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.

3 thoughts on “Story Power

  1. Pingback: A Blessing…and more… « Talk Birth

  2. Pingback: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: The Midwife as a Storyteller and Teacher by Patricia Harman | Talk Birth

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