Sometimes there is curiosity about what items I bring with me to births. I thought I’d share what is in my birth bag because in many ways it reflects how I approach birth…
Hand fan – Often times women become quite warm in labor simply because it is hard work! I like keeping the room on the warmer side as warmth is generally more conducive to muscle relaxation, which is helpful for labor. When women get too warm a fan comes in very handy. And, I always bring the fan out when a mom gets in the tub. Warm baths can take the edge off of labor pain and aid in muscle relaxation. However, because laboring women can get overheated while in a warm tub, I am proactive about keeping them from overheating.
Unscented Massage Creme – Massaging a woman’s back, hips, and thighs in between contractions can be a great way to help her relax and also reduce muscular tension that can build up with labor. I prefer having unscented creme as women can be sensitive to odors in labor (even ones they usually love). Essential oils can be added to a dab of creme if it is appropriate in the moment.
Essential Oils – Lavender, Peppermint, Orange, and doTerra Serenity blend seem to be what I use the most. I tend to add these to a washcloth – this way if the mom finds the odor too overwhelming at any point in the labor we can just take the washcloth away and the odor is not all over the room as it might be in a diffuser or spray. As mentioned above, I might also add a little of the essential oil to massage crème.
Rebozo – Can I say enough wonderful things about its use for labor?! A rebozo is technically a long scarf used by women in Mexico. They have been used by midwives in Mexico and other countries in various ways for labor, birth, postpartum and baby carrying. The ones I use happen to come from a women’s weaving cooperative in Laos, and can be used in a myriad of ways in labor – to help support a mom in a certain position, to hold a hot pack in place, to be pulled on during pushing, to provide counter pressure for low back pain, and more…..That being said, there are some labors where the rebozo never comes out of my birth bag….
Battery operated candles – Just like other mammals, human mammals tend to appreciate low lighting while laboring. For certain parts of labor we try to keep the lights low with the ambience of flickering candle light (no flames allowed in the hospital). However, there are times when a dose of the bright sunshine of the day is just what the labor calls for…
TENS unit – (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). Some women find the TENS useful in dealing with labor pain. Honestly, I worked as a doula for many, many years without a TENS unit and only purchased one about 5 years ago when working with a couple who really, really wanted to be able to use one in labor. This is not a tool that I pull out of my birth bag too often, but is there if desired or called for.
Honey Sticks – These are along because…sometimes a little extra blood sugar during pushing is a good thing for a laboring mom!
Labor Progress Handbook – by Penny Simkin. While I carry a lot of the information from this book in my head, I SO appreciate having it for reference. The book is full of new ideas and wisdom regarding how to encourage progress in a slow moving or challenging labor.
Knitting bag – There are times in labor where a woman needs her doula right by her side, and there are other times where it is most appropriate for the doula to step back and allow the mother or couple space and perhaps privacy. In these cases I might pull out my knitting…..and quietly hold the space for birth, ready to jump up to provide more support at any time.
Notebook – this has my clients chart notes and also blank paper which is ready for me to hand notate the story of another mama doing the brave work of labor to bring her babe in arms……
Ok, so these aren’t really in my bag per se, however they are the tools that I clearly use most at births.
My hands – a touch on a woman’s shoulders….gently inviting her to drop those shoulders and sink down into the contraction, minutes or hours of counter pressure on her sacrum, a nice firm hip squeeze, a lavender foot rub in between contractions, providing support for a laboring mom to be in a certain position, long sweeping strokes down back, hips, thighs to encourage relaxation and release in between contractions….
My heart – always carrying lots of love of birth and laboring mothers….and newborn babies! Within this love comes a belief that each woman will dig deep to know what resources she needs to bring her baby forth….. whether those are internal, external, ancient, modern…