intention to ponder our birth story with a sense of deep listening, suspended judgement and curiosity, new insights can be revealed about what giving birth taught us about ourselves. We are not passive victims of the circumstances of our birth experience, but rather actively creating who we are becoming as parents. Allowing the time to reflect in this way enables us to dissect this massive life-changing event and understand how it is informing who we are becoming. 

Giving birth to your baby is an incredible journey of the soul with many great lessons waiting to be excavated.  Birth is not simply just an experience that we have in life, it’s a profound rite-of-passage, of which you are no longer the person you were before you gave birth. Through the process of giving birth, you are transformed. Understanding how birth changed you is a process which takes time, stillness and spaciousness. One of the best ways to get to the “how” is through the writing process. Asking yourself some of the questions that I have listed here is a great way to get past the “medical story” and dive deeper into the emotional story. By asking these questions and going through this process, you are consciously participating in your own transformation.

When you take the time to sit with your birth story and write it down you are reclaiming your Soul-Self, a deeper sense of self and inner-knowing emerges which will inform and shape your entire life. 

Brene Brown says, “If you talk about the story, you own the story. If you don’t talk about the story–the story owns you.” I agree with this statement, however, with birth stories, unless you have someone who KNOWS how to listen and hold space for birth stories, it’s best to write it down before you share it with others. I recommend writing it down in the early days, as close to the birth as possible. The hormones of birth and postpartum are undergoing a great transition from gestation to lactation, which affects the memory center of the brain. The details of your story will quickly fade and be forgotten. The sooner you write, the better!

Stream-of-conscience writing is best!Just let it all flow out onto paper without censoring.

In order to help you with this task of reclaiming the Soul-Self, I have given you some questions to ponder as you write. Many of these questions come from my training with Pam England and Virginia Borboro from Birth Story Listening.  

Living The Questions

“There’s an art to living your questions. You peel them. You listen to them. You let them spawn new questions. You hold the unknowing inside. You linger with it instead of rushing into half-baked answers.”  —Sue Monk Kidd

We are our stories…they shape who we are because they are alive in us. When we reflect on and own all the parts of our birth story, especially the dark parts, we are able to extract the medicine that lies within each wounded part of the story. We can get beneath the “should-haves” and discover a deeper wisdom and compassion about who we were in those challenging moments. When we have integrated our birth story in this way, we can share it with others from a place of pride, and in doing so, we give the listener a tiny dose of that medicine.

This is how we become wise. This is how we take a life-changing event and use it as a catalyst for creating a better iteration of ourselves. One of my colleagues and teachers, Nikki Shaheed, states in her book, Heart Centered Pregnancy Journal, “Knowledge comes from books, experts and advisors, but wisdom is cultivated through experience. It’s a knowing in your bones rather than a knowledge in your head. Wisdom cannot be acquired without struggle. It is essential for a person to be challenged in a way that makes them question what they believed was right, or who they believed they were, in order to unwrap the gift of wisdom.” 

The questions below will help guide you in the excavation of that wisdom and knowing that resides inside your bones.

It takes courage to write it all out. Be honest with yourself. Doing this work is a vital part of the integration of you are BECOMING.

How To Use These Questions

You will know when a moment of your birth story needs to be processed because it will replay in your mind over and over like a broken record. It might even illicit a physical charge in your body such as a pit in your stomach or tears in your eyes. Perhaps you can’t get it out of your mind. Grab it! Write it down! Use the questions below to roll around in this moment like a pig in the mud.

Skim the questions and find one or two that resonate with you as you process that moment. Not all of the questions will work for that moment. Choose one that feels pertinent and alive for you.

“When we live the questions, we allow ourselves to move and become shaped by a sense of curiosity. We are gentler with ourselves because we remove the dichotomy of success vs failure from the equation. In living the questions we bring greater awareness to our circumstances, to our particular transition, and to the subtle messages, signs and guideposts overlooked by the tunnel-vision mindset of having it all worked out. In living the questions we encounter what Zen Buddhist call the “Beginner’s Mind”…..or as Jon Kabat-Zin describes it, ‘a mind that is willing to see everything for the first time,’ creating greater presence in the moment, letting go of ‘shoulds’ and allowing our inquiries to guide us to a new world of possibility.”             –Kristen Roderick

Questions To Ponder When Reflecting On Your Birth Experience

–What did you do that was amazing?

–What was one act of support or kindness that worked for you?

–What was one thing you did for yourself that was helpful?

–What was one moment of lightness or humor that you can recall?

–What was one moment when you felt really connected with your partner?

–What’s one small moment of connection to yourself or your baby that you treasure?

–What was one thing that surprised you?

–What was your favorite part of your birth?

–When was the moment you first felt like a mother/father/parent?

–How did you cope through….?

–When was the first moment that you knew everything would be ok?

–What is one moment that you can recall that is pretty amazing/inspiring/courageous?

–What did your partner do that was the most helpful? What did they do that surprised you?

–What did you do that was surprising?

–When were there moments of struggle or resistance? How did you get through them?

–Reflect on the MOST difficult moment. How did you get through it? What internal or external resources did you access?        –How did you know to do that?

–Was there a moment when you realized “I am a mother/father/parent?” This moment might have been the moment of birth, a few hours or even days later.

Try Pondering…

— How has giving birth and becoming a mother/father/parent changed you?

–What I know about myself that I didn’t know before labor.

–What I know about the Universe that I didn’t know before I became a mother.

–Where are you starting to find pieces of compassion for yourself?

–What’s beginning to shift in your relationship to yourself? To your birth story?

–What’s shifting in the way you are seeing the other people who were there at the birth or just

after?

–What is one thing that you know now about yourself that you learned from this experience?

–What helped you the most during your labor or postpartum time?

What might surprise you….if you live the questions and allow them to stay fresh….is that the answers might surprise you, and the answers will change as you evolve into who you are becoming. For example…the immediate response that most people have for the question, “what was your favorite moment of the whole birth?” is often the moment they see their baby for the first time. This is quite universal. But, if we ponder the whole experience from various angles…sometimes we discover small hidden moments that can might be as profound, if not more so, than seeing the baby for the first time.  As you evolve and change, your story evolves and changes with you. The answers to these questions will be different for you in a week, month, year and 10 years from now. 

By writing your story down and integrating it into your psyche, you are owning your story, rather than your story owning you. You will be able to talk about it with your friends and family with self-compassion and pride. You will be able to pass on a legacy of birthing wisdom to your children, and that wisdom will be carried on through the birthing lineage for generations to come.

Happy Writing!

Shelley Rahim

This content is copyright of Shelley Rahim, Sacred Birth Journey. You may not, except with written permission from Shelley Rahim, distribute or commercially exploit this content.

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