It happened when I was pregnant: The smile, the knowing look of a mama who’s been there, and then, the well-meaning but so-not-helpful unhappy birth story. Ugh. I’m sure she had good intentions, but please, don’t scare me like that!
It’s not that I had my head in the sand about what could go wrong; I just preferred—and needed—support for what felt like the wild unknowns of birth. I attended prenatal yoga and childbirth education classes. I discovered the amazing Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and had my husband read it, too. I loved it all—although, I loved the birth stories in that book just a little bit less, and that really surprised me. While those happy stories illuminated the beauty of birth, they were so long, so detailed, and so removed from the kind of birth experiences most women have. I read a few. I marveled. I moved on.
Then, I gave birth to my daughter. I felt like I’d won the birthing lottery. It was a-ma-zing! And only then did I realize why those birth stories were so long (there’s a lot to say!) … and just how awkward it can be to share a happy birth story. Maybe it feels a little too much like bragging to share a happy birth story; maybe it’s a right time/right place kind of thing.
Whatever it is that keeps us quiet about happy birth stories, I saw just how important those positive messages are when I began teaching prenatal yoga. Mamas hung on every word of birth stories shared in class—the contractions, the tender moments, the pain, the joy. Clearly, all mamas wanted a happy birth story, no matter how they planned to birth. They did not want fear-filled, unhappy birth stories.
And so I set out to compile a book of happy birth stories—Belly Button Bliss—to capture women’s most inspiring, empowering perspectives from birthing. I wanted it to be accessible and beautiful and meaningful for all pregnant women, not only for those who wanted a natural birth or a home birth. That’s why Belly Button Bliss: A Small Collection of Happy Birth Stories includes births that took place in hospitals and at home, with midwives and with OBs, with doulas and without, with pain meds and naturally. There’s even a section of extra-special birth stories, including Cesarean-section, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), twins, and a birth story told through the eyes of an adoptive mother.
I never doubted that a book of happy birth stories was a good idea. It just makes sense. Good things happen, and we feel good when we hear about them. Even when birth doesn’t unfold according to plan, a mother’s birthing experience can be a positive one. Women who feel supported, cared for, and listened to during birth tend to have the most favorable feelings about their birth experience. Thoughtful care providers, supportive loved ones, quality childbirth education, good prenatal care—and perhaps even a book of happy birth stories—can help boost a woman’s sense of confidence for birth. And confidence like that just might lead to happy birth stories for more mamas.