**Spoiler alert: it includes a velvet vagina. Yes, actually.**
So as a doula I’m often asked, ‘you’re a what?’ followed by, ‘oh so what do you actually do then??’ Well you know what, it’s not that easy to define, it’s not tangible like so many things are these days in our consumerist ‘things’ culture. How do I explain that I create a feeling? In my humble opinion, as a doula, I’ll offer you emotional and practical support, signpost you to information of interest, be a continuous confidante in your pregnancy but it’s so much more than that. It’s love ️ in it’s purest form. I completely fall in love with what you hope for, for your birth, and then I try everything I can to help you achieve this. I understand, first hand, the power of a positive, empowering birth experience and it lasts forever.
- So how do I help on the birth day itself? My doula bag (which is getting smaller and smaller) holds the answers…
- Straws, the humble essential for your easy, hands free hydration (or impromtu Britney skits if the moment arises)…I’ll come back to that.
- A flannel – to cool.
- Massage balls – to relieve, to bang, bang, bang (repetition is very helpful), to squeeeeeze.
- Chocolate buttons – who needs a reason?!
- A Tens machine – great for early labour, my Mama can deliver her own mini electric shocks to match her pain and the beauty of this is, the power is literally in her hands, battery operated and there’s a boost button, she’s the boss after all.
- My fave essential oils: lavender, to calm. Frankincense, to deal with the intensity of the surges (the word contractions just sounds painful doesn’t it?). Clary sage if things slow down (only use in labour, you’ve been warned). And peppermint oil, a few drops in the toilet bowl can help the placenta deliver more smoothly.
- A variety of tea bags – obviously a complete essential at any time (I am a herbal tea addict!) and for the first cuppas as a new family because I get to see that, a family being born, privilege and wonder that never, ever gets old.
- Iphone – obvs but great if music is forgotten, you can listen, dance, roar to my 80s classics, stick in a cup, and voila!
- A book – for waiting, they’ll be no pressure from me to ‘move things along’ (I’m not actually reading but if it looks like I’m not bothered, chances are you’ll relax too), giving a Mama space is as important as knowing when to hold her tight.
- My rebozo (a mexican shawl) – for Mama, for baby, for me, to wrap, to comfort, lo act as a makeshift pillow, to hang from the door to change positions or to shake those apples imagine me shimmying with a scarf wrapped around your middle, can really make the surges more manageable.
- Fluffy socks – for my Mama’s cold feet, there’s a suggestion that the colder a woman’s legs the more dilated she is, the further up you go, the closer to baby you are…
- Wool – in case an impromptu cord tie is needed.
- Cash – hospital parking charges, ouch and I know lots of Dads worry about this. There is often a discounted ticket for the maternity ward, so definitely worth checking before you bankrupt your change pot.
- Blu tack – it can be very handy as a stress reliever but also excellent at putting up positive affirmations, special photos, anything that helps make the space your own if you’re not at home and to support your visualisation techniques, go to your happy place.
- A black marker pen – useful to write notes for the room door – ‘hypnobirthing in progress’, whether it is or not, often means less interruptions and softer voices…
- My velvet vagina (c/o the amazing midwife/researcher extraordinaire Sara Wickham www.sarawickham.com) another great visualisation tool, it opens out to 10cm.
- Talking of opening, as your surges build a homemade rice sock can bring warm relief (just stick it in the microwave and it stays warm for hours)
- Massage oil – i’ll rub anything that hurts, within reason but even then, you’re giving birth ffs!
I bring my stamina which will never waiver, you’re doing all the work, I can at least stand by your side while you do it
And the last item I bring is my ability to be invisible, my doula crush once said to me, doulas should be like wallpaper…this is your show, I am just an honored supporter, I will be there when you need me, and step away when you don’t…this is your moment.
And from the doula who’s holding this bag;
You’ll have my eyes watching over you to protect your space…undisturbed birth is the key to the positive birth door
- You’ll have my ears, and I will listen, you are about to give birth, you’re not ill, you are stronger and more in control than you’ve ever been, you’re the boss
And you’ll have a piece of my heart, forever, as I witness in awe, as you become a mother.And back to the straw, it’s the only thing I ever really get out of my bag because my Mamas are Goddesses and I serve them, and…they’ve got this.
Want to know more about Jena? You’ll find her on Doula UK or at www.theminimalistdoula.com
Want to know about Doula’s? Have a read of Sarah’s Guest List from last year: ‘What’s a Doula All About?’
And finally, The Secret Pillow Project (featured above) is a brilliant idea that empowers women in the most challenging of circumstances.