Let’s get something straight: there’s definitely a feeling of solidarity among women who have given birth. Within that “club,” there exists an acknowledgement of a shared experience, a sense of “I’ve been there, and so have you.” With that in mind, it’s understandable that some people who have given birth might want to trade war stories. It can be cathartic to talk about the things you’ve been through, especially when those experiences have been incredibly challenging. But — and this is a strong but — it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone might want to hear those details. Case in point: me. I don’t want to hear them. I don’t want to know your birth story.
Before you hate me, allow me to explain.
Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve encountered several people — family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers — who have volunteered numerous details about their own birthing experiences that I didn’t ask to hear. Most of the time, they were stories of things that went wrong (like an emergency c-section when the baby’s heart rate dropped suddenly) or things that were immensely painful (like a third-degree tear). As someone who is about to give birth for the first time, I am super anxious about the labor and delivery process. I am fearful of all the things that are unknown, and my mind is already brimming with “what if” questions. For that reason, I really, really, really don’t need to know these specific scary details.
That’s not to say that I am going into the next few months completely blind. My husband and I recently took a 9-hour birthing class at our hospital, where we received a plethora of information about what to expect. I spent a lot of that time taking deep breaths and trying to calm my nerves. But I left that class feeling a little better, having armed myself with concrete possibilities. This could happen. This might happen. This will happen. For someone who likes to be in control of everything, having even a semblance of a mental picture of what labor will look like was helpful to me.
But the difference between the information in my birthing class and the anecdotes from well-meaning friends is monumental. In the class, we were receiving statistics along with these details. For every terrifying thing we learned, there was the acknowledgment that “this is common” or “this is rare.” It is altogether different to hear a friend tell you something that happened to her; it makes it more personal, and more real. It makes you think: "This could also happen to me."
While some women might want to hear all the gory details of your birth story, others do not, and both approaches are equally valid.
To that end, we should consider the things we share on social media as well. I recently came across an article that was shared by a friend on Facebook about women who die in childbirth. The acquaintance who posted it is also currently pregnant, and I’m going to assume that she had some sort of positive motive in sharing it. Maybe it helped her in some way. But it felt like an assault on my psyche. I was instantly anxious upon seeing it, my mind wandering a million miles an hour with the most morbid “what if” scenarios possible.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever talk about our birthing experiences or that we should all shut up entirely. On the contrary, I think those conversations are extremely important. I applaud the mothers who take to blogs and websites to share their experiences with others, who are working to lower the stigma and the taboo nature of childbirth. But I think it’s just as important to respect the audiences of those stories; we should be able to have a say in whether or not we want to hear them. While some women might want to hear all the gory details, others do not, and both approaches are equally valid.
Please don’t be offended if I don’t want to hear your birth story. It’s less about you and much more about me.
There’s a fine line between raising awareness of childbirth and unfairly pushing childbirth-related content on others. It’s important to strike a balance that honors everyone in the conversation: the people who want to share, the people who want to hear, and those who wish to hear a little bit less. So please, don’t be offended if I don’t want to hear your birth story. It’s less about you and much more about me, but that should be respected all the same.