ONCE UPON A TIME… THE TRADITION OF STORY TELLING IN BIRTHING
Tere Garnons-Williams, BScN, MMid RM.
The ancient art of story telling has been utilized by women throughout history; women have sat, scrubbed, cooked, cleaned while sharing stories - sometimes over a cuppa; sometimes over a shared task. More recently, we see story shared in books, journals and even more recently electronically, as ebooks or in blogs and social media.
I discovered the power of story in changing our perception of birth in the early 1970s through Ina Mae Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery”, stories that changed how many of us from that era perceived birth. In fact, it started a birthing revolution in the western world – one that continues to this day. Jennifer Worth’s book “Call the Midwife” is another, with stories of birth taking on a life of their own, eventually being aired on international television. These stories changed how women (and culture) perceived birth – and changed the way we birth.
So what is the role of story telling in modern day birthing? Are anecdotal musings of consequence? During pre-conception?; pregnancy?; Labour?; Early parenting?... And to who?: The women?; The midwife?; The broader community? And does the tradition of story telling have some of the necessary tools for supporting optimum birth?
As a Midwife, I consider each story I am told by the women I care for as profound and I listen for clues to discover who this woman is – her perception of herself as a woman, a birthing woman, a mother, a parent, a lover - her strengths and weaknesses. Stories she shares can tell me things about what is happening for her and her unborn – after all, she is the expert of her own experience. And more times than not, her stories give me clues about “stuff” that I may need to consider when caring for her.
I will use real life stories about stories to expand on this topic. And I’ll encourage participants to do the same. After all, I love the stories of women. They can change the world.