What’s in my doula bag?

Electric candles – These are something I bring out at almost every hospital birth I attend. With the blue computer/monitor screen glow, many folks are comforted by keeping the room’s lights low and adding the orange-yellow flickering of a few electric candles.

Rebozo – A rebozo is a woven Mexican shawl that can be used to support someone in labor. It is a tool that can wiggle baby into an optimal position by gently rocking the hips or belly. It can also be used to assist in squatting/swaying positions, or used ceremonially as a closing in the weeks following the birth.

Honey – Honey is nice for keeping energy up in labor when my clients don’t feel like eating, or can’t hold down food. Hospital air can be especially dry, and when someone is spending many hours intentionally taking deep breaths, honey can soothe a sore throat. It’s handy to melt into some warm water for an electrolyte boost when clients are nauseous or throwing up.

A handheld fan – Especially nice for quelling nausea, or to give breeze to someone who is laboring in a warm tub. Many are comforted by fanning during pushing, especially with cool wash cloths on the neck, chest, or forehead. The fan I happen to keep in my bag was a gift from Burning Man, and that has made a pleasantly distracting story for many clients.

Essential oils – Now, I don’t recommend applying scents directly to anybody in labor (or anybody, ever). Essential oils are very strong extracts and most normal people will have a skin reaction if they’re not applied in a very diluted way. Besides, giving birth and smelling like a sweaty, messy animal is just how a newborn knows they’ve ended up in the right place. That being said, many of my clients are comforted by certain scents (lavender, rose, ‘woodsy’ pine ones, peppermint, orange). Peppermint is especially nice for nausea, lavender for anxiety, and scent is a tool we can use to distract and calm the body from the intense sensations in labor. Most hospitals are have scent-free policies for folks who have allergies or migraines triggered by scents. When offering aromatherapy in labor, I’ve put a drop or two of essential oils in one of my electric candles (so they can easily be brought to and away from someone’s nose), or put a few drops on a cool cloth for the back of the neck.

A quart of nettle infusion – This one’s all for me! I let the boiling kettle be my timer for getting ready to leave the house. When a client calls, day or night, I’m just about ready to leave at a moment’s notice. In the 5-10 minutes I spend getting by things together, I boil a pot of water for two quarts of tea. One nettle infusion I bring to the birth, and one I have ready and waiting for when I arrive home. After several hours, an infusion of nettle leaf is chock full of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and lots of good things my body needs when I’m too busy to eat fresh vegetables for several hours!

Larabars, Epic bars, fresh fruit, Tanka bars, Justin’s nut butter pouches, dulse – Having autoimmune allergies to most “normal” food, I need to be very mindful of the snacks I bring to keep myself going for my laboring clients. I can’t have any gluten (or most grains), dairy, soy, canola, or foods that are processed on shared equipment with them. That means no take-out, no Whole Foods hot bar, no delivery, no hospital room service, and I could be with a client for up to 30 hours in one stretch. These snacks contain the protein, fat and carbs I need to stay active. (That, and my partner has been known to pull up outside the hospital with something freshly cooked and warm when I’m gone an especially long time!)

Phone charger, toothbrush, deodorant, spare underwear, a book, hair ties/clips, salve/lotion, paper and pens for note taking.