My mantra for birthwork is “your birth memories should be precious”. It is appropriate for every service I provide whether it's doula work, childbirth education or birth/newborn photography. We live in a culture of fear and traumatic experiences when it comes to birth. I cringe whenever I hear women telling their negative birth stories to new moms-to-be, especially at baby showers. While I don't ever want to invalidate someone's birth story, I believe we need to change the way we tell them and especially to whom.
I coined the phrase for my business shortly after I started doula training. One of our assignments was to interview someone over 65 about their birth experience. When I did that interview, I was astounded at how she remembered every detail about it. For her it was not a pleasurable experience. She was alone as her husband was sent home. Having been given some sort of “shot”, (she was not informed what it was) she was groggy and feeling “aloof” from her body and yet still experiencing the pain of contractions. When baby arrived she was so disoriented that she didn't even really feel like the baby was hers. From then on I have been determined to provide supportive care that will help families have precious memories of their transition to parenthood. I give no illusions that it will be an easy journey. However, I liken it to a strenuous, steep hike in which you sometimes wonder why you signed up for this. Still you enjoy the scenery and the camaraderie of your hiking partners. And then when you get to the top, the view is incredible making every step worth it. Will you feel your muscles for a few days? Probably. Maybe you have a few scrapes where the thorns caught you or you slipped on a root and skinned your knee. But what do you remember in a year or 10? Would it not be the friendship along the way, the scenery, the view at the top, the sense of accomplishment that you did it?
Recently, I was set up at a vendor event. An elderly (late 80s) lady stopped to ask me what I do. When I explained, she commented that she sure wished she'd had somebody like me with her 3rd child as she had terrible back labor and was all on her own. No husband allowed and nurses not around very much.
Penny Simkin, one of the early doulas did a study that she says showed her that women remember birth forever. I want to help women have positive memories. That means that even though there may be some unexpected difficulties along the way, I hope that because of the support I and your other birth team members provide, your memories of the experience will be precious. Whether you have an unmedicated vaginal birth, or a long induction ending in cesarean section, it can be a positive experience with the right support and informed decisions.
It may be a lofty goal but I would like to replace the horror stories with precious memories.