How to Honor Your Birth Story

Birth is complex and doesn’t always go to plan. If you’re on the other side of a birth that didn’t go how you would have liked, or even if everything did go to plan and you just feel like you want to do some processing or rituals around your birth, read on. Here we’ll talk about ways to honor the way you gave birth, no matter what happened.

Share your birth story

Around the US, there are gatherings specifically for telling birth stories. Where I live birth workers, pregnant, and postpartum people gather once a month in a public park and tell birth stories. Anyone can tell a story and anyone can join in to listen. If your birth story is particularly traumatic, you might want to find a group specifically for processing trauma, such as one led by a mental health professional. You can also tell your birth story in session to a therapist who can help you work through trauma. If you have a doula or a trusted friend who is willing to hear your birth story, this can be another way to honor it.

Write about it

Another way to share your birth story is to writing about it—whether it’s writing that you intend to share or not. It can be incredibly therapeutic to just write down everything you can remember. I’ve written out both of my birth stories and have shared one of them, but not the other. I am so thankful that I took the time to write them out while my babies were little, so that I’ll remember the details later.

If you’re stuck getting started with writing your birth story down, start with a simple timeline and go from there. Fill in details as you remember them. If it’s been a while since you gave birth, just do the best you can to remember, talk with other people who were there, or look back at pictures and videos if you have them.

Celebrate your placenta

Whether you brought your placenta home or left it at the hospital, donated it for research or encapsulated and consumed it, you can spend time reflecting on the hard work it did to help your baby grow in the womb. If you or your doula made a placenta print, frame it and hang it up. If you never want to see it again, you can still send it gratitude or write about it in your journal.

Allow yourself to grieve or feel angry

If your birth didn’t go how you wanted it to, don’t feel the need to celebrate all the parts of it. Allow yourself to be angry or sad about the parts that were hurtful or traumatic. You don’t have to force yourself to let anything go—it’s really okay to just feel those feelings. As you allow yourself the space to experience the full range of emotions about your birth, you might find that the big feelings hold less power over you.

Celebrate your birthing day, not just baby’s birthday

Every year on your baby’s birthday, tell their birth story—my kids love hearing their birth stories—or remember it to yourself. Have gratitude for the things you and your body went through to grow a person and bring them into the world. On your friends’ children’s birthdays, tell your friend happy birthing day.

Talk to the people dear to you about their birth stories

If you can speak to your mom, grandma, aunts, cousins, and dear friends about their experiences giving birth, do so. Learn what it was like for them and share your own stories. When we witness each other’s experiences, we cultivate communities of support that help us celebrate the beautiful things and move through the hard things together.

Reflect on photos and videos

Do you have photos or videos of your baby’s birth? It might feel too raw at first, but don’t delete them. At some point you may want to look back and reflect what you were feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiencing and visual reminders are excellent ways to do so. Something I’m so thankful for with my daughter’s birth is that the person who was taking photos with my phone had the phone on live photo mode, which means I can go back to those photos and not only see, but also hear what was happening. It’s such a gift.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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