Heart-Shaped Box: A Mother’s Tale [Part the First?]

As you may have gleaned from my brief post after Baby Sister was born, her arrival was the culmination of a long medical adventure.

And, moreover, her birth was the cap on the child-bearing part of my life.  So, as I’ve moved psychically from child-bearing to child-rearing, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey to becoming a mother.

That journey started several states away, but only five years ago.

Five years.  Goodness.  It’s staggering to me to think about that: five years ago, I was a teacher and a wife, feeling that tug that is familiar to so many of us as we start to consider growing beyond a unit of two.

But motherhood was just an inkling rather than the indelible mark it is now.

That journey has been shaped all along by the fact – unbeknownst to me before I started it – that I have a bicornuate uterus.  My uterus, you see,  is shaped like a heart instead of an oval.  Many women with this condition have trouble becoming pregnant and experience repeat miscarriages.  Others – like me – carry their babies in the breech position.  Others – like me – run out of space to grow their kiddos and deliver them early.

I’ve always liked the idea that I’ve grown my children in a heart-shaped box, despite the problems it’s caused.

Our journey to becoming parents wasn’t the smoothest one, medically speaking.  And yet ours had far fewer potholes than those of many of the women I know.  But it’s a story that I feel compelled to tell.

To whom?  Well, to you, maybe.

I want to tell you more, at least, about Baby Sister breaking my water, insisting on an early exit, a few minutes after I called Husband from my hospital bed telling him that we had a c-section scheduled for the next day.  I want to tell you about the two men who spent four weeks outside my hospital room on scaffolding, caulking windows in subzero temperatures.  I want to tell you about the guy who visited each day, booming on the door of my room with his giant class ring and hawking the local newspaper.  I want to tell you about the ice storms that prefaced Baby Sister’s arrival and the sunshine that followed it.

But is this the place for that?  The space for that?  Is this a story you want to hear?  Or is it a story I should keep to myself, to ourselves, to consign to a pretty journal to give to Baby Sister if and when she starts to feel that inkling herself?

What do you think?  Do you like reading other women’s birth stories?  Or do you find them too personal and – let’s face it – potentially boring? 

Image: “There are many things in life…” by katerha via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
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53 responses to “Heart-Shaped Box: A Mother’s Tale [Part the First?]

  1. On a personal level, I say yes, please. Tell me your story. I am on the other end of the mothering gig, and I still like to hear, still learn from, still stand in awe of the reckoning of the day we give birth. Yes, please.

    From the perspective of a fellow blogger, I say yes, if it is part of who you are. I ask myself the same questions every day, as I post. Will this mean anything to anyone? And the answer is this: if it means something to me, if it is part and parcel of who I am, then it gets posted. If it is true, on any level.

    We all have freedom of choice – we choose what we read, what we allow into our lives and our psyche. And all we have to do is tell our story. They – whoever they are – decide what and how to take it in.

    Yes, please. Write your story.

    • Thanks for the reminder that the element of choice is a two way street. I can choose to write or not write and you can choose to read or not read – one of the beautiful aspects of this community of ideas that we have here in the blogosphere.

  2. Never boring. Endlessly fascinating. Yours to tell. Ours to enjoy (or skip.). Birth stories will always matter mist to the family who lived them, but are beautiful to read. My opinion.

  3. I love birth stories in general and would be thrilled to read yours in particular. xox

  4. I have always, even before having children of my own, enjoyed reading others’ birth stories. And one of my friends, who has many physical issues and is terrified of giving birth, finds great strength in reading birth stories – because, she says, it reminds her that no matter how difficult or traumatic it is, women do get through it.

    So I say yes, from a reader’s perspective. If, however, you decide that those little details of Baby Sister’s birth are something you want to tuck away for her and for you, and not for everyone else, that is understandable too, and I don’t think anyone will hold it against you. Do whatever you decide is best for you and yours!

    • I had mixed feelings about hearing and reading birth stories when I first started thinking about having kids. Some would terrify me; some would hearten me. But your friend’s perspective is a good one: our birth experiences teach us that our bodies are capable of remarkable acts of strength, regardless of the path we take to the end result.

  5. Carolyn Wallace

    No birth story is ever boring. It is the telling of our stories that is missing in our culture today. Women need to be aware of and tell their stories to understand their connection to the earth, human kind and each other. Thank you for being a leader in this realm, and for your courage in sharing your story with us!
    Peace,
    Carolyn W. (aka Peaceful Mama, who is not quite ready yet with her website! 🙂

  6. I get totally engrossed in all birthing tales, my own and everyone else’s.

  7. As a mother now, I always want my friends and other women to have the “best” pregnancy and birthing experience possible. Hospitals can be scary places and giving birth can be scary if you don’t know what to expect, what options are available, or what to ask. Hearing others’ experiences can help to educate and empower the new and seasoned parents!
    And, personally- I would love to hear your story!

  8. I still enjoy birth stories – if they are well written. And I suspect you’ve given us a lovely (impeccably written) teaser, with your heart-shaped box beginning the tale…

    You could write anything, Kristen, and I believe we’d be captivated.

  9. Kristen it’s not so much what story you tell but rather how you tell it that is so captivating. Personally, I love your honest openness when sharing your life with us.

    Most women have a natural nurturing instinct and therefore can relate to a story of birth irrespective of whether they have children or not.

    I would love to hear your story.

  10. I feel like it’s all in the delivery (no pun intended). Some people can write about the most fascinating topic in the most boring way but you have a way with words…a heart-shaped uterus? That intrigues me…

    I agree with Big Little Wolf that you could write anything and captivate your readers.

  11. Write it! If you want.

    A friend of mine has a heart shaped uterus too – and needed stitches to keep all three of hers in. Which had consequences you might know about. Her telling was hilarious.

    • I never needed those stitches, just a combination of bed rest and early delivery with all three. I never realized that the heart-shaped uterus was such a common phenomenon (about 1% of women have it, I think) until I was diagnosed myself.

  12. I love birth stories. If you feel comfortable telling, please do. Not a single birth story – like each unique snowflake – is the same. Everyone finds something different in the tales of birth.

  13. I love birth stories, and I love telling mine, too! Each story is as unique as the child born. And each story is as beautiful as each baby born. If you choose to write your story, it will be beautiful.

  14. Are you kidding? I want to hear every detail!

  15. wow. well first of all – I do like birth stories ever since I gave birth myself and (kind of) know what women are talking about. But I have to admit that sometimes I struggle with the details (cuts, exact measures of openings etc…) but that’s mainly when men are around and I think that it is a bit difficult for them to hear these things.

    second of all – I had no idea that a heart shaped uterus was such a big deal. A doc in hospital told my at the very beginning of my pregnancy that mine was shaped like a heart and I was the one worried but he said it wouldn’t be a problem at all. Well it wasn’t and I just liked the idea of having a uterus like that. Now I’m scared again for when I want to become pregnant again. phew.

    So please, tell your story!

    • Oh no! I certainly didn’t mean to cause you (or anyone else) any undue anxiety over your heart-shaped uterus. From what I understand, there are very different degrees of severity of the condition, depending on the length of the septum in the uterus. I suspect that your experience with your first pregnancy would be indicative of yours in any future pregnancies – so if you didn’t have any trouble with it the first time and your doctor wasn’t concerned, there’s no need for new concern.

      Thank you so much for visiting Motherese! I hope you’ll visit again. (And I promise that I don’t make it a habit of scaring my guests!) 🙂

  16. My goodness, I hope you share because this is the VERY thing that brings us universally together as women. The pain, anticipation, joy and courage. It’s childbirth, and it’s beautiful journey to share.

  17. I LOVE reading birth stories. My births were not happy events. The first time I almost died. The second time, we lost one of the babies. Maybe that is why I looooove reading about others’ journeys that end with pushing instead of surgery. Gazing into a newborn’s eyes instead of blood transfusions or the NICU. Though it is also interesting to know that the journey is not smooth for everyone. I spent a lot of time questioning and blaming myself for my less-than-ideal births. I’ve moved on to cherishing the perfectly ideal children I get to raise.

    • I have a post in the works about the inadvertent pressure women put on each other to have a “perfect” birth experience. I ended up with three c-sections, so my pregnancies also ended in surgery, but without any of the trauma or loss you faced. (I knew from the first trimester of my first pregnancy that I could only deliver via c-section and I think that made it easier for me never to feel guilt that my babies entered the world via c-section. To be continued…)

  18. Kristen, I’m not sure I could add anything that hasn’t been said above. But I do think that by sharing our birthing stories (and other life stories) we teach others. During my first labor & delivery I wasn’t as surprised by some things that happened (that weren’t covered in birthing class) because I had talked to other women who had experienced the same things.

    I would be honored to read your story if you chose to share.

  19. I love birth stories and am already intrigued about yours….would love to hear more.

  20. Tell, tell, tell! I want to read it. And even if I didn’t, this is your space, not mine. You’re the creative director and content editor, and I’m just one little subscriber (who’s in it for the long haul).

  21. Do tell! It sounds fascinating. How on earth did you manage homelife from a hospital bed. This sounds more like a book you could be writing too:) Will be eagerly waiting!

    • The home management was taken care of by an intrepid team of my husband, my mom, and our fabulous babysitter. I was away for almost a month – a good, if difficult, lesson in letting go.

  22. Maybe the world isn’t even round—maybe it’s heart-shaped… and whatever spills out of your heart-shaped heart, as well your womb, is an offering for us all to relish, as well the telling.

  23. I have never met a boring birth story. If you feel ready to tell it, I would love to read it.

  24. (Um. That sounded like I expect yours to be boring, and that’s not what I meant. Quite the opposite. The two sentences were sort of unrelated. Sorry about that.)

  25. I would LOVE to read what you have to write 🙂 Birth stories are so amazing, as each one is so unique and special. They are part of us, and part of the whole sisterhood of women! Share on, lady!

  26. I love your writing …so tell and I want to thank you for sharing 🙂

  27. Oh my friend. If you feel compelled, I feel compelled. I agree with BLW and Sarah….if you write it, I will read it. xo

  28. I have one rule about birth horror stories: DON’T tell them to pregnant women.

    Beyond that? Fire away.

  29. I don’t want to say a birth story is only good if you mean it…Because that doesn’t sound right. And that’s not exactly what I mean.

    I think I mean if your birth story is weighing on your heart, write those feelings. We’re all here to listen. To share. To support. To come together. If that’s what you have to put onto paper right now, then we’re ready.

  30. Any story that tells that beginning of a new life is fascinating to me…Everyone has a story of how they got here, and mothers are famous for making stories incredibly entertaining. However, stories are only good when the storyteller is comfortable telling it. It would be wonderful to hear how Baby Sister made her grand debut into this world!

  31. Ice storms? Men on scaffolds? I can’t imagine yours would be an ordinary tale, either in the circumstances or the telling.

  32. I think moms and moms-to-be appreciate the personal stories – it brings us together as a women’s community. I could be very useful for other women with the same condition but not having gone through pregnancy yet. Nobody wants scary stories, but informative with a happy ending is always nice.

  33. “A Heart-Shaped Box.” What a perfect way to start a birthing story.

  34. Thank you all for your supportive comments!

    I’m very interested in this idea that’s emerged about birth experiences being part of the shared story of the sisterhood of mothers. That’s a theme I’m always eager to explore in my writing, especially here at Motherese.

  35. I am dying to know!! Please please share!!

  36. I’m obsessed with other women’s birth stories. I plan to tell mine on the blog on Abra’s birthday. Spill it!

  37. I was in the middle of writing a comment the other night when the power went out in my neighborhood (rare). Count me as an eager reader of your recent delivery experience.

  38. Kristen, it’s your space. Write what you feel compelled to share. Count me as one of your fans. I will definitely read it.

  39. When I was pregnant I heard a number of birth stories. Women need to tell them and retell them. Your post sounds like the perfect invitation to do so.

  40. Pingback: Water « Privilegeofparenting’s Blog

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