Whole Parenting Family

Birth Stories: how I do love thee

Confession: I’m a birth story junky. I just can’t help it. I love reading about the fear, the joy, the trauma, the drama. So many late nights of all three pregnancies have involved reading other moms’ journeys on the interwebs. {Tell me you’ve read through the linkup over at Grace’s!}

I just celebrated my daughter & my birthday. We share a birthday! How awesome is that.


I love writing mine as well, processing the sorrows and triumphs. {SuperBoy’s || SweetPea’s || BabyLove’s}. So when Jill contacted me to tell me about her project Yellow Light, Write, a Twin Cities based writing workshop that guides women to write their journeys of motherhood and birthing, I was all um LOVE THIS KINDA THANG!!!

So we did a little Q&A to tell you about what she’s got going on, because it’s really really wonderful and a real asset to our birthing community!

Find her on the web || Facebook || email {jill (at) yellowlightwrite.com}

You began this writing workshop for parents to understand their journey into parenthood and tell their tale. Who comes to the workshop and what do you see happen to them while working through this journey?

birth story collage

The workshop is for mothers of all ages. I’m often asked if it’s “too late” to get a story down on paper…because 2  or 10 or 20 years have passed. I can not be more emphatic about the fact that, if this is something that resonates with you in the slightest, you are welcomed with open arms. The workshop is not geared specifically towards mothers who’ve had a traumatic experience necessarily; I try to keep it as broadly encompassing as possible.

Many of the moms are newer moms; some of them are pregnant; some are writing stories to give their children as birthday gifts one day. Some may be dealing with a child they have lost; some have adopted children…the spectrum of attendees is vast, and I hope to make it even more so by spreading the word.

I started these workshops because I have always been a teacher, ever since the days of crafting worksheets for my little brother to fill-out during long family car trips. With these classes, I am able to manifest the intersection of my deepest passions: teaching, writing, and motherhood. I am able to step mothers through their experiences, knowing how difficult a process it is, and share in their triumph on the other side of it.

What I get to see: women laughing… women grateful for listening ears… women opting to remain quiet… women figuring out when to forge ahead or when take a break… women commiserating through shared experiences… women trying to empathize over others’ different experiences… women enjoying tea, cookies, and two hours devoted to themselves.

I read on your site that you had a trauma birth. Can you share more about how Yellow Light, Write, came to be?

yellow light write

yellow light write

Ironically, my story is still very difficult to share. A friend gave me a journal when I was admitted to the hospital at only 6 months pregnant. So, I diligently wrote bits down, in a very detached manner, thinking I ‘should’ be doing it, but not really wanting to. I jotted down my lunch orders, what was on the TV, detailed doodle drawings, medicated musings …It looks like a serial killer’s notebook.

The doctors’ advice during my hospital stay was to remain as calm as possible to delay labor as long as possible, so I felt that delving into emotions would rattle that. My husband kept as much of the ‘real world’ away from me as possible. He hovered when I checked work emails; didn’t tell me that our neighbor was burglarized; that our dog had destroyed our kitchen; anything he thought would upset me. I took on a hibernation mentality and lasted that way for 11 days until they determined the baby was in distress and had to be delivered immediately. She weighed 1 pound 11 ounces at birth.

She recently turned three. And she is awesome. Having taught high school English, I would usually direct my students away from such an over-used word. But here, I mean it in the Grand Canyon sense, not the Ninja Turtle sense. She is truly awe-inspiring; an bottomless font of creativity and joy.

In my workshops, I touch on the paradox of help being everywhere…yet nowhere. After I had my daughter I experienced extreme post-partum anxiety, and most likely PTSD. At the time, I had no idea that post-partum PTSD existed. My only exposure to that term had been in conjunction with the time I spent in the military. Researching material for my course, I came across alarmingly high figures  — that were oddly reassuring. I realized I had experienced something relatively ‘normal,’ despite my feeling like I was utterly alone.

I felt a huge burden to share this information with other moms, because post-partum mood disorders are not limited to the traditionally-reported depression. Even my own doctor’s office had me fill out an antiquated survey that supposedly contradicted my claim that something was wrong…. “Nope, see, in fact you’re not depressed!” they told me.

I had no idea what I needed at the time; I didn’t know what to ask for of anyone. When someone asks “how” or “if” they can help, sometimes the person just doesn’t know the answer. And so, often the answer comes out as “nothing” or “I’m fine.” I realized far too late, I just needed some sort of concrete help. Someone to just DO some things for me without asking. Someone to just TELL me some things confidently, so I wasn’t left alone inside my own head. And so, with these workshops, I sometimes feel I get to play the other side of that equation now. I get to just DO something for someone, whether they know they need it or not. I get to TELL them certain things confidently, hoping that when they are alone in their own heads, they might not feel so alone.

Tell us about the name!

birth story teaching march 2

It’s no newsflash, especially among your readers, to point out that we are living in a GO GO GO culture. We always want our projects green-lighted. We read the articles about the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking, yet charge ahead regardless.

I have always had a bit more fluid sense of time. This has served me well at times, gotten me nearly-fired from jobs at other times. Starting a family has been the most difficult and most important job I’ve ever chosen to undertake. This is a role I want to savor. I want to remind others that they have the choice to savor the roles they play in their families, too.

I am encouraging mothers (and everyone, really) to slow down and tell their tales. During the workshops we write with actual pens on actual paper…How much more “yellow light” can you get?

What does a typical workshop with you look like?

birth story teaching march

We gather, share a bit of our stories, enjoy tea and treats…then get to work. This is a guided workshop. The course content is completely my own. I’ve worked hard to offer moms a framework within which to get their stories started. If I were to give participants a blank journal and just tell them ‘GO!’ many people would find that daunting, especially those who don’t identify as ‘writers’ or have negative school memories or a particularly difficult story to tell.

Often people feel hamstrung because they don’t know where to begin. I work with moms to pick a starting point and an ending point to serve as anchors for their stories. This gives them concrete, reassuring parameters. Moms are free to share as much or as little with the group as they feel comfortable. I am available after the two hour class by phone or email to further discuss, edit, or otherwise help mothers finish documenting their stories.

This is precious time away from their families that these moms have chosen to take for themselves…just as they would a doctor’s appointment or a class at the gym. They deserve this.

How have you watched this project grow? What do you hope and begin to see happening to it? How is it impacting our birthing and parenting community?

yellow light write

{featured in Minnesota Parent!}

The feedback has been incredible. The more I tested the waters with this idea, the more responses I got. Moms wanted to tell me their stories right on the spot. People were curious about my story. People wanted to connect me with therapists, doulas, friends…anyone who could serve or be served by this endeavor. I can not express how rewarding it was to have identified a need in the community and be able to address it. In many ways it validates the terrifying, alienating time I endured after the birth of my daughter.

While still in its early stages, I’ve garnered enormous support from our birthing and parenting community. It’s just so vast! It touches everything we do; so the fact there are so many mothers out there wanting to work through their experiences motivates me to keep trying and see where this can go.

Recently, a labor and delivery nurse from a local hospital offered to include information on the workshop for all mothers who birth there. Local doulas and midwives are sharing the information with their clients. I’m fielding requests to host the workshop at other sites. I’ve even had an out-of-state doula ask to attend via Skype so she could share the experience with her new moms.

In the workshops we talk a lot about our expectations differing from our reality….during family planning, during pregnancy and delivery, and throughout the months and years postpartum. That being said, I’m leaving my “expectations” for these workshops wide open. With every new story I get to hear, and every new thank-you I am blessed with, my “reality” is forever altered. What a truly “awesome” thing that is.

Thank you, so much, Jill. 

Jill is offering 15% off for my readers for her May (27th) and June (TBA) sessions. Check the site here for details. Use the code “wholeparenting” for your $5 off!



  1. Jess on April 15, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    I love birth stories too! AND I too share a birthday with my daughters (twin girls who turn one next week) – what a special bond!

  2. Shannon on April 16, 2015 at 2:35 am

    Ooh, I want to do this! Will definitely look into it soon. I love birth stories and mine is currently the first 20 of 38 hours in ridiculous detail and then nothing.