I love this bag, it's exactly the right size for the job, because it's not too big, and that's important for a doula's bag. Arriving at a birth with excess baggage doesn't send a positive message to your client...there could be a subtle indication that you believe that she, or you, can't do this birth without an enormous amount of stuff.
So let's get inside and see what I bring to births with me. My rebozo shawl comes along; I know several techniques for using the rebozo for extra comfort during labour, and its great for wrapping myself or my client up in if we are dialling down and having a little nap.
I bring whatever I'm currently knitting, and I've recently learned to crochet, which will be even easier to do at births. I enjoy working a few rows here and there during the day or at night in bed, and it really is the perfect activity for a birth companion, for a couple of very good reasons.
The French obstetrician and pioneer of home-like birthing rooms and birthing pools in maternity hospitals, Michel Odent has written about the maternity unit in Pithiviers state hospital in France that he was in charge of from 1962 to 1985, in his book 'Birth Reborn'. He speaks about the midwives there,who would sit in the birthing room or a room close by, reading or knitting. One of the things that will hinder the pulses of oxytocin (the hormone which causes the surges or contractions of the womb during labour) from the posterior pituitary gland, is the feeling of being observed. Privacy is important during labour, and oxytocin has been called the 'shy' hormone for this reason.
Having the presence of a calm, experienced woman nearby, who is not directly observing, can be helpful to a woman in labour, especially in unfamiliar surroundings, and especially if she knows, likes and has chosen the woman to be there as her doula. Knitting or reading are enjoyable ways of being with a woman in labour when there is no need for anything other than the reassurance of your subtle presence.
The other reason that knitting in the labour room is so good, is that it produces an Alpha wave output in the brain that is as high as that produced by yoga or meditation. Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed mental state, and birthing women are extremely sensitive to any hint of tension in the room, which in turn makes her system produce adrenaline, which is an antagonist to oxytocin.
Back to my doula bag! My original course manual from my trainers at Nurturing Birth which is a Doula UK recognised training course, is something I like to carry with me. It helps me to know that all the wisdom it contains is there at my fingertips should something unforeseen arise during the labour. It makes great reading too, as does my Juno magazine, and I find the photography in Juno really soothing and beautiful too.
The other things that I bring for my own comfort are snacks, painkillers, lip balm, hand cream, change of clothes, toothpaste, face wipes and spare contact lenses and glasses. I have eye drops sometimes, and lavender oil, which I find comforting. Phone, purse, make up and keys get chucked in last minute.
For my client, I bring straws, which make sipping fluids much easier whilst you're labouring. A flannel for keeping her forehead cool, and a Thai foot massage stick can be great for her or for me, for pressure points and reflexology.
I swap things out depending on my mood and circumstances, and none of it is absolutely necessary anyway. The two most important things a doula brings to a birth is her hands and her heart. If she brings a bag, you now have an idea of what might be in it!