Sunday, July 17, 2011


Dear Birth Peeps,

If you saw my Nine Birth Story slide show a few months ago at ICAN or Doula Care, you would have seen a Butterfly Gate. You can probably follow the logic of the former butterfly symbol: we are like the flitting butterfly landing here and there when we tell our birth story, partially and quickly, to strangers, acquaintances, friends. The Butterfly Gate is no more: one day the Muse took my brush, wiped out the Butterfly, and I waited for another order. . . Late one night . . . the new Fourth Gate appeared in the symbol of ripples of Teacups to represent the Social Birth Story.

Check it out! Teacups… in ripples… giving us the feeling of a rock skipping over the top of a lake. The Social Birth Story begins to emerge immediately after birth with the first phone call or visitor; it is a brief story used to share the highlights. It is also used for bonding, story-swapping, bragging, and “competition” between women. When we begin to pay attention, we begin to notice that the Social Story is far from fixed! What is emphasized or left out, as well as the emotional meaning, changes a little each time it is told depending on who is listening. That’s why the symbolic Teacups are different colors, shapes, and sizes.

The “ripples” around the Teacups are speckled with dots. Sometimes the colors on either side match (to represent rapport and being heard by the story-listener), and sometimes the colored dots don’t match (to represent a lack of being understood). Not being heard, understood, or validated, while telling our story in those early weeks and months can be hurtful, and cause secondary trauma.

The Social Story is not just “social” chit chat, it is an underestimated, powerful force in creating the collective story of birth. Because it is a story told quickly, often to half-listening listeners who are swapping their own stories… all listeners potentially leave with their own meaning, inferences, even distortions… then pass them on to others, like the rippling rock creating endless waves in the collective story of birth in our culture.



  1. Depending on how you tell your story, and how it is heard it can enrich the memory of your birth or dilute it. It's why I am so passionate about birth story circles. A place where a story can be told, held and acknowledged in a sacred way.

  2. It is a shame that as new moms or even not so new (my baby is 19 months) we dont really get enough chances or time to tell our birth story fully. It is always summarized and absolutely told in different ways because either the listener doesnt really care or the moment is not "right". I looooove when I come accross other moms eager to tell their birth stories and acctually care to listen to mine. Until this day, I think about my birth story every day and in my daily life everything has something to do with birth. ;)

  3. I am struck by the idea of how we tell others birth stories. I regret now the way in which I have shortened or simplified others stories. Ie "She had an easy birth" or " she labored for forty hours and had to go to the hospital for a cesarean. " we're those my stories to tell? How did my telling them effect the collective consciousness view of birth? How would I do it differently now? Will I change how I tell others stories in the future? I also see how telling the stories of others changes how I see my story.. - ivy Anna