While I love my dog, my most faithful companion is, honestly, my birth bag, and I want to show it off a little bit.
This gorgeous thing was actually crafted for me by my mother. She is an incredible seamstress who has taken up bag creation in the past few years, and she knew that I wanted something large, sturdy, and beautiful for my doula work. This was my birthday present last year, and it is amazing.
While the original idea of a birth bag is to make sure I can schlep all the things I can think of that will bring comfort to a laboring Mom, I’ll be honest–most of this space is used to actually keep me going. My most important tools during a labor are my hands, my voice, and my love, and I want to keep my energy up so I can focus where it’s most important.
This means that once I’ve tossed in my water bottle, a thermos of good coffee, a ziploc of food, and a change of clothes just in case amniotic fluid gets a bit rambunctious, I’ve used up most of the space in the main compartment. All of the beautiful pockets in the front are stocked with items for me, too…things like Starbucks Via packets (which I’m totally willing to share with any birth partner who needs something better than nurse’s station coffee), gum (so I don’t have coffee breath while breathing through contractions with you), my favorite trail mix (just in case I eat all my other food, and it’s a longer labor), and a few essentials like pads and ibuprofen, because it’s better to be overprepared and not worry.
But the things that I pull out most often for a laboring Momma? When they’re needed, they are SO good. At my most recent births, there were a few items that saw heavy and consistent use, and were a strong benefit.
- My hand-held fan. When labor really gets going, a woman’s body works so hard and she can heat up rapidly. Having this fan has given us a way to help cool her off without dropping the temp of the room to a point where it might be unhealthy for a newborn. Fun fact: if you look closely at it, there are labels on it that say “Chloe,” and “Sister of the Bride.” yep, it’s from my sister’s wedding, and is enjoying having a good, long, and useful life.
- The rice bag. I made this with a removable cover so that it gets washed after every birth, and then stays nice and clean in a ziploc until it’s used again. It’s the perfect size to cover the lumbar area of a woman’s lower back, bringing relief and comfort if there’s some back labor. I pull this out and microwave it up at nearly every birth.
- Honey sticks. Labor is hard, physical work, and as a woman works through transition, and starts feeling like pushing, I like to get her blood sugars up a bit. Those uterine muscles need some support in staying strong, and honey is one of my favorite tools. I wrote about this in much greater depth here.
- My Shawl: During prenatals, I go over a few ways that I might use this , but my favorite is a technique called “Rebozo Manteada,” or Belly Sifting. Not only does this technique provide some major comfort if the lower back is unhappy, but it can really help with relaxing the broad ligament that stretches all around the belly, which in turn can give baby a bit more space to rotate.
It always takes a bit of heft to lift this beautiful bag of mine when I’m heading off to a birth, but I do believe that every ounce is worth it. Anything I can do to take care of a mother, and keep myself strong as I do so, just helps support the doula’s role: making birth better.