My mama, doing a little yoga a few years ago.
What do you think of on your birthday? Most people (myself included) think of cake, the blessing/curse of aging, and monumental years passed: 16, 18, 21, 30, 40 etc. Every year my mom calls and says “Happy Birthday! You had the BIGGEST HEAD EVER,” and by that she means my actual cranium was in the 90th percentile and my body in the 5th. Thank goodness I've balanced out a bit since then. She hopes I experience the same blessing when I give birth. This has always been the way I experience my birthday, with a sigh of relief that I've made it around the sun yet again, and a curse disguised as a blessing. However, after chatting with a friend today, I've started thinking of my birthday a little bit differently.
Let me digress for a moment (I promise to bring it all back around). Expectant mamas usually have some idea of what their birth story will look like. In fact, those of use who work with mamas strongly encourage the development of a birth plan which includes the who/what/where of birth from generalities like “board certified obstetrician should be handy” to specifics like “no tweeting, no matter what.” We script it out from beginning to end with little addenda like a flight attendant letting the team know what they'll need to know just in case.
Days and years later, we tell the story from the same perspective, in the same order, with a surprise ending like “huge head” or “100 year blizzard,” or “fainted dead away on the floor.”
I think we're doing it backwards. Or rather, we should be.
Think of all of the greatest memories you have. They usually don't go like this:
“I planned the perfect trip to Paris, which I took, and then I went home.”
They don't go like this, because this is a boring, terrible story. Even if you end with “...and then I fainted dead away,” or “...and then I stepped in gum,” or “...and then I found five dollars,” it doesn't get any better.
But, if you tell it like this: “Let me tell you how I met my partner after the worst trip of my life. I went to Paris and the trip went mostly as planned, but on my trip home we were diverted to Tuscaloosa, where I was marooned in the airport awaiting my connection to Knoxville. To make matters worse, my bags somehow ended up in Alberta. After three tries to get home via air, I finally gave up and took the bus. Because I took the bus instead, the airline said they weren't responsible for my bags, even though they sent them to the wrong country! Well, Marty was working at the lost luggage center in Alberta, and because he's Canadian he felt sorry for me and offered to drive and meet me halfway. Well, three weeks and 2,000 miles later we met up in the middle of Iowa and it was love at first sight.”
If there is one thing I can guarantee you beyond all others, it is that your birth story will not be the same as your birth plan. Unexpected things will happen, but each of those unexpected things will be another level of color in your wildly exciting and amazing birth story.
My tips for recording your birth story:
Consider the byline: based on the true story. Your child's birth story is your birth story, too. Consider which details are helpful to you and to baby and which can be modified into other characters, symbols, and images. Rather than “your lazy butt couldn't find the exit, so this ended in a traumatic C-section,” try something like “the doctor saw that you were lost and created a magic door.” Maybe this sounds silly, but it can profoundly affect the way you view the story, your baby, and your scar. In my opinion, necessary C-sections are magical.
Channel your inner impressionist, not your journalist: Sometimes photos are appropriate, but just as I've found in travel, you never really get a picture that captures the most meaningful moments. Don't fret about it, recreate it. Perhaps everyone who was there can make an image from their memory, whether they create a stick figure drawing, a painting, or something abstract. You can add in the relevant photos you have, but sometimes drawings are even better.
Remember: start with the happy ending. The end of the story is your baby's birth, so start there in your mind. Your most pivotal memory could be something like “...and then, after nine months I created a beautiful, perfect human out of the very best parts of me, and that perfect human, was YOU.”
When your next birthday comes around start with the memory that by some miracle, you were formed from tiny bits of ancient stars and the energy of the mother who bore you.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this process with you. You're stronger than you think you are.