I have always loved reading birth stories on the internet. When I was in my second year of college I didn’t have a possible husband on my mind much less babies of my own. And I wasn’t particularly obsessed with the idea of either one. I wrote essays on interdisciplinary communication between health care professionals and the effect of diabetes on renal function and then I would take a break and read a good birth story on a blog or online magazine because I found them fascinating and fun. Some were descriptive and detailed and some were basically free style poetry. The combination of the basic biology and health care angle combined with so much emotion was irresistible to me, I think. I had briefly considered midwifery before deciding on nursing so that wasn’t altogether surprising.
Naturally I assumed if I still had some outlet to write about my own labors, should the occasion ever arise, I would do so. Some of you women out there are advocates for less pure transparency and oversharing of flaws and intimate details to the world, especially online. I think you should advocate and write articles and books and wave flags to those of us like myself that could go skipping happily over that cliff. However, the gritty, raw transparency was the part of the internet I fell in love with when I was a teen. I didn’t follow the pretty xangas, I followed the ones full of clumsy, honest angst. Writing about my own depression, compassion fatigue, and times of spiritual doubt was not hard for me. Scary at times, but always healing. Reading honest writings about intimate struggles is an exercise in hope for me. When reading or listening to alarmingly honest confessions of any kind my brain acts like one of those transparent bouncy balls with the little lights inside that start blinking when you throw them at the wall. The idea of reading about the birth of a stranger’s child did not creep me out whatsoever. I work in healthcare. You can’t creep me out with biological realities. Given my penchant for such things I didn’t think writing about labor would be particularly difficult for me.
After Merek was born, after all the exhausting labor of 72 hours, I was plunged into a year of pure survival trying to understand how on earth someone as laid back and introspective as myself could possible mother a child as loud and as constantly engaging as my son. Writing his birth story only existed in a magical world where I would sleep for 8 hours and finish a cup of tea without it going cold.
That was over 2 year ago. We have both adapted amazingly well to each other, bless our hearts.
I had full intentions of sharing Eden’s birth story. I have the time now. In the nine months since her birth I have tried several times and filled several pages. After the fifth attempt I have come to realize that, to my shock and horror, I am not a birth story woman. It would appear I have come to my personal line between what I will and will not intimately share with the internet. Obviously there were always subjects so far past my line that I would never dream of sharing, but I was never sure where in the expanse of my human experience that line actually started. My labor experiences are just a toe touch over it, I have decided. While writing it down I learned that including just the real time details and sequence of events, which I easily talk about in a group of other moms, left me feeling exposed by the clinical nature of the raw facts. But when I tried to combine it with the depth of emotion that make birth more than a well-documented chart note, I realized that those moments are more sacred and dear to me than all the gritty details of physical labor and birth.
I was over the line and I had to go back.
This has made me curious as to how other people-who-make-words-on-the-internet figure out where their line is. Is that line fluid or does it remain the same over time? I’m not talking about drawing lines to respect the privacy of family or friends or to keep from hurting others. We can hardly be too careful about that. I’m curious about the information about yourself that you subjectively decide is not for everyone to know.
To those of you who write out birth stories, please don’t stop. There are the single Esta’s in college who find them interesting and of course a whole host of moms like I am now that find them empowering and refreshing. And for your benefit I WILL share a few pictures of Edens birth below for your enjoyment.
To those of you who do not like reading birth stories, breathe a sigh of relief that I can’t seem to write one, and also click away now and read something more interesting because you were warned about the pictures.
A big thank you to my photographer, Ruth Swartzendruber, for doing such an amazing job and for being such a discreet and comfortable presence in the whole process.
These next two pictures are my favorite. Both are taken within 5 minutes of Eden’s birth and believe me I wasn’t smiling the whole 5 minutes but I do remember a split second of elation knowing I would meet my baby soon and flashing Justin that smile. I’m so glad Ruth caught that moment. And the second is a favorite because the look of gleeful interest on my mother-in-law’s face represents the positive excitement she brought to the whole experience.
Look at that little dimpled face. Worth every minute!