The Power of Storytelling


Annie Rim -The Power of Storytelling3

Before becoming a mom, my visions of birth and labor were based on the trend at the time for bloggers to write about their labor experience. They painted beautiful images of water births and singing hymns and leaning into the pain of motherhood. I was inspired by their words and looked forward to my own experiences.

Neither of my labor and deliveries went the way I envisioned. They weren’t necessarily bad and the hours of laboring each ended with me holding a beautiful daughter, so I can’t really complain, but there were no hymns and the idea of water in the midst of laboring seemed like just one more thing to navigate. Both my girls were induced and I received an epidural each time.

About a week after my second daughter was born, I read a blog in which the author compared being a strong woman to giving birth to her five children without the help of drugs. I remember thinking that I just wasn’t strong enough.

Even now, a few years removed and with active, healthy, inquisitive daughters, I’m still hesitant to share my delivery story; still embarrassed that I wasn’t able to embrace what should have come naturally.

Last year, I was talking with a friend about her own birth experience, one that seemed so “perfect” compared to my own. As we were talking, I included the phrase, “Tell me more.” I asked for more details and learned that this birth that seemed so easy from the outside, came after years of betrayal by her body. After fighting and overcoming cancer, she had lost faith and trust that her body could do what it was created for. Her birth experience gave her renewed confidence that she was able and that her body wouldn’t always let her down.

I needed her story. I needed to be reminded that her journey and this particular part of it was a piece to a much bigger relationship with her own body. It made me rethink my own birth stories. I reflected on the fact that I had to learn to let go of ideals created before my daughters were born—something that does not come naturally for me.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in John 4, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. Something that stands out is when Jesus continues to ask the woman for more, letting her share her own story even though he knows it already. Throughout their conversation, Jesus asks her questions and treats her with dignity.

We see this continually in Jesus’ ministry—when he asks the woman who bled for 12 years why she touched his robe; when he asks how the disciples will feed 5,000 people; when he asks the women at the tomb who they are searching for. “Tell me more” seems to be how Jesus relates with those around him.

I’m learning to stop and listen more. I’m learning that by including these words “tell me more,” I’m recognizing that we all have more than what appears on the surface. What if, when visiting our friends who are better at decorating or cooking or meal planning, we included, “Tell me more.” What was their journey to finding this particular creative outlet?

If I were to tell more about my birth story now, I’d recognize that from the second we stepped into the hospital, things changed from our perfect birth plan. I’ve learned that this is parenthood: Change from the plan. Rarely do my days go the way I’ve planned; rarely do the ideals I had formed before becoming a mom play the way I’d imagined. And I’m learning that this is good. My takeaway is that I hold my ideals loosely and am ready to reevaluate.

The power of storytelling is world changing. “Tell me more” isn’t yet a natural habit, but I’m hoping that by remembering to incorporate it more and more into my conversations, it will become second nature. And that as I hear those deeper stories, the ones that go beyond a blog post or a quick conversation, my worldview is shifted. I feel far fewer comparisons and am finding quite a lot of commonality.

The more I listen, the more naturally stories resonate and I see myself in those around me. As I hear more stories, I see more and more threads connecting us all, tying us together, and making us stronger. There is power in storytelling, yes. And there is power in creating safe spaces for hearing those stories.