If being a good doula was based on what is in our doula bag, Mary Poppins would be the greatest doula.
Mary Poppins had quite the bag and all things considered it could make a fairly decent doula bag! There are a few items I would leave out of my doula bag, if I was Mary Poppins. The first one would be her coat rack. I am quite certain I can find a place for my coat at the hospital or a clients home. I can probably do without a plant, but hey, if you want a plant in your hospital room to make it a little more homelike, you can bring one…I won’t complain. Although, keep in mind, you might get some flowers gifted to you after you deliver your baby, so take up more than you need to.
Mary Poppins even brought her own lights. Lights are important, but again, I am not worried about the lighting at the hospital or your home. If you want dim lights, the doctors and midwives have flashlights - really, they do! Speaking of lights, some people like to have some flameless candles to create a nice ambience. I do have some in my doula bag, but as an FYI, they are a few dollars at the $1 Store.
Now, of course, I know some moms would want to but in my experience it is not super common. Again, if that is something you think you might want to try in your birth, lets chat about it and make a plan about who should bring the mirror, just like the plant.
That tape measure Mary Poppins has in her bag is amazing and I would love one! I mean imagine being able to measure people I am going to work intimately with and be told all about their personality. Wow, what a benefit that would be to me and to my clients. Wait, hold on! I do often have a tape measure in my doula bag…with my knitting. Yes, I pack knitting into my doula bag. What? Why on earth would I have knitting? We can talk about that later in another blog post.
Back to this tape measure idea. I don't have a tape measure that will tell me easily what your personality is, but I do however have a tool that will help me discover more about your personality and help me connect with you to make our work together easier and a little more flawless. The “Your Birth Experience” (YBE) program allows me to connect with you, identify your needs and then equip you with the resources necessary to achieve your goals. This leave mothers and their families empowered to envision their ideal birth, prepare for that birth and ultimately achieve the birth experience they desire. That’s pretty close to the magical tape measure, right? It is close enough for me.
So far you now know my doula bag has a few tea lights, running shoes, knitting and a tape measure. That tape measure isn't the good personality one - that comes from our prenatal meetings. That is all I have in my doula bag? Don't I have a rebozo, massage balls, TENS machines, birth balls? Nope. I do have some gum, some cash for parking, some hair ties and some snacks. Why so simple? Largely, infection control. For real, I don't want to disinfect birth balls and I surely don't want to clients sharing “dirty” ones. I don't want to have to wash beautiful fabrics from Mexico in harsh chemicals made for industrial disinfection standards. I can do some neat stuff with a hospital sheet instead. Bonus is that I can get that at the hospital and then leave it at the hospital to have it cleaned properly, just like the birth balls. Massage balls and TENS machines…what can be bad there? Nothing is really bad, but I prefer to not place an object between my clients and I. I find a better connection with direct contact and that increases endorphins which are great for labour. Again, if clients know they want to try a TENS machine or like the porcupine balls, I can help them use ones that they likely already own.
What I do have that cannot be packed into a bag is my years of experience and my confidence. Relief comes to my clients simply by my being present, much of the time. Clients know they can count on me to be present for them. I am a familiar face they know already and our relationship is solely focused on me helping them have a positive experience. They are presented with a bendy straw in a cup of water to juice, before they even knew they were thirsty. I am leading them to the washroom to pee and get that bladder out of the way of babies path because they didn’t realize they needed to pee. I am lightly touching and stroking their feet to remind them to relax their WHOLE body. I am that voice in their ear telling them that they can and are “doing it” when they feel like you are not being strong.
The thing is, people don't give birth every day, (truth be told, I don't attend birth everyday), but I do support women giving birth more often than the average person will give birth. I have been alongside many others before. Each experience is different and no path looks the same, but they are similar enough that I can follow the flow and go alongside and help women through it. They can say things like “Is this normal?” or “what else can I do?” or “what did that nurse/doctor/midwife mean?”. I will reassure them things are normal and they are doing great, I will make suggestions about what else they might want to do, or reassure them what they are doing is perfect & I will help them understand what the care providers are doing or saying. I can help the partner and encourage them just as much (maybe more, maybe less) as I do a labouring woman.
My doula bag started out full of items, and honestly, I could have taken a small suitcase on wheels to births when I first started because I felt like I needed to bring it all. I now know that to "bring it all", we need to do more work in the time before labour, and when I “bring it all” now, I am bringing our conversations, unique goals, unique desires, unique choices and my confidence, my experience and can be “tricky” just like Mary Poppins. I am confident I can pull stuff out of thin air that will help me meet your needs without carrying a lot of baggage.
~Written by Kim Smith, Doula, IBCLC