Your Birth Story: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean

19 11 2012

Your birth story can only account for what is possible, not impossible.

People are selfish. Human beings are consistently driven by ego, and one of those qualities includes making their story the end-all-be-all, final gospel word on certain subjects. I can be a very self-centered person and obviously believe my story can help people. I think all of our stories “prove” a lot of different things. I think anecdote is important. What it’s not, however, is a way to define everyone else’s lives, stories, or to justifiably command their beliefs. Conditioning, nature, and experience will shape these for us– they cannot effectively be imposed. Your story is not the only story that means anything.

My wife and child would have died if not for that life saving intervention from the doctor, so don’t you tell me doctors are doing wrong!

Oh, really… Well, I am happy for you, but I didn’t realize your story meant that mine didn’t happen.

Not even just men, but all people. Hmm…

When I hear the term “birth rape” I think it is such a disrespect. I was raped, and I don’t appreciate anything else being called rape.

Oh, I see. Because you were one of many to have experienced sexual abuse, you are now allowed to sit on a panel that judges what is and isn’t rape for other people, including women who were victims of actual sexual penetration rape who also describe their own labor experiences as “birth rape”. Because your rape gave you authority over all.

I am a nurse and I am hurt that you claim that nurses have abused patients! I bust my butt to save lives every day!

One, thank you for your work. Two, you do not speak for all nurses. Three, what if I told you that things you were taught help people might actually sometimes cause harm? What if I were one of those people who were unintentionally or even intentionally harmed? Would you be willing to learn with an open heart and mind what those things are which cause damage? Would you listen knowing that if you believed me, it would change how you view the world, yourself, your own profession?

Homebirth is ridiculous. I’m lucky I’m so smart and had my baby in the hospital. He needed oxygen and actually suffers today from not having had enough oxygen at birth, so at home he surely would have died, MORONS. Enjoy killing your babies!

I’m sorry you are dealing with a stressful situation. I really mean that. It sucks to face hardship with our babies. We all wish our children had only the best of health. Maybe the pride you feel over doing the “right” thing can be helpful if you are trying to cope with something very difficult, but many of us know that bad situations such as oxygen deprivation can be created in hospitals. Some would argue that you may have had a safer experience at home. Things like drug augmentation, the effect of mother’s position, prolonged labor, premature lungs, premature cord clamping… a variety of things in the hospital (and even at home) are interventions which can damage. Say a baby is in distress during labor and needs to come out now in order to be safe and healthy. Many situations in hospital can actually be causing the distress. That’s just one example. Who really knows for sure? But can this one experience mean you understand what is true and right for everyone, all the time? We all do what we feel is best, in the moment. Every situation is individual. What saves you can kill someone else. Don’t assume you understand it all. Attacking others for a choice you should feel very secure about doesn’t help anyone. And, it doesn’t prove your case.

A good healthy response to most stories and beliefs is, “Maybe that’s true, or maybe it didn’t actually happen the way that it would seem.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear a story, I hear from my heart and my mind. My logic and skepticism provides doubt where I feel intellectually unsure about what is presented, and I will do further research if I need to satisfy that curiosity. My heart will feel for them, employing my empathy and sympathy. Even if logically I do not agree, my heart understands what emotions may be painting the picture. I say, if I were in their shoes, maybe I’d agree. Can’t we all do this?

Our experiences can be so powerful for us, we take them to heart– too much. They become defining features of our identity. What that means is, when someone else’s experience comes in and seems to contradict that, our fragile identities become threatened. Our egos will not stand for that. That’s when people pop in with stories that are somehow supposed to put others in their places and shut them up, only it doesn’t. Because believe it or not, other people have stories too, that to them seem equally powerful.

I’m not immune. Like most humans I struggle with ego and identity every day. I’m an argumentative person and admit that argument stems mainly from identification with labels and forms. Who am I, without my tragedy? What worth am I, without my knowledge or cause? These things keep us trapped. To truly understand, to have right knowledge, we will exercise compassion. The best thing we can try to do is understand each other and give each other room.

Anecdote is not useless, however. It can be helpful to serve to warn others who face similar hurdles.They should serve to help our fellow man avoid undue suffering.

Everything *seems* impossible, until you’ve experienced it.

We should be trying to lessen the suffering in the world, not add to it.

Our stories and anecdotes can help enlighten us so we can take the appropriate next steps on our individual paths. Collections of anecdotes can be considered research, and all anecdote is in some regard evidence. When we use our own story as a means to discredit all other stories which also carry their own weight and power, we are living in our own reality. It’s false. It’s delusional and denial. Your story can tell people what is possible, can suggest what is and isn’t probable, but it cannot negate the details felt by others to tell the world what is impossible.



Transforming Horror Into Survival

26 07 2011

Bad experiences happen for a reason, but we don’t have to like them. If we cannot change the past, but we must admit that the past shapes us, we can at least learn from it. Let it shape you into the best person you can be and make stronger choices in the future.

I’ve said before that I wouldn’t wish my 2nd labor on my worst enemy. If I could go back and save myself, I would. Yet I must acknowledge that if I changed that part of myself, I would probably not be talking to you now. Therefore, my suffering serves a purpose.

But, was my suffering deserved? Does anyone deserve to suffer? Who may judge this? What consolation is it?


An unfortunate one is a rootless ghost,
His walk a mad angel’s gait.
Insolent steps of one thrown from heaven
To toil in red dust,
As if he had not had enough
In a thousand previous lifetimes.
Where is his heart? Where is his soul?
To call this heaven’s will
Is a cheap answer.

There was once a god who committed a crime. His punishment was to be thrown back to earth to suffer the misfortunes of being human.

When you see those less fortunate than yourself, whether they are the homeless on the streets or simply the ugly and unpopular, can you be sure that they are not like that god flung back to this mad planet?

Is their misfortune their own fault? Or do you explain with references to morality, destiny, reincarnation, and cosmic justice? Even the words of saints offer no relief for their suffering, so it hardly seems fair to blame them.

Let us not hold ourselves above our fellow human beings, no matter how great the disparity. To withhold your scorn is already beautiful. To see how we are all of one family is compassion.

-365 Tao

Withhold your scorn. Wow. Could we? Could we try?

When I think of this, I think of it in its purest form:  survivalist training. Respect is deserved, because when we are trying to survive, we are trying to be strong and make the best out of horrific situations. This is a worthy cause. So many of us learn from our pain, or take good out of bad situations. We have to. We extract it and compartmentalize it, even if we wish would could discard the rest. In so many ways, in and out of childbirth, we transform the horrors we have faced into a new awakening geared at survival.

How many of us have learned from the cruelest people or experiences what it means to survive? Maybe some of us had parents who taught the virtues of self-sufficiency, but hurt us in other ways. Or maybe you were in a relationship that taught you a lot but also caused you pain.

In that sense, the very things that harm you now may later save your life. Why it ever had to hurt, I don’t know. But, blaming each other we must not do. We must try not to judge and instead, reach out a hand, offer strength if we can, and try to be strong ourselves. This is what healing people of their past births is all about. This is what preventing people from suffering through horrific birth ordeals is about.

I see a lot of women turn their suffering and pain into more pain. They use their losses and grief and horror against other women. They do like the 365 Tao describes, and they look down on others, or even act against them with contempt or ridicule. They have lost their compassion.

I see other women judge the pain of others, calling it the will of God, or chastising them for not coping better with their pain, and for not rising up and battling it with better ease when they themselves did not know such suffering.

What will you do with your pain? What will you do with the pain of others? Who will you let it make you become?

The Partner’s Burden

10 07 2011

This was a comment left on another blog in response to comments about unassisted birth. I felt it warranted its own post.

My husband was present at my unassisted birth. We were both educated on what normal physiological birth was, and on variations of normal, and on what to do in certain emergency scenarios, etc. WE TOOK THE RESPONSIBILITY UPON OURSELVES. That’s powerful. We didn’t expect other people to shoulder our responsibility (“burden”) for us. They failed that miserably in the past, anyway, so it was up to us.

What we can never forgive ourselves for in REALITY, is the consequence(s) of letting these so-called “trained” “professionals” interfere with our births. That was far more damaging and detrimental to my body and our babies than the peace and serenity of birthing unassisted.

So, the burden we are placing on our mates is an illusion, because that any of us ever lacked that ultimate responsibility in the first place was an illusion. It’s not a burden. It’s a liberation. If he were NOT educated in birth and supportive of what I needed to do (birth unassisted), if he INSISTED I see a trained professional even after the birth traumas I faced, that WOULD be a situation where I would know his feelings for me and my safety were not strong enough or informed enough. And it would hurt our relationship. You can’t tell a victim of torture or abuse to go back and trust the abuser. He would never ask me to do that.

Luckily he learned along with me, and we both understood that birth is not as dangerous as medical pros want us to think. He wanted me and baby to be safer, so he chose for us to DO safer. That’s not a burden, it’s a healthy choice and a liberation.

I know if he had made me go to the hospital despite my new feelings and knowledge [not that he could have, anyway], he wouldn’t have been able to bear THAT guilt when whatever “went wrong” inevitably did. Just like in our births before.

Like Vanessa (another poster) said, women do NOT go into UC lightly. We aren’t ignorant trend followers or stunt birthers. Do the research.

Birth, Validation, & Hurt Feelings

1 07 2011

Some things I want to talk about on this subject:

1. Women who judge each other’s pain.

2. Birth professionals and their roles in birth.

1. Why would a woman ever want to give birth in a hospital? at home? by herself? We all have our reasons for the choices we make. Some of them are basic, like when we go to the hospital “just because”… because, what else would we do? But some, especially if they seem more extreme, happen for very, very good reasons. “Good” is a relative term, but it’s safe to assume that when someone makes a seemingly radical choice, something drove them there. People don’t just come to extreme conclusions by accident. This is so very true in birth.

So, why isn’t that good enough for some people before they judge?

There are some women out there judging the kinds of choices that women not like themselves make. Let’s take UC as the obvious example. I have been very vocal about the fact that I came to my position and decision about UC because of hard experiences for me– dare I label them “birth trauma”. What I find here is that radical individuals get excused for their choices, but not radical groups. Hey, here’s a thought… a group is just a collection of individuals. So what gives? Assume we all have a valid fucking story, bitch.  “Oh, well it’s understandable why you chose XYZ, you definitely had it bad. But that doesn’t excuse those other people who like it.” <– I hear this every so often, and I don’t think it’s fair. Oh, so because someone tells you their tale of woe, you graciously permit and validate them in their choice? Or is it that you’re just too much of a coward to tell someone to their face that they are also lumped in with the stupid? I shouldn’t get a pass just because you agree with (or pretend to agree with) me. Other people are dealing with the same shit as the person with the “valid” story you heard.

Here’s a newsflash, in case you missed it:

most women turn to UC because they “had it bad”.

Talk to any UCer and she is more than likely to have a traumatic story to tell you that drove her to this. And, it’s not all just fear based. It’s about overcoming adversity. Like any strong survivor of trauma, there is a driving force in a human being that pushes them to preparation. Determined not to ever let that happen to them again, they read and research and dig deep into their soul and mind to make sure they are doing the utmost to protect themselves. You may liken this to victims of sexual assault going to therapy, taking a martial arts class, and getting a gun. Hopefully you wouldn’t be ridiculing their position, too.

And let’s not even go there and have yet another Mommy Wars pissing match over whose pain is greater and therefore worthy and excusable for their birth method. You can’t judge my trauma. You can’t tell me to suck it up. There are people who have had it “better” than me and “worse” than me, but you know what? It’s all completely relative and we are all doing what we have to do to recover and take care of ourselves. Give people a break! If I’m not stepping on your toes, don’t step on mine.

Just as I understand how some people have been driven to hospital births due to tragedies they have faced, I understand what drives one to UC. Have a little god damned sympathy, please. And try to give credit to someone, a little benefit of the doubt, that if someone is moved to do something you consider extreme, it does not come out of the blue on a whim. It has meaning and purpose. You don’t have to “get” it.

It’s another human being’s life, so don’t be so damned judgmental about what drives them. If you can excuse one of us, extend the courtesy to all of us or stop lying about getting it for any of us.


2. Over at another birth page on Facebook, one discussion that just popped up lately is that of how a birth professional should speak to a woman about her birth after the fact. One resounding feeling amongst the women was: acknowledge us and our pain.

Wow. So many women have been traumatized by their births. This isn’t just something I fictionalized. Huh? Whattayaknow? I mean, just looking at all the responses and my starting premise in the book didn’t seem so outlandish, after all.

The thing that we all seemed to cry out for is– validate me and what I went through. Tell me what was hard about my labor. Tell me where I did good. Please don’t just ignore me and treat me clinically. Talk to me about it. Don’t just ask me how breastfeeding is going and check on my postpartum body. Ask me if I want or need to talk about my birth. Tell me your impressions of my birth and the experience, in detail. And for god’s sake, admit to me if you think something should not have happened to me or should have gone differently. We need to hear it.

One woman said that she went on and on for hours with her midwives after the birth, just trying to understand it, getting it all out. A part of me wanted to cry. “I needed that”, I thought.

Women need to know that the hurt isn’t all in their head, their burden alone, some whacked out interpretation of events from a delusional mind. I can’t tell you how long it took me to discover that my births had “traumatized” me… like how dare I use that word! Even today, I hesitate to describe it like that in person because the potential for confrontation over that word would crush me. I retreat. But, inside, psychologically and logically, I understand that that is precisely what it is, whether others are willing to validate that for me or not. Women need their caregivers to be their support and their shoulder, not the “other” side.

When people complain that homebirthers, natural childbirth advocates, or UCers are too anti-medical establishment, this is a large part of the reason why. We are not creating the Us/Them, we are responding to it. We didn’t all start out this way, you know. Some of us were just as conventional about birth as the next woman. When I am told I will be dropped from care if I do not comply with medical interventions I do not believe in, you have chosen your side. Well, it forces us to stand strong as our own best advocates. This is why we are turning away from the system.

There are a lot of hurt feelings going around from us to our professionals and back again. We count on them to do what is best for us, and especially with midwives we hope for their comfort and guidance. They are maternal figures, often viewed as protectors of maternity and birth and womanhood. When we get what we believe to be the opposite of that, the opposite of “trust birth”, or “you can do this”, and when we don’t hear “That wasn’t right” when warranted, where else can we turn but to ourselves? Women need to be protected and loved and supported. They need to cry it out if they are hurt. There is an emotional need here that is not being met and women are walking away empty. Confused.

I told my midwives I didn’t want them to read my book. I pretty much call midwives unnecessary in In Search of the Perfect Birth. I try to encourage women not to rely on others, because even those who do exactly as you wish are an accidental hindrance on a natural birth. Because of how entrenched in identity midwifery is, I did not want my midwives (whom I still associated with and considered friends, despite it all)  to be offended. I liked them as people. And, under the surface, my fear was that they too would judge my trauma (like the women in #1 who judge others). The last thing we need when we’ve been through this kind of pain is a medical professional firsthand witness to invalidate your experiences and emotions. We need a hug and a friend, not a judgment or criticism. I was trying to avoid all of us hurting each other’s feelings, truthfully.

One of them inquired about it to me and after I told her she shouldn’t read it, she didn’t speak another word of it to me.  She and I are still friends. One I deleted from Facebook a while back because we never really spoke and I didn’t think she’d miss me, but I still felt friendly towards her. She later ordered a signed copy of my book. And then one, whom I’ve never discussed the book with, deleted me from FB without a goodbye. This made me sad, even though I was prepared to expect this and worse. I must have hurt her with the book somehow, but the sense of rejection and invalidation from all the past things I’ve gone through with her and my birth is still real. I guess she just couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Maybe we all took everything personally.


The bottom line in any this is: we as women need to honor each other’s hurt in birth trauma and talk about it, heal it, and not grade and compare it. We need to listen to each other, and see ourselves in one another.

“… and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything!”

21 06 2011

When someone says, “My birth wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything!” I can’t help but think–

— because I would.

Usually their tale is one of imperfection (hey, isn’t that like us all!?), but the heavy note is that they survived and the baby was healthy. Is this why people wouldn’t change their births for anything? It’s as if they automatically assume that to change the birth, the outcome for baby would also change. But what if you could have changed your birth to make it better, and baby still would have been fine? Or finer? Would you change it then?

I’ve heard this sentiment quite a few times, from friends and enemies and strangers alike. From induced moms, c-section moms, moms who wished they could have gone natural but ended up with a plethora of interventions, etc.

There are so few situations which are so perfectly ideal that the mother would not change a thing. Even if you thought whatever happened was for the best. And let’s just for the sake of discussion put aside the “everything happens for a reason” reason (which truthfully I believe in, even if it sucks sometimes as a consolation). Honestly– who among us wouldn’t do something to change our births to make them better? If you tell me you were disappointed you had this or that happen, but you wouldn’t change it… well, refer to George (above).

Even my recent more “perfect birth” still had some setbacks which, looking back, I see plenty of ways in which I could allow myself a better birth. I may not have any real regrets, but I don’t feel bad about admitting how we can do better (next time?).

Note that I said a better birth. Not a better baby. Your birth is not your baby. Your birth is not your baby. Your birth is not your baby. Changing the birth does not mean you would change your baby. Wanting a more perfect birth experience for you does not mean it is all about you to the exclusion of the baby. What is good for you is more often than not what is good for the baby, so wanting birth to be the best and healthiest for you is not selfish.

I mean, let’s face it– most things in life (even very good things) have room for improvement. And it’s not ungrateful of you at all to want to look back on your experience and admit what you wished had been different. I think the desire to not live a life with regret and to look only joyfully on the birth of our children causes us to look the other way on issues that seriously deserve more attention.

So, I had three births, and if I could go back and change them each, I most definitely would. What would you change about your birth(s)?