Crystal Mocan is not used to speaking in front of groups. But the mother of two made an exception on Sunday.

She was determined to share her birth story with 21 strangers.

"I've never expected to share my personal story to strangers," said Mocan, surprised at her own openness.

Mocan and eight other mothers shared their birth stories at Shanti Yoga Studio on Main Street West for the Red Tent community event.

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Third year midwifery students (from left) Carrie Harris, Danielle Longfield and Emily Lyons all smiles after organizing the first Red Tent community event in Hamilton. (Alyssa Lai/CBC)

The event offered a space for mothers to share their birth stories, uninterrupted. It was part of the larger Birth on Labour Day (BOLD) Red Tent movement, a worldwide initiative to provide safe spaces for women to tell their birth stories surrounded by a community of women.

Midwifery student Danielle Longfield was inspired to host Hamilton's first Red Tent event after viewing the documentary-style play Birth. The play is about eight women and their birth experiences, giving insight to process of giving birth as experience by low-risk, educated women in America.

"I've always been interested in creating spaces for people to share their birth stories, a space for women to acknowledge the experience they went through," said Longfield, who helped organize the student production of Birth last year at Hamilton's Staircase Theatre.

Each mother sat cross-legged at the front of the yoga studio, spoke about their birth experiences, and used a small stick to hit an urn to signal end of their story. For Mocan, this offered a "raw" storytelling experience.

"It's amazing that every story is so unique to that person's personality. They can say anything they want to say with no interruptions and judgments. It is less clinical and more visceral."

Mocan came alone but others came with family.

Debbi Hansen-Lange brought her mother-in-law. She said the event validated the range of emotions felt by mothers.

Fear about birth

Third year midwifery student, Emily Lyons, would agree.

"Birth is often seen as a medical story, not a social story," she said. "All those stories surrounding birth aren't told by women themselves. So, there is this fear about birth."

The event was an eye-opening experience for Sarah Perkins, an aspiring midwife.

She described the impersonal relationship between doctors and mothers.

"Birth is like a sickness; it's not about women."

Her interest in women and social justice led her to pursue a degree in midwifery, after completing a degree in biomedicine.

Sharing stories

Longfield said the event presents opportunities for people to reevaluate how they talk about birth.

"Sharing birth stories also allows the listener to experience the birth and can help them process their own emotions related to birth. It can be like a little birth for everyone," she said.

Future Red Tent community events might have fathers join their partners to share their experiences as they witness their wives in labour.

"We would then call it a partner Red Tent event," joked Longfield.

Visit BOLD organization's website for more information about the BOLD Red Tent movement.