I place a lot of value on the power of ink and paper and its digital equivalent – words on a screen page. Writing things down makes shit happen because it takes effort, focus and intention. The words we choose to write can take a random thought, turn it into a course of action and put a plan in play. That random thought becomes elevated or degraded with documentation and the words and symbols we choose are the ones that become our stories, histories and futures. I think about that when it comes to women’s stories about their pregnancies, births and motherhood. Who is documenting their stories
Writing down women’s stories is a big part of a nurse’s job. BIG PART! We call it charting or documentation and most nurses are inundated with it. In fact, every healthcare provider does the time-consuming, attention-zapping job of feeding the electronic medical record. It’s a huge, huge part of our occupation though few of us go into healthcare because we want to help computers. We go into it to help people.
There are huge advantages for both providers and patients for having real time records available online anytime you want them, up-to-minute lab values, reaching your doctor by email and keeping track of all your medical bits-and-pieces. Electronic medical records are major game-changers with huge benefits, but there’s no argument that they have also irrevocably changed the healthcare dynamic and patients’ healthcare relationships.
Do electronic medical records reflect what’s really going on with women’s health? Do they help women to be well before, during and after pregnancy? Are providers asking the right questions and putting the best information in their records? Do they take into account all the critical issues that women face every day that profoundly impacts their health? Issues like stress, nutrition, employment, housing, loneliness, community, money and relationships? Are we documenting the wonderful things that happen during pregnancy or only the risks, complaints and problems? Those aren’t the usual questions women are asked during routine prenatal care.
Electronic medical records weren’t created primarily to reflect women’s health. They were created for other reasons including as a communication device between healthcare providers, as a way to document compliance with hospital standards and as a defense record in case a patient sues. They are, however, the only place where most women’s pregnancy stories get written down.
I made a thing recently that I hope changes that. Mom’s Side of the Story is a workbook/journal that I created to help women write their own stories. It’s a guide that helps women plan and document their pregnancies, prenatal care and births along with their goals, joys, challenges and experiences. I want women to own their stories, know their histories and write themselves into the most transformative year of their life. After all, shouldn’t one of the people charting your pregnancy be you?
Check out Mom’s Side of the Story here and get ready to write. This book’s a game changer.