What would you like to see? A picture from home, such as a family photo? A picture of something that relaxes you, like a picture of your cat lying in its favorite sunny windowsill? A favorite devotional image or text? Do you want the curtains open or closed? Do you want people to knock before coming in, so you can control your visitors and who you see, and who sees you (including disallowing student observers, if necessary)?
Which sensations make you relaxed while you’re at home? Dim lights, battery-operated flickering candles, a pillowcase from home, a washcloth from home, wearing your own clothes while you labor to bring your baby into this world (link to Jessica’s blog post??). Bringing a sarong or very flowing skirt (purchasing one at a thrift store, perhaps, so you don’t worry about stains) may help you feel relaxed, calm, and in control. These are all options to make your sense of touch more relaxed. Massage and effleurage from your birth doula or spouse/birth partner, warm bath in the tub – these enhance your sense of touch.
Does music relax you? Soft talking? Nature sounds, like waves or birds singing, a gentle thunderstorm? Even the sound of your own breathing can give you calm and focus. Consider making a ‘Baby Birth Playlist’ on an mp3 player, or make a CD and bring along a small CD player. During a longer labor, some families like to watch a favorite movie, so you could bring a laptop with a DVD. Alternately, complete quiet may be what you desire. Keep in mind that this can change as you proceed through your birthing, so flexibility of all on the birth team is essential!
A favorite lotion, essential oil, or even just the smell of your laundry detergent from home can all be peaceful to your birthing process. Keep in mind that the sense of smell may change through labor, so have scents on easily disposable items, such as cotton balls or tissues. You may also like the smell of foods and drinks, or hate them. Stay in touch with your team and let them know what brings you pleasure, and what you’d rather not smell right now!
Small, high energy snacks can be brought along. Honey stix, a small handful of nuts, pre-sliced apple or small box of raisins: these are all quite easy to pack in your bag for the hospital. Stay well hydrated with broth, water, coconut water, or electrolyte beverages (you can make your own, free of colors and excess sugar!) Maybe there is a favorite comforting snack that is both nourishing and high energy? In early labor while still at home, make sure you have carbs and protein for the work ahead. After birth, request a healthy nourishing meal as soon as possible.
Doulas are like a sixth sense – they contribute THEIR sixth sense to help the laboring mother and her support team, and can enhance all of the sense you desire to surround yourself with in labor. More and more moms are discovering their own sixth sense – that having a wise woman, experienced in childbirth, is a benefit to both her and her spouse. The doula sense is a continual caring presence that is a gift to you. This can help you feel safe and relaxed through the various changes at the hospital, or as you settle in for a homebirth. The evidence supports doula care leading to shorter, less painful, labors with less medical interventions for mom and baby!
Laura Devick, Culture of Life Doula, officially launched her business as a birth doula and placenta specialist in 2015, after serving friends and family as a doula for about ten years. She loves to help families create thoughtful, memorable birth experiences, tailored to their needs and wishes. Visit her at www.facebook.com/DevickDoula or at her website www.cultureoflifedoula.com.