It’s pretty common for doulas to present their clients with a lovingly written account of their birth as a gift for them to cherish. Often doulas will try to capture the emotion, the atmosphere, and the feelings in the room during this amazing experience. This can be a huge mistake; and here’s why.
Doulas are in a wonderful position to support women not only with their birth itself, but with their birth memories. As women turn more inward in their coping during labor, or as pharmaceuticals or stress alter perception; time can seem to act strangely, details are lost, and gaps in memory are common. It can be really helpful if a doula can fill in those gaps for her clients. We must take care, however; that we fill in only the facts, and not subjective interpretations of those facts. What felt like a warm and calm moment to a doula may have actually been a terrifying experience for a mom or dad. A description of an experience, event or person as gentle, powerful, kind or fast may not mesh with the perceptions of the mother or father.
Birth processing (the creation of their birth story) is a complicated process and we need to let women do it in the time and manner they need to. We must allow women to see their births as THEY experienced it.
So how do we manage to walk this tight rope of providing information without shaping perception? It’s really very simple.
“Just the facts ma’am”
Document everything, yes, but in an OBJECTIVE, not a SUBJECTIVE manner. It is possible to stick to the facts and still capture the atmosphere of the birth. Think of each fact you share as a crayon for the picture the mother will create. It might be a box of 6 or a full case of 64. You determine how much information you can give her, and she can use that to fill in the story as she felt it.
During labor I find it easiest to jot down times and facts. Time of arrival at the hospital, time and data from vaginal exams, times of medications or interventions (these are your primary color crayons). If you are able and have a free minute, look around and try to capture some facts that will help fill in detail (these are your exotic colors). Describe the room, get nurses names, mention what mom is wearing, what dad says, how mom is moving or positioned. You can arrange this list of facts into a factual narrative after the birth, or you can just list it in chronological order. You will find there are some births were you barely have time to jot down time of birth, and others where you will be able to fill your clients crayon box with a rainbow of colors!