In the few years I’ve been writing on this blog, I’ve seen posts like these done but have never gotten around to writing one myself. Based on the high number of Edmonton doula clients that ask me what to pack, I think it’s time! Today I’m going to share the top 5 items that, in the opinion of an Edmonton doula, you MUST bring along to your birth.
Now I will preface this post by saying, LESS is MORE! Especially if you don’t have an Edmonton doula at your birth, you’re not going to want to be lugging around a million bags once it’s time to go to the hospital. Us as doulas in Edmonton are willing to help with bags, but trust me when I say that it’s the lowest on our priority list. We do bring a lot of helpful items ourselves, but there are many things that you can bring that are small and don’t take up much space.
1. A Pillow
Not sure where exactly you all are from, but for those who are Edmonton parents the hospitals here have the worst pillows. They are flat, hard and the hospitals usually won’t give you more than one. Seriously, sleeping on a rolled up towel will be more comfortable! Bringing your own pillow is great for comfort, but there are also ways to “spruce up” your pillow to help with labour. A couple of examples: get a really soft pillow case to rest your face on (the softness will awaken the nerve endings on your face and block some of the pain receptors according to the Gate Control Theory) and spritz it with your favourite perfume, cologne or drop with a relaxing essential oil (using aromatherapy during labour is an evidence-based comfort technique).
So snacks are important, but not every snack is made equal. When it comes to birth, you likely won’t feel like eating many things but you want to keep your energy up. While most hospitals will give you juice, that is about the extent of what you’ll get while you’re there – so make sure to bring your own! My go-to snacks even as an Edmonton doula who usually stays up into wee hours of the night, is energy-boosting fats. Think nut butters, bags of nuts or trail mixes, granola bars mad with flax seed and/or chia seed, dark chocolate… anything high in “good” fats (the omegas) to keep you satiated and energized. You can even pre-make your own snacks like fat bombs, granola, etc. Even something as simple as coconut water can be a game changer! Also, pro-tip from an Edmonton doula: pack candy! The sweet in your mouth will activate the nerve endings on your tongue to help with pain.
3. Lip Balm
This is a big one surprisingly! For the amount of breathing you *should* be doing during your birth, plus factor in not feeling like eating or drinking, your lips get dry AF. It might seem like something so small in the grand scheme, but dry, chapped or peeling lips are going to distract you in a bad way and bring more discomfort to an already uncomfortable situation. Plus, us Edmonton doulas don’t want to get in the habit of sharing lip stuff with all of our clients. Bring whatever style of lip balm that you normally use day-to-day, but if you’re in the mood to buy something new, try a really sweet and fruity flavour or a minty one!
What would we do in this world without music! I honestly can’t think of a time when music did not calm me down or help me through a high-stress time in my life. This one is important but I know personally as an Edmonton doula I always come equipped with music I find relaxing. I love to try and personalize my playlist based on what kind of music you respond well to in labour, but what’s even better is when the birther makes their own and brings it. If you don’t have an Edmonton doula or they don’t have a speaker, you’ll want to either bring your own or bring your headphones so that you aren’t listening to poor phone quality music. The sound should be loud enough that it drowns out some of the hustle and bustle of the hospital (your oxytocin can’t optimally flow with beeps and buzzes going off all of the time) but not too loud where it’s not relaxing. In regards to style of music, think genres that are mellow. Acoustic instruments, even a very mellow style of electronic music like drum and bass or deep house can be nice and have a steady beat to follow to help with focus. Avoid high-frequency sounds like really dance-y music or rock… unless these are normally sounds that relax you. When in doubt, Spotify!
5. Hair Brush/Hair Tie
One thing I very vividly remember as a child is that when I would get upset or worked up about something, my mom would put me in my bed and brush my hair. It was the beeeeeeest – instant calm. The gentle strokes of the bristles running down my scalp, feeling each little hair gently pull away from my head, it was like a rush of pleasure signals to my brain! So I always remind women in labour that I support that hair brushing, such a simple act, can feel super nice. You’ll also likely be getting out of the bath or shower at some point too and you won’t want your hair tangled and matted for the remainder of your birth. A hair tie is a MUST when you start to sweat a lot, perhaps vomit or it just starts to bug you. Never leave without a hair tie ( I’m sure most of you don’t!).
Bonus: This one is for the Partners!
Partners, when you are at the hospital and start using water, many birthers will want you to help them and sometimes, even get in with them. It can be soooo therapeutic and allow hormones to flow beautifully if at some point, you are given an opportunity to be skin-on-skin in the water. So, bring swim stuff! This way you won’t have to either pass up on an opportunity to be physically with your partner or just go in the buck. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable with this but if you would, you GO!
What other essentials do you think need to be added to this list? What was your most useful hospital birth bag item?