'I've interviewed dozens of women about their birth stories. This is what I've learnt.'

As Mamamia's Family Writer and unofficial birth story writer since 2018, I have spoken to dozens of women about their baby's arrival.

It is always fascinating; and as a mum myself, I am curious about all the details of other women's birth experiences. While the birth of a child is always a significant moment in a parent's life, it has become exceptionally clear these last four years that no two birth stories are EVER the same. 

Sometimes a birth takes days, sometimes only hours. Sometimes there is significant trauma, and sometimes only love and joy. Mostly, however, it seems to be a mix of pain, confusion, joy, and every emotion possible; ultimately ending with an abundance of love for a whole new little person.

Watch: Questions about childbirth, answered by Mamamia mums. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

I delivered my two sons in 2010 and 2017 by c-section, and while clinically my experiences were good, I have realised there is a lot more to giving birth than just the clinical aspect.

So while every birth and every baby is unique, here are the seven most significant learnings I have taken away as Mamamia's resident birth story obsessive.

1. Birth plans should be approached with flexibility in mind.

If you want to write a birth plan, you absolutely should. However, while a few women said their birth went exactly to plan, many women I interviewed who sweated over birth plans ended up ditching them. With that in mind, I would approach a birth plan with flexibility and self-kindness. 


I have spoken to women whose labour has been so quick that they just didn't have time to consider the plan, or the intensity of the pain changed their minds about taking certain drugs. 

No one needs to feel any additional pressure to stick to a plan during what can be a very intense and crazy time. Write the plan if you need, but if you don't end up sticking to it, please remember you are far from alone.

2. Second or subsequent births are always different to the first.

First births are very much 'unknown'. After a traumatic, difficult, or unexpected experience the first time around, many women decide to make big changes for their second or subsequent births. 

This makes total sense seeing as we all learn from doing things repeatedly, and for some women, the opportunity to have a 'good' second or third birth can be incredibly healing.

As the saying goes: "First time mums fear the unknown, second time mums fear the known."

3. Birth is not like it is in the movies.

Remember when Rachel gave birth on Friends and she had cute pigtails and barely broke a sweat? Ha! I doubt it will come as a shock to anyone that after talking to many women; real births don't look like that

There is often blood, vomit, and sweat, and then there's all the vernix (the white stuff babies are covered in when they come out), the stitches, and occasionally poo. There is sometimes swearing, shouting, and other weird noises or random drug induced diatribes directed at anyone who will listen.


All the bodily fluids, emotional outbursts, and drug-fuelled chatter is perfectly normal and seemingly quite a universal experience for many women. 

There was love but also vomit. Laura and Leo after Leo's birth. Image: Supplied.

4. Women deserve to be listened to and truly heard.

It is always a privilege to listen to a woman tell me her unique and personal experience of birthing a baby.


In fact, many women cry while recounting their story because of the emotion - both good and bad - that surrounds their baby's birth. Sometimes I cry too!

The birth of your child or children is hugely significant in terms of your life story and it has made me realise how important it is for women to talk and share their birth experiences - especially if they haven't done so before. 

Women deserve to feel seen and heard after going through something as life changing as birthing a child. I am grateful to have listened to and written about so many birth stories that may otherwise have gone unheard.

Listen to Mamamia's podcast about birthing hosted by Jessie Stephens. Post continues below.

5. There is room for improvement when caring for birthing and new mums.

I have spoken to many mums who received incredible medical care that helped to save their lives and that of their baby. Many recount the compassion shown by their obstetric team, midwives, and NICU nurses. However, other women recall feeling sad and let down by their experiences of birth. 

Whether they felt they couldn't advocate for themselves while in labour, or that their emotional needs were ignored; there is always room for improvement with listening to and respecting women in medical settings and caring for vulnerable new mums during the birthing process. 

6. There is so much emotion and it's all okay.

If birth was like it is in the movies, all mums would fall instantly in love with their newly swaddled offspring in a 'happily ever after' montage. This instant rush of love for your baby immediately after birth happens often. But for many women, myself included, it took a few days for the connection to build and the love to arrive.


I thought I was weird, but I have since found out that is normal because of course we don't all have EXACTLY the same experience of anything. Birth included.

As someone who has heard so many types of birth stories, I can say that while there is fear and confusion, worry, pain and all the emotions, there is also so much love and joy involved in birth. 

Love for the partner or support person who is by your side throughout, for the midwife or medic who guides you though your pregnancy and birth, and of course, for the tiny human you get to meet at the end of it all. Yes, birth can be a lot of things, BUT it is absolutely beyond worth it in the end.

7. Women are amazing.

I always knew this, but what I have realised after listening to so many unique birth stories, is that women and mothers are amazing.

From giving birth at 3am in the bath and hosting a party just a few hours later (yes this happened) to experiencing unimaginable trauma before having to breastfeed and care for a baby while still in pain: every birth story and the woman behind it always amazes me. 

My key learning? Women who carry babies for nine long months and then give birth to tiny humans are resilient, powerful, strong, vulnerable, and absolutely flipping amazing.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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