There is such emphasis on what to bring to the hospital -- you can find a hundred lists on Pinterest and other places. While we try to anticipate what a laboring person will need, inevitably, something may be forgotten. Here's a handy list of things you may already have access to simply because you are in the hospital.
Every doula learns her own tricks according to the laboring person's needs, the hospital's set up, and the nurses' suggestions. It's always a good idea to ask before you go searching in drawers and cupboards. But I have found, if you have a need or an idea, the staff is supportive of out-of-the-box ways to comfort someone in labor. What has worked for you?
(I love this picture -- these are some of my fellow doulas in the Bakersfield, CA area.)
For three years now...
I have hosted a celebration of doulas on my blog. The original idea was something I thought of, literally, on April 31, 2014. I was struck with the idea of trying to feature 31 days of guest posts written for doulas, by doulas, or about doulas. International Doula Month is every May, so this didn't give me much time to act! I quickly contacted a doula friend who had recently shared a blog post about all the things she learns at births, and that was Day 1 of 31 Days of Doulas, 2014. As the days progressed, I sought out other pieces, either crafted for this project, or previously written, to feature on my blog. This was overwhelming to tackle, but so rewarding! So rewarding, in fact, that this project carried into 31 Days of Doulas 2015, and 31 Days of Doulas 2016.
Sometimes doulas or families approach me with a piece to share. Sometimes I know something of someone, and I ask if they would consider contributing an original essay or article to the project. I have also stumbled upon other blog posts related to doulas, and sought permission to repost them on my blog. My most favorite thing ever about acting as editor in this role is when I know there is a story in someone, and I can encourage them of its value and help bring the words to life, now having meaning for someone else -- people who never thought they could write, people who never thought anyone else would care to hear that story -- proud of what they created and pleased to see how that helps others.
Because I love to blog, I created a Facebook group Blogging About Birth. My intention is for this to be a place where birth workers can share ideas, new bloggers can be mentored and buoyed up, and experienced bloggers can be challenged and revived. I love seeing what members share and what projects they are up to.
Each year I prepare a little earlier, because the 31 Days project is a hefty one! Generally I spend one hour a day editing, formatting, putting together the layout, creating or procuring graphics, linking, posting, and writing introductory/closing remarks for each post -- and that doesn't factor in the time connecting with the various authors. If I am lucky, I can stay one or two days ahead of schedule, and beg, borrow, or steal from friends and people I know if contributions are coming up short.
I am always looking for posts that relate to doulas -- if you are interested, please, let me know! And now, I end stealing words I wrote to close out the first 31 Days of Doulas: "At this point, I feel I am out of words! I can only say amazing so many times to describe this project. I am grateful for all I learned. I am grateful for the help you gave when you participated. I appreciate the time it takes to dig deep, sort, and get it all out on the computer screen. Thank you. I have learned so, so much from all of you.
All you Doulas out there, keep loving and serving families and being shaped by your experiences. And when you get a few minutes, don't forget to write."
Some of my favorites from past years
We are pretty familiar with Birth Plans, right? When it comes to what to do before it's time to head to the hospital, that's where an Early Labor Plan comes in.
One of the most powerful tools we have as humans is the ability to be distracted. Distraction is often thought of as a bad thing, but there are times in life when distraction is beneficial. For me, I can't say how many times I have been teaching a great group of future parents, only to realize, once class is over and the excitement dies down, that I have a monster headache! And in there somewhere at the edge of my consciousness, I knew I had a headache; I wasn't giving it attention, so it didn't bother me.
I heard once from a nurse I worked with that families, on average, go to the hospital 3 times before it is time to stay...I should clarify, 3 times before it is medically time for them to stay because they are actually in the phase of labor where the hospital will accept them. What often happens is the family, or the hospital, produce a (non-medical, or near-medical) reason to stay, which can mean interventions are now on the table to help things go faster. A secret about hospitals? They don't want people hanging around, not having babies, so the pressure to intervene is common. Check with your friends -- how many were sent back home when they were so sure it was the right time?
Enter: The Early Labor Plan. By utilizing distraction, we can stay home and labor longer, thus increasing our chances that it will be time to stay because labor is moving along at a more predictable pace. What kinds of things do people put on their ELPs? Here is a list from past clients:
The main idea is, this is a set task or list of activities that you are ready to move through before it is time to go to the hospital.
What's the advantage to having an ELP? Often when those first early labor signs occur, we are ready to jump into the car, or right to comfort measures and plans for birth -- but we aren't there yet. The mind is ready to labor, but the body doesn't need anything special. When we move through the things on our Birth Plan before it is time, we can set a psychological trap for later. You see, if you tried some of your comfort techniques before you really need them, when you do need them, you might feel like you already tried that. This can propel you through your coping measures more quickly, leaving you at a place where you may now consider options you wanted to avoid...not because labor is requiring it, but because our brains are moving to what seems the next logical step.
So, we calm and distract the mind, which gives the body time for labor to build. Don't worry that you might miss your window -- trust your body and its innate wisdom in this normal process to let you know when it needs your attention.
What will you put on your ELP? A favorite walk? Getting your toenails done? Finally beating that video game? Couple your ELP with your body's needs for food, hydration, and rest (remember the point of an ELP isn't to physically exhaust your body!), and soon enough, it WILL be time to move to the hospital and get one step closer to the birth of your baby.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)