What’s in that doula bag?

Doula versus projectmanager

To every birth I bring my doula bag. I also carry this bag with me when I travel to my office job in Utrecht or to some other place that is further than 40 minutes away from my home. I bring my bag because whenever I am on call for a client I make the promise I’ll be with them whenever they need me, but within an hour time maximum. So, what is in this bag that it is so important to bring it to every birth… I’ll tell you!

1) Snacks and personal items

I never know how long a birth will take, but I will be there from the moment a mama needs me until an hour or so after the birth. Most of the times I get called away late in the evening or in the middle of the night. This often results in skipping a night of sleep. Since I don’t drink coffee food keeps me on my feet. That’s why I bring snacks that will give me quick energy, but also a meal if I have time to prepare it. Of course I also bring some personal items like a clean t-shirt and deodorant whenever I need to freshen up a bit.

2) Rebozo

A rebozo is a long piece of fabric that is traditionally from Mexico. Mexican women use it as a scarf, a wrap around their body or they use it to carry their baby for example. During a birth I mostly use it for massage; women love me shaking their ‘apples’ with it ;)). Wrapping it around someone’s bum and slightly shake it brings instant relaxation in a women’s pelvis. And let relaxation in this area just be amazing for progression during labor. But I also use it for some Rebozo sifting, whenever a baby might not yet be engaged into the pelvis fully or when the baby is not in the most optimal position for birth.

3) Peanut birth ball

Most hospitals in Amsterdam have regular birth balls, so I don’t have to bring mine. I still bring my peanut shaped ball, or Barbapapa, because I think it’s essential for women who have an epidural or are bound to a bed for any other reason. With this ball in between the legs of a birthing woman the hips and pelvis are in the perfect, wide angle, to open up and to stimulate dilation. And that’s what brings the baby closer as we all know. Wonderful tool that can’t be missed in a doula bag!

4) TENS

This little machine helped so many of my clients get through labor contractions without the need of medicinal pain relief. The machine is attached to four wires, with sticky pads on each end, that are placed on a woman’s back. Electrical pulses are send through the cord and pads.

It works in different ways:
– it takes the attention from the sensation a woman might feel in her belly and back from contractions;
– it (partly) blocks the pain signal that is sent to the brain via the nerves in the back;
– it stimulates the brain to produce more endorphins, the body’s own pain killing hormone.

Less pain, better able to cope with contractions, more endorphins: amazing, right?! I even have two TENS machines in my bag, so all my clients have the opportunity to use it if they wish.

5) The labor progress handbook – Penny Simkin

This is my Doula-bible. Luckily, I don’t need it at most of the births, but whenever I get in a situation where there might be something going a bit different than ‘normal’, this book has the answers. Things like: which position to take to try and turn a baby that is in star-gazer position or how to handle a strong urge to push when there’s no full dilatation yet. It’s full of great tips and tricks and I am quite certain this has changed a couple of birth outcomes for clients I worked with in the past few years.

6) Massage & aromatherapy oils

A lot of the times my hands, together with some massage oil, are the only thing I use to support a laboring woman. Giving back pressure when she has painful contractions in her back, or a double hip squeeze does wonders. And to get her out of her head and into her body, I massage a woman’s feet. With the specific aromatherapy oils that I use, birth might progress even better. And last but not least I stimulate or give pressure on different acupressure points to help a woman cope with nausea, let the baby engage or stimulate stronger contractions. It’s amazing to see what a difference the right way of touching a body can make.

7) Pocket camera & notebook

I am not a professional birth photographer, but I always bring my camera to take pictures. According to the wishes of the parents, I will make pictures during or after the birth of the baby. Often it brings back a lot of memories, that the parents already forgot, when they have a look at the pictures or when they read their birth story if they asked me to write one. Sometimes it helps to heal wounds or answer questions. Most of the times it brings tears, to see all the emotions on a mother’s face and to have pictures of the first seconds and minutes of a baby’s life. After all, birth is such a life changing event.