Why I Don’t Tell My Birth Story
When my son was born, it was as if a bomb had detonated in the cavity of my body, blowing my whole life into pieces. I had to go through an intensive physical and emotional process to gather myself: to find each shorn piece, to mend and re-attach it. This process was fraught with difficulty, each part having exploded into a new and unfamiliar shape. Each piece required my deepest attention to repair and demanded that I stay inside of my body, the only place where I could feel my own edges align.
If I tell the story, depending on the response of the listener, those pieces may get blown apart once more. I may be pulled out of my inner space, the place where things make sense and where I feel most gathered. I may find myself on the run again; gathering, mending, and reattaching. This takes energy: energy I would rather apply towards just feeling whole. So it’s a risk to tell my story. I won’t tell it anymore at birth circles, to clients, or to people who casually ask me. To tell the events of my son’s birth might destabilize me. I never know which piece someone might choose to palpate: the part that made all the wrong decisions, the part that didn’t try hard enough, or if I am lucky it might be the part that did everything to the best of my ability.
Telling my story to the wrong person might stretch or even tear some of the seams I have so carefully mended, seams that hold up just fine in my own quiet life with those closest to me. The reconciliation of my son’s birth is still tender. My body was the origin of deep pain and trauma, and it has taken me time to accept the miracle of my body’s repair without blame. If I am viewed through unforgiving or blaming eyes, I am forced again to reckon with my own darkest doubts about myself, doubts I don’t encounter in the brightness of my immediate life. I don’t need to offer my story as evidence of who I am as a mother. I have only needed to repair my wounds without critique and without comparing notes with others.
There is such an emphasis on the medical story of birth. It is the first story told. There are so many pride and shame stories out there: all seeking validation that their valiant efforts or personal defects were responsible for their birth outcomes. A great many of us find ourselves subject to the wild and unknown forces of birth, brought to our knees against all birth plans. Those unseen forces can carry any birth in any direction, at any time, in spite of our best efforts. Nobody gets the birth they envision because of their special recipe: it’s because they chose the right rabbit’s foot. I have been unable to bear any critique of my son’s birth because my directive was not choice: I was thrust into the intersection of fate and instinct. Any censure feels like a critique of my character at the deepest level. So I don’t tell my story: I let it ripen, expand, bleed, and then rise again; sealed safely inside the womb of my own life.
© 2018 Heather Self