I first started collecting birth stories for a research project in college. I continue to be captivated and empowered
by these stories of female experience. Every story reminds me of both the human connection and diversity illuminated
by every individual's entry into this world. The depth and detail shared about the womanly ability to create, grow,
and bring forth life shows how culture shapes women's interpretations, while at the same time, being irrelevant to the awe
of giving birth. Each story is representative of the insidious nature American society's attitude towards women spanning
the last fifty years. Some women have internalized medical definitions of birth, others have rebelled, and many lie
somewhere in between. The purpose of collecting the spectrum of experiences is simply to celebrate women's powerful
ability to bring life into the world, regardless of cultural attitudes and interferences.
To create the original collection of stories for school, I interviewed fourteen
women, in person and over the phone. The interviews usually began with explaining the purpose of collecting birth stories,
and that I was interested in whatever the mother was comfortable with sharing about her process of birth. Some women
started talking, and did not stop for over forty-five minutes. With others, the interviews became more like conversations,
and I have included my own questions in the stories. The first birth story was a written donation by the daughter, and
part of the thirteenth story was written by the doula following the birth; all the rest are edited versions of a spoken story.
For the most part, there was no editing of the stories for length; I figured that anything a mother considered part
of her birth story was relevant. The majority of the births collected come from the Seattle area, since most of the
women interviewed reside in the area now.
I have been lucky enough
to find a few families of women who were interested in sharing their stories with me; therefore the stories include three
generations of birth for one family and two generations for another. The generational connection is representative of
both the diversity and continuity of life through birth. Cultural interferences have changed over the years, along with
cultural interpretations of birth and womanhood. The complex relationship of power and trust involved in any birth,
when women are simultaneously most vulnerable and powerful, can be found throughout these stories. The mother-child
connection must not be clichéd or ignored; the obstacles and bonding which connect mothers to their children are another
piece of this collection which deserve celebration. I cannot think of another life experience that would be more fulfilling
or inspiring to collect than women's births. The process of pregnancy and birth represents the possible life outcomes,
hardships as well as triumphs, which are inherent in this world. Birth represents both life and death; the struggle
and overwhelming joy of being.