A birth story tells a child how they came into the world and can include the day they were born or their adoption day but either way, it allows a child to feel loved and wanted. For years, mothers have been telling their children birth stories and I never really understood why until I had my own. I know now that it helps the child understand where they came from and what their connection is to their parents. You can see it sometimes when children re-tell their stories to their parents, showing how imperative it is to them to feel safe and wanted. A birth story does not need to include all the gory details, but just the relevant facts that a child will understand. Repeating the story to the child reinforces the bond you have with them and ensures that they feel good about themselves.
Crafting your child’s birth story also allows you to connect to a day that perhaps wasn’t the greatest because let’s face it, birthing a child is tough work. Every day, we craft stories out of our experiences and re-tell them to others to convey what we have gone through, and yet, we still don’t really grasp the importance of stories and what they mean to our lives. Stories and narratives give meaning to our lives and show us things that we may not have expected at face-value. Even the stories themselves change over time, but that doesn’t mean the essence of the story itself has changed. Especially for children, stories are incredibly important for building their worlds, imaginations, self-esteem, and how they view themselves. When you tell a story, no matter who it is about, they engage the listener because listeners ultimately can see themselves in your story and can put themselves in your role and that is how we teach compassion. As such, the most powerful story is the story of when you were born.
The one thing that has changed since I became a mother is being acutely aware of death. Every time I step out or the baby leaves the house, my mind inadvertently wanders to what would happen if one of us were not to return. Death becomes so much more imminent when you’re entrusted with the care of a tiny little person and now I know why mothers constantly worry about where their children are, if they’re hurt, or what they’re doing. I always thought it odd that women did that, but now I know why. I’m one of those women. I worry about what would happen to him if he became motherless. I worry about what would happen if he were injured. I worry about strangers and now I understand why women share those posts about missing children. I don’t share them because I think it feeds into our collective paranoia, but I can understand why. Being a mother means that you’re always uncertain and there are those that prey on that fear, causing families to restrict their children from playing outside or walking to school alone. The truth is, we will never stop fretting about our children, but we should temper that fear with their freedom to grow. If we placate our fears too much, we may be limiting our children as well.
It is natural to fear, but we must be careful of our actions, for they affect our children. I was watching YouTube clips from Iyanla’s Fix My Life and I realized something profound between the relationship of a child and a mother. While many of the children felt alienated from their mother because of what happened in their childhood, the mothers would always profess that it didn’t’ matter because they loved them. That’s when I realized that despite what a mother does, she measures her love for her children through her emotions and what she feels for them and regardless of all that she has done, she will always love them. However, children and anyone else can’t see love through emotions. They see and measure love through actions and no matter how much a mother loves their child, if they don’t see the actions, they will usually feel alienated from them. We can love our children and fear for them as much as we’d like, but we must remember that what truly matters are our actions and what we decide to do for our children because they are watching.
Since having a child, I’ve had to adjust to motherhood and am doing so badly. What I didn’t realize is that not only would I have to change my habits, but I would also need to change my mental habits. The thing you’ll hear the most from a new parent is how tired they are, but not only are they in need of sleep and deeply fatigued, but they are mentally drained. I think every expectant parent knows that they will have time constraints once their child arrives, but they do not understand the toll it will take on them mentally. No one quite tells you that you will yell at your child because you are tired. You will be short with them. You will not always listen to them. Not because you don’t care for them, but that you are fighting to have time for yourself and your children and it is a losing battle. You will have your good days and your bad days and it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent on your bad days.
When you were childless, you had much more free time and options to spend your time, but didn’t know how valuable this time was because it was yours and you didn’t have to choose. Now, your child consumes a large portion of your time and you find it hard to spend a few minutes on yourself. Because of this, you may become short with your partner or children because it is extremely hard to go from having all the time in the world to no time for yourself. What we should do is temper our expectations. Let’s say that when you were without child, you had about 5 hours a day where you could take time to take a shower, read, watch a movie, play games, clean, or whatever else you wanted to do. Now, you have the same amount, but only 1 hour to spend on yourself, and to compare 1 to 5, you feel as if you have absolutely no time for yourself and you feel as if you are losing out. What we need to realize is that we need to accept that we only have one hour and maximize that time as best as we can.
Oftentimes, what we will do is spend the time trying to indulge in something we want to do, so we may not take care of ourselves or clean because we feel as if we are entitled to the whole hour because we used to have 5, but that is not the case. We have to mentally train ourselves to understand that we don’t have 5 hours anymore and we must prioritize the one hour instead of letting the hour consume us and realize that we haven’t actually done anything productive, leading us to feel even worse about ourselves. Understand that we can break that hour down and concentrate 10 minutes on one task, 20 on another and 30 on another. This will make us feel as if we are accomplishing more and doing more instead of actually spending the hour on ourselves and feeling as if we did nothing. However, we may still spend the time doing absolutely nothing on some days and that’s okay as well as long as we know we’re going to get back on track. The trick is not feeling as if we have less time now than when we were without children, but understanding that we need to utilize the time we do have to ourselves.