It was a clear, cold night…

This is how the story of my birth always starts. A clear, cold February night. My mother’s water breaking at 2am. Her excitement. A long coat with a fur collar. An orange Honda that might as well have been a coach with four white horses on its way to the hospital because my mother felt like a queen.

I’ve heard this story many times. Usually on my birthday, but not always. I heard it today, for example, while reporting on the latest news of my 6-months pregnant belly. This story used to make me roll my eyes. I’d listen, squirming until it was finished. Always relieved when it was over. I’m not exactly sure why this was. I guess there was an intimacy in it and a reminder of helplessness and dependency that made me cringe. But today it was different. Today, for the first time, I heard the story of a woman having a baby. Just like I will in a few months. For the first time, I started to see it through my mother’s eyes instead of mine. I realized that she doesn’t tell me this story for my benefit, not really. She tells this story because she loves telling it and I remind her of it.

This got me thinking about birth stories. They say a woman will never forget the day she gives birth to each of her children.ย There is something so powerful about these stories. A book I read spent the first half just telling birth stories and that was my favourite part. I’ve found that women are eager to share them, when they think they have a safe audience and a captive ear. There is always something epic, larger-than-life about them. Joyful stories can become fantastical, painful stories hover near tragedy. They seem to be made up of moments, snapshots strung together. The smell of chocolate cake, the pain of the “ring of fire”, a slippery baby on a belly.

I read another book that said some women who watch their birth video too soon after giving birth can be traumatized by it. Their memory of the actual experience is fuzzy, the way nature intended it to be. So when they watch the video, the reality of the birth can be too much to take. The book talks about one woman who saw pictures of herself giving birth and had to lock them up for years. The book advises not to look at pictures or videos for a few weeks at least. This gives a woman time to make her own memory.

So we make these memories. We lovingly shape them, keeping bits we like, cutting out parts we don’t. And then we pass them on, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly, any chance we get. They contain some of our biggest struggles and our biggest joys. Sometimes fraught with danger, sometimes gleaming with ecstasy. Because these are days that change our lives forever.

I look forward to finding out what my birth story will be. I wonder if I’ll tell it to my child every year on his birthday and make him squirm, or if I’ll write it down quietly in a letter for my baby to read when she is older. But I can imagine that I’ll probably craft it just as carefully and treasure it just as much as my mother does hers.

Do you have a birth story? If so, do you share it? What is it?

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8 thoughts on “It was a clear, cold night…

  1. I was surprised how compelled i feel to share my birth story, having considered myself a private person for 32 years the arrival of my daughter brought a new found openness ( alongside a fair few other changes ) …having always kept “myself to myself” as a new mum I found myself embraced by a whole community of people new to my life! and realised I had been embracing them right back for 3 months without realising when we emerged from that “first 12 weeks haze”….and nearly a year in have to say it was definitely a change for the better.

    I look forward to sharing this story for years to come…

    • Emily, how I love that! I’m a pretty private person too – I wonder if/how much that’ll change in the next few months. I can’t help thinking there’s something about motherhood that breaks down certain boundaries.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. as with most things these days, I read this in the dark while nursing baby to sleep. It was a lovely accompanient. Funny, I don’t actually know my birth story, except for the fact that I was born on my mother’s birthday (so you’d think there’d be a story). Something about an Indian woman throwing a paper cup of water at her husband while laboring, missing him, and nearly getting my father instead. But my mom isn’t much of a story teller. But your post made me think of what I consider ‘my birth story’ which is actually D’s birth story. Funny, how his is mine We share it, we both have claim. And of course, there will be dad’s version too (much more gore, far less romantic). Should we tell D both versions, see which one makes him squirm more? I’m not sure yet, but I think he should know it involved match of the day football, cake baking, polka dot socks, a fair amount of humor, and an overwhelming, breathtaking wonder. I think the birth story changes over time, like a lot of things with early motherhood- gets glossier, rosier. not less true, just a different kind.

    • What a nice image of you nursing your baby and musing on birth.

      I love that your and Mr. Bez’s stories of D’s birth would be so different. I’d love to hear them side by side. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And I love those details – football, cake, polka dot socks. They tell a story in themselves.

  3. How lovely. I will keep that queen-like image of your mama in her orange Honda horse-drawn carriage, about to give birth, with me for some time.

    BeZ, I was also born on my mother’s birthday! And this fact has everything to do with the story of my birth and how I understand it. The night before I was born, my parents were walking into the front door of my father’s mother’s house for an early birthday party for my mom, who was then 2 weeks overdue with me. As she tells it, she stopped in the doorway and refused to go in. Her water had not broken and she was not having contractions, but she decided in that doorway that she could not take an evening of birthday cake and all manner of questions about when the baby was going to come. Instead, she was going to go to the hospital and have her baby. She told this to my father, they turned around, got back in the car, went to the hospital, and at some point between then and being admitted, her labor began. I was born in the middle of the afternoon the next day, and the nurses brought in two cupcakes: one for my mother, with a candle, and a second tinier one for me. It was her 27th birthday.

    Now we sing simultaneously to each other over the phone every year, and have a strange kind of ESP that we attribute to our shared birthday.

    • LaZ – how lovely!! What a delicious story. I love those two cupcakes and your mom knowing (deciding?) she was going to have you. And your shared birthday becoming such a bond between you. In a blog I read recently, a mom talked about how her relationship with each of her children was different (not that she loved one more than another) and part of that difference came from how they came into the world and how she dealt with their arrival. I suppose these are also stories about two people meeting each other for the first time, and like any relationship, that first encounter gets knitted into the fabric of the bond between you.

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