My journey into Birthing From Within and Birth Story Medicine, by Gabi Pezo
I remember when I decided to become a Birth Story Listener. I was pregnant with my second child and was sitting in the hospital, waiting for the results of my glucose test. While I waited, I thought I would read Birthing From Within, by Pam England, a book I had bought months before at the beginning of my pregnancy. I devoured this book while I waited; I couldn’t stop because every single word rang true and opened my heart one word at a time.
How Birth Story Medicine was Born: The author was a midwife who, during her first pregnancy, planned for a beautiful home birth but ended up with a surprise cesarean. The sadness and sense of failure that she felt put her on a journey of self-discovery that led her to write “Birthing From Within” and to start teaching childbirth education classes that were different from any that came before. During that process Pam invented the concept of birth story medicine, and wrote that a birth story listener is a person who supports a mom, dad, or birth worker (doula, midwife, doctor or nurse) to integrate a challenging birth experience safely. A challenging birth experience is subjective and can look different to different people--one person's perfect birth experience may be a traumatic experience for another person.
A Difficult Birth: Like Pam England, my first pregnancy ended in a difficult birth which resulted in a cesarean delivery and a challenging postpartum recovery. I couldn’t believe that all my planning, childbirth classes, yoga, and doula care had mounted up to nothing (which is how I felt at that time.). Because of this disappointment I avoided talking about my birth and hearing about other “successful" births. I avoided looking at pictures or videos of cesareans. These are common responses to birth trauma, but I didn't know that at the time.
When I did occasionally muster up the strength to tell my story, I would always run into a wall. All I heard back was that I should be happy: I had a healthy baby and things could have been a lot worse. What was I complaining about?
They were absolutely right, what was I complaining about? I had an amazing boy who I loved more than I could ever imagine. But there was a part of me that was sad, crushed and disappointed about what had happened during that birth. I felt broken, and like I had failed from the get-go. But I couldn’t tell anyone. No one wanted to hear about it, and I kept quiet for years. But those feelings didn't go away, and eventually rage ensued: I was angry at everything and everyone. I did not feel like myself, so I finally decided to go see someone and discovered that I had experienced birth trauma and was suffering from PTSD. I worked with a transpersonal therapist and got through it with time, patience and compassion. With help and birth story medicine, I was able to heal.
A Calling to Birth Story Medicine. As soon as I learned about birth story listeners, I decided to become one. I feel strongly that mothers needed a supportive place to tell their stories, without being judged, and everyone needed to be heard by someone who can truly listen to them. I wanted to create a safe space in Dubai for parents and birth workers and I wanted to provide support for them to change the negative self-belief they had formed around specific moments in their birth. This is how Birth Story Medicine works--it cannot change your birth, but it can change how you think about it and how you think about yourself as a birthing person and as a mother.
That was how I started my journey with Birthing from Within. As I worked through the process I absorbed the philosophy by reading other books by Pam England and enrolled in more classes, I was hungry to learn how to support parents in accessing the knowledge they already have, in tuning in to their own intuition and in becoming aware and mindful during birth.
It’s really an honor to be able to be the first “Birthing from Within” mentor in Dubai, and I look forward to supporting more parents in their journey through the childbearing year. Currently, I offer Birth Story Listening sessions in small groups of 4 or in individual private sessions. I also offer mother-to-Be circles and Birth Art Workshops, and look forward to adding more Birthing from Within services in the near future.
What has your experience been when it comes to telling your birth story? Were you surprised at any of the thoughts and feelings you have experienced after your birth? Have you felt truly listened to? Do you feel ready to open up to someone who will truly listen and support you?
Gabi is a certified Birth Story Listener, Birth Art Facilitator, Mindfulness Consultant, Transpersonal Development Facilitator, Breastfeeding Counselor, Transpersonal Women Circle Facilitator and Laughter Yoga Teacher. She is currently studying under the mentorship of Pam England to become a Childbirth Educator aligned with the Philosophy of Birthing from Within. She is looking forward to listening to your story, whatever it may be.