When I'm on call, that means I am ready to drop everything and rush to a birth. This also means I carry everything I might want to use at a birth, for both the client and myself. Living in the city and relying on public transportation, I don't want to carry anything too heavy, but I also want to be sure I have the things I feel are most important to bring along.
Here's what I have at the ready:
FOR LABOR SUPPORT:
1. Handheld Fan
A handheld fan, or abanico in Spanish, is useful anytime of year for accompanying labor. It's light, doesn't rely on batteries, and birthing women often feel overheated at some point during the process of giving birth. The doula or birth partner can use this to fan the woman's face, neck, or back as needed. Some nice, inexpensive ones can usually be found at the store ALE-HOP here in Madrid.
2. Massage Ball
I usually carry a firm, smooth massage ball for using in lieu of hands during labor. Hands tire easily and having a weighted massage ball to apply pressure with makes back massage less physically demanding and often more effective for the birthing person.
3. Sleep Mask
Now I know what you might be thinking: is a person in labor really going to be trying to sleep? The answer is maybe (especially if they have an epidural) and also, I don't plan for this to be used for sleeping.
I carry a sleep mask (antifaz in Spanish) primarily to help maintain a calm environment for the woman as she travels from home to the hospital. This is especially important if going to the hospital during daylight hours when things might feel overwhelming and cause labor to slow down.
4. Unscented Lotion
Unscented lotion is great for using for massage during labor because even women who love the smell of certain lotions may find smells overwhelming during labor.
This eliminates the possibility of the scent of lotion causing nausea or irritability to the birthing person.
5. Cotton Pads
I bring cotton pads to use with any scents that the birthing person feels she would like to smell. Using a cotton pad instead of a diffuser means the scent can quickly and easily be removed if the birthing person suddenly feels ill or begins to dislike it. I use cotton pads with peppermint oil on them for nausea relief and lavender oil for relaxation.
6. Essential Oils
I usually carry peppermint, lavender, clary sage, and rose oils. Peppermint in particular is very useful for relieving nausea for many birthing people. Some women also love the smell of rose or lavender while clary sage is said to be helpful in stimulating contractions when applied topically.
Having a warm, calm environment can really help women feel more comfortable. Like all mammals, women often feel most at ease and have smoother labors when they feel safe. I bring battery-operated string lights, Himalayan salt lights, and tea lights to achieve this warmer environment even when at a hospital. You can also ask the hospital staff not to turn on lights when they come in unless absolutely necessary. Most checks and procedures can be performed in low light.
Affirmations are a powerful tool that can encourage women throughout labor when they see, hear, or repeat them. They can instill strength, determination, and calm in a birthing person when you find the right one for each person. I carry printed affirmations for women and you can also select your own - see this blog post for more info on affirmations and the process of choosing yours.
Everyone knows the concept of caring for yourself first so you can better serve those who depend on you - the whole airplane and the oxygen mask thing - and the same is true for supporting a person giving birth. Birth partners, including doulas, need to make sure they are resting when they're able and caring for themselves so they can best support the birthing person. Here are some things I carry to make sure I am feeling my best so I can give my best.
I like to carry a water bottle for myself so I'm well hydrated and not leaving to look for a vending machine during the labor.
Something that can make me feel very uncomfortable or tired is the feeling of dry or chapped lips. Births can be long and carrying some chapstick is a nice way to perk myself up.
Just in case I need a pick-me-up or the birth partner needs a snack, I like to have some nuts or something simple on hand. Of course, I make sure not to carry anything the birthing person or partner might be allergic to!
4. Hair Ties
I have long hair and I feel most in the zone when I'm rocking the mom bun. Sometimes I just need to pull my hair back out of my face to keep from distracting myself or the birthing person. I can also lend one to the birthing mom or have a backup if one of mine breaks.
5. Clothes & Slippers
Movement is not just important for the birthing person. The birthing partner and doula need to feel comfortable and have full range of motion in order to massage, physically hold up, and do whatever the birthing person needs! So,I carry some leggings and a t-shirt just for births.
6. Charger & External Battery
Births can be long. Having a charger and external battery in case you can't find a wall plug is a definite necessity!
And last and most important - I always bring my knowledge and experience. This is the number one asset a doula has and even without all the "stuff" mentioned above, doulas are well-prepared to accompany birth and help make your experience an empowering, warm, positive one! As a doula, I know how to listen and hold space for your emotions and thoughts throughout the process and protect your birthing space in the ways you desire.
Giving birth in Madrid or a new mom in Madrid? Looking for support on the wild ride called parenthood?
Look no further - book a free discovery call with me (Madison - doula in Madrid) today and let's chat about how together we can work to make your experience a positive one! And be sure to check out the Madoula homepage. If you're looking for doula support during your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum please be sure to contact me for a free consultation!
Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life. There are many factors to consider at all times. The support of a doula from home to hospital adds an additional layer of support for both the birthing person and partner. Continuous care and individualized support both increase the likelihood of satisfaction with one's birth experience, regardless of the birth outcome (C-section, instrumental birth, etc).