A guide to writing your birth story

There are different reasons why you may choose to write your birth story. It can be a really lovely thing to do after a positive birth but it can also be really healing when birth didn’t go as you hoped.

Your birth story can be just for you to treasure, you could just plan to show your children when they grow up or you could share it with the world! Positive birth stories, as you probably already know, can really help others who are preparing for their own birth.

Not all birth stories include all of the same aspects but here are some prompts to help you include everything you want to:

1. When you should write it?

You can write your story anytime after your baby is born. You may like to do it when your baby is newborn or you may prefer to wait 20 years! If you do decide to write it It's best to set some dedicated time for this process so don't schedule anything pressing afterwards so you aren't rushing. Let your story flow and don't worry about getting it "right." Write down what you can and don't get flustered if you can't remember every detail. You can always go back and edit your writing later if you want to, but to start, just let it flow. And don't censor yourself! Write down all of the "sensitive" or "embarrassing" details that you can remember. Those may be the very things that you want to remember down the road, whether or not you choose not to share those parts with the world.

2. Use your senses to take you back.

All of your senses probably played a role in your birth. Did you use candles, lower the lights, or watch a movie? Turn on your labor playlist if you had one. Did you use lotions or essential oils? Bring them out, breathe them in. (Scent has a powerful tie to memory, you may be surprised at how details start flooding back when you do this.) Smell your baby's head or one of their hats. Touch your belly, connect with your body. Sway your hips or sit on your birth ball if you still have it. Hop in the shower or the bath if you used hydrotherapy during your labor. Drink and eat things that you craved during your pregnancy. Using all of your senses will naturally bring back the details of that special day.

3. How was your pregnancy? Did you have any particular pregnancy symptoms? Any special circumstances for your- self or baby? How did you feel about labour and birth? What antenatal education or reading did you do to prepare? What type of birth were you planning?

4. Jot down your rough labour timeline.

This can be tricky. Birth often comes with a sort of time distortion that makes a few minutes of pushing feel like hours, and an afternoon of contractions zip on by. Use whatever you can to piece together a timeline of everything that happened. You may want to enlist the help of your birth team. You can check text messages, phone call timestamps, your contraction timer app or medical records. Every picture you take has the time and date embedded in it, so check your pictures, too!

5. Who did you invite to be a part of your birth team?

Your partner? Your sister, friend, or mother? Were your older children with you? Did you hire a doula? A midwife? A birth photographer? Processing your birth with the people who were there can be helpful, and a lot of fun! Listen to the details that stood out to them. I can guarantee that they saw or noticed things that you didn't, and they will tell you exactly how brave and strong and amazing you were. Having your birth partner/s write down their side of the birth story can be so special too.

6. How did labour begin? How did you feel in the days before baby was born? Were there any signs labour was coming? Did your waters break in the middle of the supermarket? Did you think you had a tummy bug because of the sensations? Were you induced? What did your surges feel like? Did you realise you were in the early stages?

7. How did you spend early labour? What did you do to distract you or keep you comfortable? Did you do any activities? Did you go out anywhere? Did you have anything yummy to eat? Who was with you? Did you watch or listen to anything? Did you tell the people around you that you were in labour?

8. What happened during active labour?

How did you recognise it was time to head to your birth space or call for a midwife to attend? Did you get assessed in triage? Did a midwife come out to assess you? What hospital did you go to? (was it Neath Port Talbot birth centre or Singleton labour ward Swansea?) How was the journey? How did you feel? Did setting up your birth space go well? What did you use to keep comfortable? How was your progress assessed? Did you have any vaginal exams or observations? Did you use a birth pool or have any pain relief? What did your birth partner/s do that was helpful? How were the staff ?

9. The end of labour... Did you feel a change in intensity? Were interventions offered? Did you feel like everything was explained to you and your decisions respected? Did you or your birth partner recognise the transition phase of labour? Did you feel the urge to push? What position were you in as baby was born? Was your baby born in a theatre with forceps or caesarean? How did that change to your birth plan feel?

10 . Meeting your baby What were your first thoughts as you met your baby face to face for the first time? Who was the first person to touch your baby. How were baby and you immediately after birth? How did you birth the placenta? Did you change locations after baby was born? (getting out of a pool, laying on a bed, moving rooms or to a ward etc). Did you have any stitches? Were you already home or how long did you stay in hospital if relevant.

When you are done, you can do whatever you'd like with it! You may wish to leave it raw or you may want to edit it. You may want to keep it just for you, or you may want to share it on a pregnancy forum! Perhaps you would like to write it as a letter to your baby. However you choose to write your birth story, make a copy for safekeeping! Put it on a flash drive in a safe, or print it and keep it with your important documents. Some like to visit it periodically for years into the future to remember those special moments.

If you want to share your positive birth story with me, I love reading them and sharing them so get in touch.

Angharad x

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