What do I pack in my birth bag?

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The doula bag is a little like Mary Poppins purse. This giant bag of mysterious goodies that seems to produce exactly what is needed at any given time. Yesterday on Facebook (click to view) I shared a bit about what I pack for a second prenatal visit. But what about the birth itself? Of course, the packing list changes client to client, but a few items are fairly consistent. Let’s take a look at what lives in Mary Poppins purse.

Travel Toiletry Bag

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It might look like I’m bringing shampoo and conditioner to your birth, but actually I found purchasing a ‘fill it yourself’ mini toiletry bag to be the simplest way to transport single use amounts of various materials. The containers are actually filled with hand sanitizer, unscented lotion, corn starch (for residue free dry massage, and anything one would traditionally use talc for. Never use talc in the delivery room.), Coconut oil, witch hazel, etc. Transporting items in a travel kit allows me to prevent cross contamination from using the same product on multiple clients, and saves my back from schlepping full sized containers around.

Hand mirror

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I get discouraged in the second stage, in my own births. Sometimes the fetal ejection reflex, and pressure, and chaos in the room all come together to make everything feel a little overwhelming. I tend to describe pushing a baby out, to my very Canadian clients, as akin to getting a car out of a snowbank. Rock forward, rock back, and repeat until something budges. That two step forward, one step back mechanism can make clients feel as though they aren’t making any progress at all. If they could see what I can see, they’d get a little bit more of a view of their baby with every push. So I give them the option of seeing what I’m seeing. I keep a mirror nearby for clients interested in watching their baby come earth side.

Ziploc bags and baby wipes

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It’s rarely discussed but, well, birth is messy. Nurses are extremely skilled at containing mess in such a way that my client often never knows anything happened at all. But sometimes, it’s just me in the room. Or it’s a home birth. Or I’m the only attendant early in labour. Or we’re going for a walk to keep things moving. I never ever want my clients to feel embarrassed when s*** happens. Or blood. Or amniotic fluid. Or vomit. Bags and wipes stay on hand to contain mess, so my clients feel free to continue focusing on having that baby.

Snacks for clients

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After a delivery (as, again, we are very Canadian) I’ve made a bit of a tradition out of running down to the seemingly mandatorily placed hospital Tim Hortons to fetch the parents and birth team treats and coffees. During a hospital birth my clients are often on nothing but liquids restrictions. Labour and delivery is a marathon. It’s very important to keep one’s blood sugar up to avoid burning out. That’s why, in addition to fetching ice chips, apple juice and Gatorade on demand, I also pack hard candies and honey sticks. For a home or birth centre birth without food intake restrictions, I would add filling, easy to eat foods like bananas or granola bars.

Tennis balls

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Counter pressure and massage are so amazingly therapeutic in labour. Unfortunately, I have two hands, and those two hands will often work twelve hours between breaks. Rolling a tennis ball will provide soothing massage and counter pressure for my client, without making my hands go numb. It’s a win win.

Rebozo

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I love my rebozo. I love it like it were my own, nine foot long, fabric baby. There’s really too much to go over, in terms of why I bring it. We touched on using the rebozo to encourage a malpositioned baby to rotate into a more favourable position Here, but that barely begins to cover it. I might use it to play an impromptu game of tug of war, if my client needs the leverage while pushing. It’s a blanket when she’s cold. A cushion when she needs support. A sling when she squats down. A breastfeeding pillow for the first latch. It’s everything.

Speaking of positioning, it’s rarely packed (hospitals and birth centers already have them), but my big bouncy birth ball is ready and waiting to go on a field trip as well.

Paperwork

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Picture this, minus anything that makes it aesthetically pleasing.

My notebook follows me wherever I go, and my notes get laid out as soon as I enter the birthing room. There are details I need to know in there. The birthday is not the time for me to forget a certain preference, or a cultural expectation relevant to the birth. I also take detailed notes all throughout the birth itself. There’s nothing I love more than handing over my notes postpartum and watching a family read for the first time how the grandparents reacted when I poked my head out in the hall and announced baby is here. Or perhaps I will have recorded a detail they missed initially. A nuchal hand, a knotted cord, APGAR scores. It all comes together to paint a full picture.

In addition to my notes, I keep additional forms on hand, and handouts for the family to aid in their transition over the first days, before I return for the first postpartum.

My supplies

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Cat not included. (I wish!)

I learned this one the hard way. Three days of induction turned emergency cesarean birth, and I’m in the waiting room waiting to rejoin my client in recovery. I have blood and amniotic fluid on my clothes, I’m a sweaty mess, my phone is dying, and I’m dying to wash my face and brush my teeth. It was more than a little tricky to walk up to the front desk asking for updates on my client looking like that. “I swear I’m a professional, you guys!”.

It takes up valuable real estate in the birth bag, but I now never leave without packing for myself. Phone charger, camera charger, a good book to read in quiet moments. Snacks, water bottle, change for the vending machine. Self care items. Pads, tampons, midol, gravol, Tylenol (another hard learned lesson. They say cycles between close women sync up, and that apparently applies to a doula with a labouring client too. They deserve an awesome doula, cramps or no cramps.). Two changes of clothes and an extra pair of shoes, in the event that “birth happens”. I did once have a toddler big sister rummage in my birth bag and publicly present a pair of my underwear, but it’s worth it by a mile. Public presentation of underpants, or no public presentation of underpants.

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It’s Mary Poppins purse. It’s hard to understand, and harder to predict what will be inside. Each family, and each birth is unique, and the supplies packed will reflect that. But you can rest assured, your doula will have put an awful lot of thought into packing for your big day.

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