Jaime Fleres comes on The Core Connections Podcast to talk us through the power of writing and the importance of writing your birth story with the help of her book 'Birth Your Story: Writing About Your Birth Matters'. Not just for new mamas either! You could be a mother, father or partner and participate in writing your own birth story; it is for anyone who has experienced birth no matter how short or long it has been since its happened.
The perception of your story is always changing and it is never too late to start reflecting on your story. It doesn’t matter if you can write or not; what matters is that you have a story to tell… and it’s yours to tell.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jaime Fleres (Mizejewski) has been writing to process, heal and honor her life experiences since she was an early teen. She received her bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and English (Summa Cum Laude) and her master’s degree in the Teaching of Writing from San Diego State University. She was a composition and literature professor both in California and Minnesota. After giving birth to her daughter in 2013, she founded a holistic birth and wellness business, Santosha Birth and Wellness, became a doula and certified to teach both yoga and Qoya. She offers private writing coaching, workshops, and retreats for men and women about writing books and the stories that matter. Jaime currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more about Jaime at JaimeFleres.com.
Erica: I want to dive into your book in just a bit, but I want to ask you right off the bat what inspired you in your journey to get started with writing?
Jaime: My writing began as an early teenager as I used writing to process experiences in my life. And then when I got to college, I really loved writing even though it didn’t come easily to me. The academic side of writing was a challenge for me, but it let me practice how to get my thoughts in order and to learn the craft of writing. Writing is one of those dynamic elements of my life that I have learned to dance with and I think that is why I am so passionate about it. It would be hard for me to relate to other writers if I never struggled with writing or had resistance to it. It takes practice to develop the skills and the confidence around those skills.
Erica: I want to dive into your book, Writing Your Birth Story, because when you initially posted about it I thought it sounded intriguing. After reading it, I was blown away by how it moved me, I wasn’t expecting that at all. I would love for you to talk a little more about who the book is for.
Jaime: The book is about writing your own birth story. You could be a mother, father or partner and participate in writing your own birth story; it is for anyone who has experienced birth no matter how short or long it has been since its happened.
Erica: Perspective can apply to so many things but especially to the birth experience. It can be perceived completely different by different people.
Jaime: Just because we are in the same room with somebody, doesn’t mean we are having the same experience. Mamma is in her body and she is having this physical experience and then papa or partner are not in their bodies, they are more in their minds. How do I support? How do I navigate this environment? How do I witness what is happening right now and not be able to control it? Then, you have the birth professional who is there monitoring the health and well-being of everybody. So, everyone is having a unique experience and we can talk about that, but when we write about it we gain more insight into the inner landscape. What is happening on the inside of everybody so that we can understand what it was like for everybody else?
Erica: I think as more time goes, you gain more knowledge. If I were to write my story about my oldest today, it would be from a completely different perspective than it was 11 years ago.
Jaime: Our story is never static. None of our stories in life are static. They are constantly changing and shifting as we change our perspective on where we are in life and our relationship to the event. Your story will change. I think what is so powerful with that perspective is that we learn a lot from those experiences. There are hidden jewels that we get to dig around for and we find something that we didn’t quite know or see in that same way.
Before writing, there is this cool thing that happens. In the book, I say we are going to write a document but we discover something as we write. We discover something new about ourselves or about our experience. In an ideal world, it would be cool to write as you are called to through time because writing is a process.
Erica: It’s not about the story itself necessarily, but it’s about the events and how those are perceived. Can we also talk about the expectations that one might have for their birth?
Jaime: For sure, and I am sure that you remember that there is a chapter in the book about cultural narrative which is the larger story that we have consumed about what birth is like and how we are supposed to navigate it. Throughout the book, I have us look at that and become aware of the factors that were shaping your perception of birth, pregnancy and motherhood.
I would say that we have this knit in our culture where we plan everything out. If we get just the right book and read just the right things with the right car professionals, we will be good. That is understandable that we have that desire to do that, but birth is one of those things where it is this wild, creative process that is unruly. It does not wish to be bound by our ideas of what it is going to be like, so birth calls us on this deep journey to an initiation where you are asked to surrender. Birth may go just the way we planned it or it may not, and that has nothing to do with whether we are good enough or if we did the right things. It is the nature of the experience that we are called to surrender.
I think birthing women aren’t given that perspective as often as they should. We can plan and all, but at the same time, there is this element of mystery that is going to come into play. The challenge will be how do we navigate what happens. One of the great things about writing your birth story is that you may not be in control of the experiences during birth, but you are in control of how you tell your story. Writing can be real ownership for someone as they say this is what happened to me and I get to decide how I am relating to it and what it means to me.
Erica: I know a lot of women feel like, “Oh, if I had only done this,” when it comes to an unplanned cesarean birth. We need to look at is as being grateful that both baby and mom are safe and healthy. That comes back to so much of what we do in life comes to how we perceive it, and then there is this gratitude piece of where we are today.
Jaime: You are saying gratitude and in the book, I call it honoring. My message here is that we don’t always get a chance to celebrate our births. We may never get to a celebration, but we can get to honoring. And that is having a deep respect for what we have been through. It is this radical acceptance of how it went but going backwards to processing it because we need to get there. We can’t just say that we were there and that I feel great that baby is healthy, I’m healthy and we are here. There are true emotions that lie within there that are important and valuable to our experience and who we are because of it.
With writing, we get this safe container in which to explore for ourselves. It is different than speaking because when we are telling our story to someone, we are worried if they are going to hear you, do they want to hear this, how are they going to react? We get to have this space with writing where we can make it our own and say what is true. Whether it’s the feeling of struggle, challenge or gratitude.
That allows us to not only process it, but we also create a witness outside of ourselves. We can start to change our relationship and become the authors of our story as you get to start responding and relating to your story.
Erica: I want to talk a little bit more about how to start writing. I know you do a lot of editing as you help people birth their book, but how do you go about doing that?
Jaime: I work with authors at different phases. The program has this perfect marriage that I love because I get to bring a lot of my doula and birth work into my writing coaching as well. I have made it nine months long because I feel like that is an important gestation period for a major creation. We spend the first three months in the foundation where we are creating all the parts.
The first thing I do with authors is getting them into the mindset; we look at what it takes to be creative mentally. We already have that creative capacity, but how do we remove the obstacles to that creativity? Because that is a scary space to step in to. We also look at the inner critic, that thing inside of us that is giving us the resistance. In some ways, I feel like my job is a creativity and resistance coach. How do we work with resistance when it shows up? How do we amp up our creativity?
Then, because I have been a professor for a long time, I have a lot of tools in writing. How do we take our ideas and hone them down into an idea that’s workable for a book that not only serves our mission but will it also serve an audience? We then will start looking at the context. We look at the audience and who are you writing to? Do we look at the author and who are you to write this book? Why you? Why now? It is this foundation building where we can set a solid container of what we are going to accomplish.
We also look at the intentions. Why are we writing this book and how are we going to do it so it works with our lives? Because we all get busy with jobs, kids and other relationships, so we look at how we can make a doable plan. We have this perception from school that writing is hard and it takes a lot of work. To counteract that, we go through how we can make writing feel good for us and enjoy the creative process.
Erica: Do you need to have a big presence to write a book?
Jaime: I will say this as it became clear to me recently. I talk about how experts write books and most of the experts that we know have written books. The other thing that is true is that we become experts by writing books. So, if I would have just taught a writing workshop, I would not have developed the depth of knowledge and understanding of this body of work if it wasn’t for the book writing process. I sat and worked with this book for years and that is what deepened my understanding of what this is all about. I created expertise by writing the book.
Erica: That is a neat way to look at it because I feel like so many tend to wait for the perfect moment to do whatever it is, but you must take that first leap and dive in. If you wait until that perfect moment, you might find yourself continuing to push it off. How do you fit that into your life?
Jaime: I wish I had one easy formula, but the secret is to keep showing up. Getting started is the hardest part. If you feel like you aren’t ready to write, talk about why you are not ready. If you are feeling resistance, write about your resistance. I call it circling as you are circling the subject before you get there.
Erica: Yes, you must face it and work through it instead of pushing it off to the side. I think it is such a vulnerable thing to write a book. I felt like that when starting this podcast as entering this new space is vulnerable for me. I then remember that I am doing this to help impact people’s lives. That is where it comes down to working on yourself during vulnerable times as well. I’m sure after you finished your book you felt like a whole new person as you gained a whole new level of knowledge and confidence in that knowledge.
Jaime: Totally, and that is one of the things that I work on with my clients too. Can we imagine that end line? How do we want to feel when this book is done? When you were talking about being vulnerable when getting started with something new, I heard you say that you know you are going to be helping other people with this value. We have this service that we are trying to accomplish as well to help solidify why we are doing something.
Erica: We are all hanging in there one step at a time. Going through the process.
Jaime: Figuring it out. There is no reason if you have this desire to write, that you can’t absolutely do it. The first thing you must do is to try. To show up.
Find Birth Your Story: Why Writing About Your Birth Matters on Amazon or other major retailers. Visit Jaime’s website at JaimeFleres.com
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