1. We Cry A Lot.
Sometimes I’m so emotional after a birth that I feel like Dawson Leery inhabits my body. I’ve cried tears of frustration, tears of joy, tears of sadness, and tears of exhaustion. I once cried after a long birth because the hospital cafeteria was no longer serving breakfast. I’m not sure what kind of tears those would be…tears of delirium? Attending a birth is such an amazing, emotional and exhausting experience, that sometimes the tiniest things can set off the water works. But I never let my clients see me cry. Mostly I save up my tears for when I get home. They are a great prelude to sleep!
2. We DO have a strong opinion on the topic.
A lot of my work as doula is centered around informational support. I present the pros and cons of a situation in an unbiased manner to help my clients make the best choice for their families. This involves stopping the “bad doula” side of my brain from spewing opinionated garbage everywhere. Some days it’s harder than others, because I’m a pretty opinionated person in my everyday life. But I’m learning, growing, and spewing less as time goes on.
3. We don't think all babies are cute.
I’ve seen lots of newborn babies, and while they are all precious, a lot of them look like the newest member of the Conehead family. So when I say “your baby is so adorable”, what I really mean is “your baby will be so adorable in a few days”.
4. We sometimes have very little left to give.
My favourite time to be called to a birth is after a full night sleep. I am rested, energetic, and ready to be a kick-ass doula. But it really doesn’t work out that way most of the time. Sometimes it goes like this instead: my kids wake me up at 5:30am, I make food, take them to the park, break-up fights, wipe tears, cuddle, wipe butts, sneak in some office work, make more food, clean, yell, cry, visit with family, and put the kids to bed. Then right as I’m putting my feet up to relax at the end of a long day, a client in labour is calling me. Its times like this that I have very little left to give. At the birth I might need to take an extra break, and it feels like crap. But I know that I need to take care of myself first before I can take care of my clients.
5. Being a doula sucks sometimes.
Doula life doesn’t always look like a Lisa Frank illustration, and I don’t always love what I do. I’ve supported clients through miscarriages, and lived through the heartbreak of having a client pass away. I’ve witnessed trauma and bullying during labour. I’ve missed anniversaries, birthday parties, and vacations. I miss entire nights of sleep on a regular basis! And, if I’m being honest, sometimes I’m just a glorified vomit catcher. But it is, without a doubt, totally worth it. Because even though being a doula doesn’t always look like a Lisa Frank illustration, there are still a shit ton of rainbows and unicorns to be found along the way. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I've been a doula for 4 years now, and with time my doula bag has gotten smaller and smaller. As a new doula, I had every gadget and goody possible. It helped me to feel secure. But the more births witnessed the more my confidence as a doula grew. And I quickly realized that the stuff I had is not what made me a great doula. It was my experience, compassion, kindness and awesomeness that made me a great doula! There are some birth that I go to where I don't take a single thing out of my bag! Other times I am glad that I have some essentials with me.
Personal Care Items- You know how on an airplane you are instructed to apply your own oxygen mask before assisting others? This same principle applies to being a doula. Although it can be difficult to remember to take care of myself, most of the "must haves" in my doula bag are about self-care. I bring and will often use eye drops, my contact case, lip chap, a hair brush, a headband, deodorant, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. I always have extra feminine hygiene products on hand in case I get any surprises. I try my best to live up to my "crunchy doula" status by stocking super granola cloth pads. And when I was still breastfeeding a made sure to bring plenty of nursing pads...because nothing causes a bigger milk letdown than the cries of a newborn baby!
Phone Charger- Because I never know how long I'll be away at a birth. And I never want to be out of touch with my other clients!
Food and/or Money- Childbirth can take time, and I need to eat! I usually pack easy to grab snacks like nuts, apples, or bananas on my way out the door. But I never eat while in the birthing room because some labouring moms have super sensitive noses. I also bring money to buy meals at the hospital or nearby restaurants, but that's only because I really hate cooking.
Extra Clothes- Birth brings with it a lot of sweat (usually my own), tears, blood and other bodily fluids. So I pack a few extras just in case.
Rice Bag- At some point my clients almost always get a sore back, and a warm rice bag is a lifesaver! I use one with a washable cover to that I can use it with more than one client.
Massage Tools- I think I've pulled out a massage tool or two at 90% of the births I've attended. They feel great and they save my hands. The Reflexology Ball is my fave!
Electric Tea Lights- Personally I use electric candles so much to add a little ambiance to the room, or help the environment be a calmer one.
Combs for Acupressure- These combs can be gripped by a labouring mom during contractions to help ease pain by releasing endorphins.
Straws- Bendy straws come in handy at home before heading to the hospital, or at a home birth. Sometimes mom needs a bit of assistance with her water intake, and a straw is the easiest way for mom to drink.
Gloves- When I am helping clean up at a home birth, I like to wear gloves. And I hate asking the midwife to use some so I just bring my own.
Aromatherapy- My go-to aromatherapy tools are my Clary Sage EO (a dab on the inner ankle to help with contractions) or my Anti-Nausea Aromatherapy Inhaler.
Deck of Cards- For distraction in early labour, or when a labouring mom has an epidural and doesn't want to sleep.
ID Badge- An ID badge is not required at Met hospital, but for some reason it adds legitimacy to my presence. There have been a few times where the nurse was like "Show me your credentials", I whipped out my badge and they were like "Awesome, welcome to the team". Hey, whatever works!
The Labor Progress Handbook- Basically the Bible for doulas and midwives!
1) I'm a slight Sci-Fi geek. My favourite shows include Earth 2, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly!
2) My Maid of Honour was a boy.
3) I spent my last year of high school in Switzerland, and have traveled to 30+ countries.
4) My two best friends are my lovely and amazing sisters.
5) I spent 4 summers working ground maintenance at golf courses. I can cut a mean green with very straight lines, but it did nothing to improve my golf game.
6) My favourite movies are Shawshank Redemption (obvs!), Fried Green Tomatoes and Donnie Darko.
7) I once had Malaria and it wasn't very much fun.
8) I have an innate dislike for being late. It's totally in my genes (thanks, Dad)! I usually arrive 20 minutes early and then pace awkwardly while I wait for the appropriate start time.
9) I am a t-shirt and jeans kinda gal who might wear make-up twice a year.
10) I am married to a very talented musician who won me over with his acoustic rendition of "Yellow Ledbetter" by Pearl Jam.
11) I'm not as good of a singer as my family claims I am!
12) I planned two home births, but ended up having two (pretty fantastic) hospital inductions.
13) I am the middle child, but don't suffer from "middle child syndrome" because I could care less for being the centre of attention.
14) I'm a Libra and an Ox.
15) I don't know how to drive.
16) When my oldest son was born the song "Your Song" by Elton John was playing. For my youngest it was "Times They Are A-Changin" by Bob Dylan
17) Before getting into birth work I applied to medical school twice because I wanted to be a medical examiner...as in dead bodies! I'm glad that one didn't work out!
18) I can demolish a tub of Haagen-Dazs in 10 minutes flat.
19) I named my kids Bayer and Copeland. No, they are not named after my maiden name (which is Keller by the way)... I just liked the names!
20) I was raised as a vegan vegetarian, but I very much love meat and cheese now (sorry, Mom)!
Planning a home birth is simpler than you might think! This post takes a look at the list of preparations that you might need to consider in anticipation of giving birth at home. Trust me, if you’ve planned a small party than you can plan a home birth…in fact, the to-do lists for both are actually quite similar. You’ll have to gather supplies, prepare some refreshments, set the mood, choose an outfit and possibly plan childcare. I hope that this list will help to make ‘birth’ day party planning even easier.
Let's begin with a look at the supplies that need to be gathered. Of course, your midwives will provide all of the essential medical equipment and emergency provisions. Many midwifery clinics will supply some of these things for you, so be sure to check with your midwife before going on a shopping spree! Once you have everything you need, gather it all together in a laundry basket.
MUST HAVES- these supplies are mostly about keeping things clean and safe
Disposable Underpads- These are one of the most important items in a home birth kit. They catch all the mess, and then you throw them out. I recommend having 10 small underpads and 10 large underpads, at least.
Waterproof Sheets/Plastic Drop Sheet/Shower Curtain- Use these items under your bed sheets, or to cover your couch/carpet. This will make clean up even easier!
Flashlight- A flashlight helps with visibility during a water birth or while your midwife is suturing. If you are in a pinch and don’t have a flashlight, the flashlight app on your phone will do.
Thermometer- There are some circumstances where your midwife will advise taking your temperature in labour, so having a thermometer on hand is important.
3 Large Bowls/Containers- Many lists out there will advise having one bowl, but I say 3! One bowl is for the placenta, one is to use as a water basin for cool cloths, and the last in case you vomit…I know, it’s not glamorous, but a possibility.
Heavy Flow Menstrual Pads or Adult Diapers- I think you get the idea behind these, but for those who don’t know, once the bloody show and amniotic fluid starts flowing, it doesn’t stop! So you’ll be wearing these for most of your labour.
Garbage Bags- Having 2 ready to use garbage bags makes birthing at home virtually mess-free. One will be for garbage, the other for laundry. Have them propped somewhere, and labeled if you are Type-A like me.
Towels, Washcloths & Receiving Blankets- You can never have too many!
Large Ziplock Freezer Bag- This will be used to store your placenta (in your freezer or fridge) until you dispose of it, or use it for encapsulation, planting a tree, etc.
SHOULD HAVES- these supplies aren’t necessary, but make clean up easier and recovery more comfortable
Peri Bottle- This handy toilet-side companion gets filled with either warm water or postpartum herbal tea and is used to clean the perineum instead of using toilet paper. Also, it might sting a little bit when you pee for those first few days and squirting the peri bottle at the same time can minimize this sensation. I suggest having one of these for each bathroom, and for the diaper bag!
Hydrogen Peroxide- Handy for if you get a blood stain on carpet or furniture.
Sweet Almond Oil- For perineal massage during the pushing phase.
Perineal Cold Packs- There is nothing better right after birth than wearing a nice cool and soothing pad!
Postpartum Herbal Bath- Have your doula or partner make this postpartum tea in the hour or two after the birth. Before you get your pjs on and snuggle in for the day/night, take a glorious bath you’re your newborn in these soothing herbs. And don’t forget to put the leftover tea in your peri bottle!
NICE TO HAVES- these items are sure to help your birth be more comfortable and memorable
Bendy Straw- I have debated putting this in the “must have” list…seriously, just get bendy straws.
Labour Massage Oil
Hook for IV Bag- You'll get bonus points if you have a coat tree, or something else near the bed, that your midwives can hook a hanger to if an IV is needed.
PREPARE SOME REFRESHMENTS
As we all know, labour and birth can be a long process. Many midwives and doulas will bring their won snacks, but it never hurts to have a few things prepared for your birth team and other guests to graze on. Some easy options include crackers with cheese, fruit/veggie tray, hummus with pita, or even a casserole of some sort. And don’t forget coffee! It’s likely that your birth team will need a caffeine jolt at some point during labour.
SET THE MOOD
Just like a good party, a good atmosphere is a must. You are already ahead of the game when planning a home birth, because it’s more than likely that you find your own home comfortable and safe. Consider kicking it up a notch by making a music playing, getting some candles, or using aromatherapy. Some popular essential oils for labour include clary sage, peppermint or lavender. Also try to make your home birth friendly by decluttering your space as much as possible. This helps your midwives lay out their equipment and to be able to locate things, such power outlets, easily.
CHOOSE AN OUTFIT
What to wear?...What to wear? Isn’t this the age-old question when you are planning a party? Some might take the easy route and wear nothing while in labour! Others may opt for the mesh underwear and bra combo, or even a comfy nighty. It doesn’t matter what you wear, it only matters that you are comfortable, and that you wear something that you don’t mind getting dirty. Don’t forget to be grateful that you won’t be wearing a hospital gown! Those things are far from comfortable.
PLAN CHILDCARE/PET CARE
Some people are comfortable with their children at the birth, however, some are not. Either way, it’s a good idea to have someone available to watch any older siblings. They could come to your home to assist with your child(ren) during the birth, or take them somewhere else. If you opt for the take them somewhere else option, don’t forget to pack overnight bags for your kids during your home birth preparations. You may also want to consider arranging for pet care for during your home birth.
There you have it, it’s as easy as planning a party! And your nesting urge with thank-you.
Kiss-ass doula, pretty okay-ish mom, spreadsheet enthusiast, punctuality freak, ice cream addict.