I had an interesting conversation last week with a woman I know. She is 32 weeks pregnant with her first child. She was sharing with me how it feels to have so many other women sharing (without invitation) their childbirth stories.
Did this ever happen to you?
It can be quite overwhelming! You have never given birth before and you already feel anxious enough without other women passing on their ‘battle stories’ to you. I call them ‘battle stories’ because so many stories shared are about how HARD or PAINFUL or LONG childbirth was for someone.
As I chatted with my friend about her experience with this it struck me that the reason I think other women share these stories is NOT to actually help the mum-to be (although on the surface they think this is why they share) but because these women have a deep need to have their story HEARD.
Childbirth, regardless of what it was like for a woman, is such an enormous experience. Whether you had vaginal birth or c-section, whether you had drugs or not, whether your labour lasted 36 hours or 5 hours … it doesn’t matter. It is such a powerful, intense and life changing experience. Yet after the event women are not really given a space to share, to debrief, to have their story heard. Mother’s Groups are not really the place to be heard, you are all too consumed with the reality of caring for this tiny new being in the world.
What mothers really need is a space they can share their stories and feel truly heard, and yet as a society we don’t really offer that opportunity. And so, we find women wanting to share their stories any other way they can – the most obvious being with a woman who is giving birth for the first time. The problem with that is that the pregnant women can’t really help another women feel HEARD because she can’t relate yet, she doesn’t know what this moment in her life will be like. So she hears the story but cannot provide the comfort that truly being HEARD creates.
The woman who shares doesn’t get what she needed and the pregnant woman feels bombarded by all the stories.
This then got me wondering how many other stories within our journey as mothers do we crave someone to truly hear and how can we as a society actually give women better support to feel HEARD? Perhaps stories around parenting a challenging child, or how it feels to not be working, or how your relationship has changed … there are so many stories that we carry with us not really being heard.
I know that part of the work I do as a coach allows me to give women a space one on one to feel heard but I think we can do more. I think we can create group environments that allow women a space to share, and be heard, without it being placed on anyone else as a burden. Perhaps these are environments that professionals, like myself, can help initiate. Perhaps these are environments that local health organisations can help create. Perhaps it is simply a change in the way women connect with each other.
I don’t know the answer.
I wonder – do you feel you have the chance to really have your stories of motherhood HEARD? If you could create a space to be heard what would that look like for you?