The idea for the book Simply Give Birth came to me a couple of years ago, as most of my ideas come to me, while breastfeeding. This particular day was unexceptional, except that I happened to sit down to nurse a sleepy baby and forgot to grab my book first. So I fished around in a drawer beside the chair and unearthed a stack of The New Nativity — a quarterly collection of unassisted birth stories. Lo and behold, that’s when and where I read Fiery’s Birth Story by Poppy Street-Heywood. Poppy begins her birth story with, “45 weeks and 4 days. That’s how long Fiery took to enter the crazy world outside my body.” Then casually, almost as if it were not the most important thing in the world, describes her birth that was long overdue and yet, somehow didn’t seem to cause her any fear or complaint. She just simply gives birth. Right there in the bathroom, just like it was any other day. And then, that’s when she got me with this line: “My other two births were not medically necessary c-sections before labor…” and I was hooked. I wanted to know more! How had she the composure? How had she the faith? The spirit? Then like a fisherman pulling in the big marlin she passes the pen to her husband and lets him tell his side of the story too. Humorous, witty, matter-of-fact, he claims that he “wasn’t worried at all.” I believed him. And my first thought was that this story needed to get out there into the world.
I contacted the editor of The New Nativity, and she helped me get in touch with Poppy. I asked her for permission to use her story. For what, I had no idea, but something, something…fast forward a few months later and I’m asked to speak at The Trust Birth Conference and an idea came to me, that for too long the other story, the drama, and pain and horrifyingly out-of -control helplessness, has been the predominant tale. It’s time for that story to go the way of dinosaurs. There’s a new way to tell our birth stories, a simple way, with humor and spirit and matter-of-fact exuberance, and that if we collect these types of stories and spread them out into the world, we’ll be spreading the idea that birth is a funny, crazy, everyday, yet still life-changing to our very core, experience. Because it is all that. And more.
Choosing the Stories
I put out a call on my website for birth stories in the beginning of 2007,that read like this:
Calling for Birth Stories!
If you have a birth story (preferably unassisted, but if it’s assisted it shouldn’t focus too much on the midwife—not that she’s not totally AWESOME, please don’t misunderstand, I LOVE midwives! I’m looking for birth stories that focus on the mother, the baby and the birth process.) Please send it in to be included in the next Hathor book (I’m too poor to pay you, but will happily give you a couple of the books and my undying gratitude!) Plus, you’ll be in print! My friend, Gurumama (Mara Donahoe), is going to be editing the book so I’ll be passing the stories along to her and she’ll be in touch about whether they’ll be included or not…Please forward this widely!
Here’s what you can do to make the birth story exactly what I’m looking for:
Remove the paragraphs where you’re making your decision to birth at home or birth unassisted. For instance, in my birth story of Gwyneth Kai, I’m going to remove the first paragraph where I blather on about wanting a birth that was free of interventions. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that the audience for this book already WANTS a birth that’s free of interventions. Let’s ASSUME we live in a world where ALL women want no interventions. It’s a given. How would you start your birth story then…probably at the first contraction, huh? Okay, start there.
If you’re telling an unassisted birth story or an assisted birth story, let’s just call it a birth. Take out all the qualifiers and just birth that baby!
Fear is fine, but how ’bout a little bit about how you rise above the fear? And don’t forget to include those moments when you weren’t afraid. I like to read birth stories where the laboring mother “just knew” what to do. It comforts me, and when I gave birth the third time I was able to tune into my instincts because I had read so many birth stories by women who just knew
If you think your birth story can do all of this, but it includes an intervention anyway heck, send it in. Interventions happen, as do transfers. It’s how we FEEL (and write) about them that matters. Can your birth story tell how you transferred to the hospital and delivered your breech baby into the hands of some strange doctor, but still, wow! Isn’t birth great and wouldn’t you do it again?
So, that’s what I’m looking for…please send them in!
This request was answered by about a hundred mothers with wondrous stories, courageous stories, fantastical stories and then OH, how to pick? First, in the spirit of true delegation I forwarded all the birth stories to Mara to read because that seemed the best way. But then as I was opening the emails I started to sort of skim them and then to read them. Then, succumbing to some kind of birth-story fever, you could find me carrying around a big pink folder full of printed birth stories and plopping myself down on a picnic blanket in my local playground and just reading. I read birth stories on the beach, in the car, everywhere I could. They were, every one of them so good that I had trouble getting them out of my mind. In the end I picked about 30 stories. They are, for the most part, unassisted, though it was really their tone that made me choose them. They seem to focus on the birth most of all and leave the cast of other characters in the wings, as they should be. The problem was that in picking 30, it meant that I wasn’t choosing 70+ birth stories and these were all really good too! So I thought I’d include a few highlights so that you can see what I mean.