Wednesday, September 12, 2007


"For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell."
- from Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Shattering reflective pieces of a kaleidoscope tumble in my mind's eye. These are a million moments of experience, random sounds from births - a cry, a laugh, tumbling beside facts, data, then mingling with sparkling words from literature, history, and art. Our experience of life is beautiful and complex and always changing.

And yet, our lives are a monologue of recurring spirals of experience and emotion...constantly returning yet pushing forward. Our stories may keep recurring, but they shift and change with each new telling.

In my work as a doula, I must take my own experiences in birth and share them as stories that I gift to each client to become part of her personal monologue - a few stories for each woman to guide her forward on her own spiraling quest. Some stories are shared more often than others. Other stories are packed away in a shining lined box in my memory, to be shared infrequently. These are the potent stories tucked away for those especially challenging births.

This past week has been all about storytelling...stories of patience. Two women labouring, one woman in waiting... One woman's journey to birth took five days of incredible patience, interspersed with all the stories I could tell.

I told her the story of the woman who went through two days of oxytocin, only to bolt from the hospital, be found on the path to Oak Street, return, and give birth within half an hour. I told the story of the woman who went through a whole day of IV oxytocin before she signed all the release forms needed, and went home. Her labour began naturally a week later and only took four hours. I told the story of the woman who waited 10 days after her water broke before having the baby. I told stories of patience, of trust. I told stories from my kaleidoscope to support her own wishes. She asked for more stories. And when her baby came beautifully, in a sudden blinding flash of speed, I took her story...

...and gave it as a gift to the next woman...her friend, who went into labour a few days later. "She had her baby already? But she was due after me!" "Yes," and it was a triumph of patience. So this next woman took her friend’s story, gained strength from it, and pieced together her own story full of water and wind and patience. Water, wind, patience...those are the three things that kept her moving forward through labour. And her baby slid out beautifully, while her two feet were planted firmly on the ground. She was amazed at her own strength.

And I continue to tell stories to the woman who remains, in waiting, eleven days past her due date - climbing stairs, playing with her son, patient. Through her actions, she shares her stories with me.

To be a witness, a keeper of these stories, and to watch them form into a kaleidoscope of lives and lessons...that is one of my greatest joys in life.

…now…off to a birth…and another story for the kaleidoscope… - Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

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