Every doula brings her own support supplies with her to births. These consist of items that help the mother and the family, as well as personal items a doula might require for her own needs and comfort. It can often take years to get the right puzzle pieces together which make up that perfect bag of supplies -- even finding the right bag can be a challenge. Once it feels right, though, there is nothing like knowing you have everything you need to labor with a couple for hours or days, and it's all right there in your magical doula bag.
Let me start with my bag. I went through a number of bags before, like Cinderella, I found one that fit. I tried an awesome LeSportSac duffel (I am an addict), a regular Jansport backpack, another LeSportSac backpack, but nothing seemed to work for me...until that day I met my bag at Mervyn's (remember Mervyn's?). It is Ciao brand, and I had been eyeing it for a few weeks before it went on sale. It was originally designed as a laptop bag, with three different compartments, but I saw how it would lend itself to becoming my ideal birth bag, and I bought it as soon as I could.
Here you see my pretty pink bag (pink is my favorite color), and you see the three sections of the bag, including an easily-accessible outside pocket (for slipping in a family's birth plan or other papers I need to keep handy).
In the first section, I have labor tools for mom and company. This includes: personal rice sock I make for her (two cups of rice in a long sock with the end tied in a knot), Tupperware Rolling Pin that can be filled with hot or cold water, bag of lotion/essential oils/chapstick, massage aids, and my trusty bag of gum/mints/and chewy-breath candies (I bring this out and leave it in a place where everyone can grab from it -- and I announce to the birth team that at any time, they are welcome to use anything in it -- fresh breath is appreciated by moms!). It is nice to be able to open one section of the bag and know I won't accidentally pull out my personal chapstick, or that I don't have to dive below my spare jeans to get something for the mom in labor.
The middle section is where you are supposed to strap your laptop in. It has a divider, so on one side, I strap in my two garden kneeling pads (I am sure to wash these before putting them away after a birth, or I wrap them in plastic if I am unable to clean them right away). These come in handy when moms want to kneel in the shower, and others use them as well -- midwives, partners, or me, kneeling next to a birth tub or anywhere on the hard ground. The other side is where I keep my snacks and water, as well as my change of clothes (just in case I ever get wet, dirty, or vomited on!).
The third compartment is where I keep boredom-busters and office supplies. I bring a book or two -- one for reference and one for enjoyment -- pens, business cards, and a notebook. This is also where I keep small things I might need, like Tylenol, tampons, toothbrush, hair bands, etc. There is a place for my keys, wallet, phone, and camera here as well.
This bag has one small pocket on either end, and in one I keep loose change for vending machines, and in the other I keep a pair of Mary Jane-style slipper-socks, for use inside a family's home if we are laboring there or a homebirth.
Out of all these goodies, every doula still has something she could not live without. For me, it is absolutely my bag of mints and gum -- everyone loves this and it gets the most use. The other thing, if I could pick a second, would be the kneeling pads! Again, I use them constantly. Everything else is there "just in case." Just in case I need new clothes, just in case mom wants massage my hands can't keep up with, just in case I need to look something up I have a question about...
I asked other doulas what they could not live without, and here are their responses:
Anne Junge of Happy Pushing Childbirth Services: "Handheld fan. If I don't use it, the partner, or the grandma, or the best friend uses it to keep their loved one cool."
Emily Willitt of Mommy Matters: "Bottled water and snacks; if I'm not hydrated and fueled, I'm not at my best, and it doesn't matter which other tools I have in my bag."
Marivette Torres of Tender Hands Doula: "A rebozo, because of its multi-purpose use for comfort during all stages of labor including the pushing stage."
Samantha Morgan of Doula Your Way: "Not that it fits in the bag, but a crock pot, wash cloths and water. Get the water hot and using dish gloves get the clothes wet. It's great for back pain and fantastic for pain relief."
Most doulas would agree, it's not about the tools and the stuff, it's about the support offered to moms and families during this transitional life event, so of course Teri Nava-Anderson of Harmony Doula sums it up beautifully: "The only things I can't do without are patience and empathy. And they fit in every bag I own."
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)