Archive | December 22, 2010

Story Power

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” –Muriel Rukeyser

I have written before about the role and power of story and birth and I have an article pending publication on the same subject. In a not-about-birth anthology I finished recently (The Politics of Women’s Spirituality), I read the following from Carol Christ:

Women’s stories have not been told. And without stories there is no articulation of experience. Without stories a woman is lost when she comes to make the important decisions of her life. She does not learn to value her struggles, to celebrate her strengths, to comprehend her pain. Without stories she cannot understand herself. Without stories she is alienated from those deeper experiences of self and world that have been called spiritual or religious. She is closed in silence. The expression of women’s spiritual quest is integrally related to the telling of women’s stories. If women’s stories are not told, the depth of women’s souls will not be known.

While she is writing about women’s spirituality, I think what she says is very true of birth as well—if women’s birth stories are not heard, the depth of women’s experiences will not be known (and the birth machine will keep on rolling). I also hear women apologize for telling their birth stories “over and over” or, “for continuing to talk about this.” BUT, I believe that telling the story over and over is how we process and integrate the story into our lives. It is how we make it our story and integrate the lessons from it as well as making it make sense within in the context of the rest of our lives as women. Without telling the story in this manner, there is a gap left behind (or, sometimes a wound). Telling the story multiple times does not indicate “stuckness”—on the contrary, not telling the story leads us to a “stuck” place (I think I get this idea from Pam England, but I’m not completely sure).

So, as long as we’re talking story, my favorite books of birth stories are:

The Power of Women by Sister Morningstar

Simply Give Birth by Heather Cushman-Dowdee

Journey into Motherhood by Sheri Menelli

Adventures in Natural Childbirth Janet Schwegel

And, my own birth stories are available too:

My first son’s birth story is available here.

My second son’s birth story is available here.

My third son’s birth story is available here (warning: miscarriage/baby loss).


On a somewhat related note—this time not about sharing stories, but of hearing too many other voices—I did just enjoy reading a blog post from Jennifer Louden called “static free authenticity” that describes something I complain of feeling:

Humble suggestion number one: Turn off Everyone Else’s Broadcast
When it feels too hard to hear you among all the other yous out there, you aren’t suffering from multiple personality disorder, but you may need an Internet fish bowl break.

I say “fish bowl” because everyone’s voices and big plans and ideas can create a sort of invisible fish bowl that hems you in – without you necessarily noticing it.

I describe it as being so filled with the voices of others that it is difficult (or impossible) to hear the still, small voice without. Or, alternatively (when thinking of my own written contributions to the world) as contributing to the neverending cacophony of voices clamoring to be heard.

Speaking of Jen Louden, in another post (this one about depletion), she quotes a woman as saying: “Women get into a cycle of depletion and they’re afraid to step out of it, because then they would be freed up to actually take action on what they really want. They are positive they won’t be able to create their heart’s desire. So they stay busy or scattered or overcommitted so they never have to try.

I see a lot of truth in this also.

Book Review: The Power of Women

Tonight I realized I apparently never posted my review of The Power of Women to this blog, but instead had it only on the CfM blog. Since I love the book, I decided to remedy the situation immediately!

The Power of Women
By Sister MorningStar
Motherbaby Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1-890446-43-7
201 pages, paperback, $29.95

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Occasionally, a book comes into my life that touches me so deeply that I am at a loss for words. The new book, The Power of Women, by Sister MorningStar, is one of those rare books. A treasure. A gem. A rare jewel. A delight. These are the words that do come to mind. However, superlatives—though true—do little justice to describing the actual book.

The Power of Women is a book of “instinctual” birth stories told through the eyes of a gifted and sensitive midwife. The stories are from her perspective, not the mother’s. Each story has either a lesson to share or is a glimpse into that deep inner wisdom and strength found in birthing women that is so easily ignored or dismissed in our modern birth culture. This book is good “word medicine” and the empowering stories within it shine a light to help other women trust their instincts. This light also helps other birth professionals rediscover the magic and mystery and wonder of birth and women.

The Power of Women also touched me in a special way because the author divides her time between my own native Missouri and a birth center in Mexico. Some of the stories shared take place in each location (more from Mexico). I found it delightful to discover the power of my own Missouri midwifery activist friends represented throughout the book. Familiar names and faces graced the pages for me and it was a treat to experience that connection.

The book consists of twelve chapters, each containing 5-9 different stories each. The stories themselves are not long, narrative birth accounts, but are moments captured brilliantly for the glimpse of powerful truth they share. Some are only 1/2 page in length–but the depth in each is great. The chapters are titled things like “Stories of Power” or “Stories of Courage” or “Stories of Community and the tales shared therein are loosely bound together with that common thread.

To be clear, not all of the stories are “happy” or are necessarily “good” birth stories, some are even fairly scary and even depressing. All are powerful.

My only critique of the book, which I hesitate to share because it seems petty in light of such a beautiful and wise book, is that the formatting of the text is odd. The font size is small and the text tightly spaced with very small indents.

If you find yourself in a place where you feel trapped alone in a world where the birth you love so much is becoming a “mythological story,” read this book. If you are an aspiring or current midwife, doula, or childbirth educator and wish to deepen your understanding of birth, read this book. If you are a pregnant woman hungering to dig deeply into instinctual birth and the wisdom and power of story, read this book. The Power of Women is a powerful, touching, and magical journey.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.