A Doula's List of Stuff You Should Really Pack in Your Hospital Bag, (Part 1: The Labor Bag)

what to pack in your hospital bag

I'm not sure how I've never written about this on my doula blog, since I get asked about it all the time! The hospital bag. What do you really need? I'm totally an overpacker, which is fine. So, overpack until your heart's content if that's what comforts you, but don't overlook these essentials (and a few organizing tips from a obsessive organizer, as well!)

I recommend using several small(er) bags, each with a dedicated purpose. After one part of your hospital stay is over, that bag can be re-packed and even loaded in your car. It also helps when you're in the thick of things to be able to tell your doula -- "it's in my labor bag", instead of us rummaging through a super oversized duffle bag that has your stuff for labor, your postpartum stay, and your husband's skivvies. 

1. The Labor Bag

* Small Snacks to keep your energy up. Honey sticks are great. Small packs of Nutella or Peanut Butter are perfect. A banana? Yes! Remember that your hospital may still be stuck in the past and have rules against eating during labor. But, if you choose you can eat these small snacks indiscreetly and still get that boast that your body needs to work it!

*Hair Ties / Hair Band / Hair Clips / Socks / Chapstick in a Ziploc Bag (so they don't get lost in your bag, and you can easily tell your doula "My hair tie is in the ziploc bag"): 

* A Funny/Cute Game to pass the time and loosen you up. This one may seem odd. But... sometimes you get to the hospital and labor stalls, and your stuck walking halls or sitting around worrying. Or, perhaps you're getting induced and trying to kill some time. Or, maybe your water broke, and you're GBS positive, so your doctor recommends you go in to receive your antibiotics, but your contractions haven't started yet. A card game that gets your mind free and your heart laughing with your partner can absolutely kick start labor by loosening you up!!! I suggest the card game, Battle of the Sexes.

A Lightweight Robe to wear to cover your rear end if you're wearing a hospital gown OR, if you decide to get in the tub, you can put this back on, instead of getting fully dressed (which may feel better to you, especially if you're in intense labor.)

* Sports Bra and/or Swim Top for getting in the water. Usually, if you're ready for relief in the tub, you won't care if you're wearing something on your bottom half, but most women still like to have their breasts covered (but, if you don't care, that's totally cool, too!).

2 Sets of Clothes to Labor In. I recommend a loose, cotton jersey skirt for your bottom half (easy access for pelvic exams, if needed!) and whatever is comfy for your top.

*Comfort Measures --- if you have a doula, you probably don't need to pack these things. I know that as long as I have time to grab my doula bag, I show up to every birth with the following things: essential oils, massage oil, rebozo, heat pack, tennis balls (for massaging). If there's anything else you think of that would be helpful for your comfort, then bring it!


Sure... there are other things that you could bring... such as your own pillow, items to make your room more "homey", etc.. but the above list are my "must-packs"!

Part 2 (the hospital stay), to come soon!

When My Midwife Changed My Life

I'm sure when you see the title of this blogpost "When My Midwife Changed My Life", you probably assume that I'm going to be writing about how empowered she made me feel during birth or how she educated me on the benefits of trusting my body and baby or some other feel-good type of situation. Sure. She did all of those things. But the moment that she reached in my heart and touched my inner being happened two weeks after I gave birth to my second child... a beautiful, robust, easy-going, baby boy.

Even though my precious one was as laid back as they come, around day 5-6 postpartum, I was immediately overcome with anxiety. Not worry, persay (I know what persistent OCD postpartum worry is like, and that's not what I was experience). No, this anxiety was physical. It was causing my heart to race; my appetite vanished; my mind raced with nothingness; sleep (even though baby boy was sleeping relatively well for a newborn) rarely came to me even though I was exhausted. I felt like I was racing on a treadmill trying to escape something. The scary part, for me, was that I didn't know what this "something" was.

At my sweet boy's two-week check-up, I mentioned to his amazing pediatrician what was going on with me. Since my midwife's office was down the hall, the pediatrician asked, "Do you want me to try to get you in to see Candie today?".

YES. Oh, yes. Yes. I did! I just needed someone to tell me that was okay. It was okay to seek help.

I walked down the hall and was immediately embraced by my sweet midwife. The woman who had not only caught my two babies, but who had also sat with me for an hour at each prenatal visit to, when we ran out of pregnancy-related things to talk about, just "shoot the breeze". Now I understand that we weren't just chit-chatting, she was making me feel safe. She created such a cocoon of safety and peace for me when I was in her presence, that I would immediately let all fears fly out.

So, during that 2 week postpartum visit, just seeing her face immediately lifted the elephant off my chest that was suffocating me. She told me that what I was experiencing could be just "normal" PP stuff.. or it could be indicative of PPD or PPA. She listened to me. She cried with me. She asked if I wanted to try going on medicine. She told me it was okay if I did. That I would be okay. That we would figure this out. That I was not alone. 

She left the room to write the prescription, and I heard her nurse come up to her and say, 
"I thought you had left to get an early start on your weekend and spend some time with your family."

Candie responded with, "I was going to. But someone needed me to be present for them."

I'll never forget hearing that. 

"To be present."

Wow. To be present for others is sometimes the greatest gift we can give others. And, she taught me that fully. Sure, I could have been prescribed medication from another care provider, but I needed her presence. I needed her. And having her acknowledge and honor that, even though she could have easily told me to come back on Monday or passed me off to her OB, was life changing. It was humbling for me. Maybe I didn't get it at the time. But, now... now, I totally understand. Being present IS the gift of humanity, no matter who you are in life --- a gas station attendant, a doctor, a teacher, the President of the United States. 

Being "present" is what we were made for. 

Thank you, Candie for that life lesson.

<3 Martha

PS. Although I'm in East Tennessee now, if anyone reading this is lives in the Western Kentucky area and is in need of a care provider, Candie Riehl is the best. 

Introducing ... Exclusive Doula Client Resource Pages!

This has been on my "to-do" list for awhile, but that list grows and grows with every new client that I walk along side (which is a GOOD thing). But, I finally did it! I now have all of my resource packet ONLINE for my doula clients!

The resource area (found in the upper tabs of the website) is now one of my perks for clients --- it's not available to the general public -- it's a result of many hours culling through the best evidence based research, recommendations for Chattanooga & Knoxville complementary care providers, and more. 

This "client resource" section is password protected (I email you the password when you become my client).

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you'll find this useful during your preparation for your birth and postpartum period, and I'm so excited it's now at your digital fingertips. 

Do you have suggestions for things I can add? Just let me know! I <3 My East Tennessee Doula clients, so I'll pretty much do anything you ask! (Within reason, lol!)

<3 Your East Tennessee Doula,

Doula "Work" is Life "Work"

The duties of a doula are to provide emotional and physical support to her client, but more than that a doula is committed to being a nonjudgmental, informative, calming presence; to being actively present; to being steady and still.

Isn't this something that we all deserve throughout our entire lives?

It hit me during a life-changing workshop that I attended this weekend.... DOULA WORK IS LIFE WORK. What I am as a doula is what I should be as a human. And nothing less. It sounds like a difficult goal, but one that I commit myself to strive towards.

I commit myself to be a nonjudgmental, informative, calming presence.
I commit myself to be actively present.
I commit myself to be steady and still.

ALWAYS. In life and in birth work.

Much thanks and gratitude to the toLabor Doula Training Organization and the amazing Thérèse Hak-Kun for the guidance and knowledge she imparted with such lovingness and transparency -- this weekend in D.C. will forever change my life and my doula work. 

Reston, VA -- Spring 2016 -- toLabor Workshop Participants

Reston, VA -- Spring 2016 -- toLabor Workshop Participants

With Love,
Your Doula Martha

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