Mothers deserve to feel supported in their choices. They also deserve to feel validated in their heartache.
Sometimes the role of a doula is to help color a birth. Even at our most prepared, there are times that births do not go as we had hoped. Circumstances are not always ideal. The education process may be riddled with holes. Mothers make their own choices. We support them. And in the end, it is our job to provide validation, no matter what sequence of events led them to this place. It is our job to assist in coloring the experience so that a mother’s memory of this precious event is as positive as it can possibly be, even if it means acknowledging that things could have, should have, would have been different; yet they are not, and we can heal from it, embrace it, and respect ourselves.
There is no dogma in this artwork. Becoming a mother is an unfathomable rite of passage. No matter how you get there, motherhood is beyond comprehension until you are there, “in it.” The means by which you arrived can either be positive or negative, or of course, somewhere in between. Even if the experience felt “wrong,” mothers need to know that they themselves, their very motherhood is not “wrong.” Labor and birth is a part of the process, just as pregnancy is, but a mother does not “fail” – she succeeds, and she has the capacity to be an amazing mother, with the knowledge that comes only through “walking through the fire.” Every woman’s “fire” is different.
Weaving the memory of the process is one of the complex facets of the doula’s role that is discussed far less than the more tangible “physical and emotional support during labor.”
The first birth I ever attended as a doula was a stark reminder to me that, no matter what your convictions, sometimes you have very little sway over the sequence of events. I rode the wave that said to support this family with my whole heart, and I believe it was the right choice. Did I cry when the crowd arrived and an emergency was declared? Yes. Did I mourn? Yes. Did I fast forward through my own, vicarious experience, dig deep, and find something positive to give this mother? Yes.
In the end, the mother did not get the birth that she wanted, yet, it is her birth story, and it deserves to be embraced, integrated, and respected. It is now a thread in this family’s history.
Convictions aside, we must always remember; the “end goal” is not the labor and birth, but the making of a mother. Mothers deserve to be supported. They need to be supported…No matter what.