Disclosure: Not an advertisement. I did not receive any compensation for this endorsement.
This morning while going through my regular morning routine, I noticed my “secret doula weapon” sitting on my bathroom counter. It made me wonder what other secret weapons are out there, so I posed the question to the doulas on the Family Trees Birth Program’s Facebook page.
Doulas have all sorts of comfort measures up their sleeves. Just ask the spouse or child of a doula and they’ll probably give you many examples of how a rebozo relieved a headache or a homemade hot pack took away aching muscle pain.
During client prenatal meetings, the doula, birthing person, and partner spend some time practicing various comfort techniques. The doula may teach position changes, counter-pressure points, and the famous double hip squeeze. For the weeks leading up the birth, the parents will gain an idea of what to expect of their doula in terms of hands-on labor support.
But behind the scenes, the doula has all sorts of other comfort measures that never get mentioned, yet, are a staple to the doula’s routine -much like my secret weapon that I noticed this morning.
About ten or more years ago, I began using a hair product specifically made for those of us with wildly curly hair. One of the products in this line is a spray to control the curly frizz brought on by humidity (or any other force of nature that curly hair tends to react to in its own unique way depending on the mood). I use a few squirts on my dry hair each day.
When I am called to a birth in the middle of the night (which is 90% of the time!), I don’t have time to spend on my hair. But if you’ve ever seen slept-on-curly-hair, then you know what true bed-head looks like. I don’t want to show up at a birth looking like I just woke up (even if it is 3 am and OF COURSE I JUST WOKE UP!) so, I put a few squirts of this wonderful product in my hands, run my hands through my hair, and put those curls in a pony tail or headband – whatever hides the bed-head the best – and voila! I’m off to the birth.
Over the years I’ve had hundreds of laboring people hug me tightly in the middle of a contraction, sniff my hair deeply, and comment on such a pleasant smell.
It has become so common that I just expect my client will be drawn to the smell of the product that I don’t even think about it anymore.
It’s become my secret doula weapon. I use it for every single birth.
I never talk about it during the prenatal meetings. It’s just become part of my getting-ready-to-go-to-a-birth preparation (much like knowing what foods to avoid during my on-call time). I’ve never really acknowledged how much this has become my own little comfort measure until just now.
This morning while doing my hair it occurred to me how much doulas think about small details that we never really cover in a prenatal meeting. We’re always thinking above and beyond massage or positions changes – we’ve considered even the smallest detail (knowing that the small details are really in fact huge, gigantic details that will make a difference in the birth experience). It’s what sets doulas apart from all other support persons.
A few other “secret weapons” the doulas in my Facebook group mentioned:
Straws during labor are HUGE! But not just any straws – BENDY STRAWS. Imagine yourself in any position other than an upright “sitting at the table” position. Now, try to take a drink from that position. You’re likely going to spill the drink onto yourself – not a great thing for a thirsty person working hard in labor. Doulas know how to use the bendy straw so that drink does not drip, no matter what position you’re in!
Laboring people are hot. Then cold. Then hot. Then cold…. It’s all part of the changes brought on by the overflowing hormones of labor. Adjusting the room temperature doesn’t help much because the laboring person’s perception of hot or cold changes in seconds. A handheld fan can be turned on and off just as quickly as required by the laboring person. It cools immediately, yet the cool stops the minute the fan is turned off.
I don’t have an actual handheld fan in my doula bag – I prefer to use a stiff, manila folder to fan off my client. I find the folder provides more breeze (over a larger surface area) and it doesn’t make any noise like the handheld fans. Either way, a method of being able to cool/not cool is a great secret weapon!
If I had a dime for every time a laboring person told the support person to brush their teeth…
I’ve also passed mints to the support person who became suddenly queezy either from the unique smell of birth (yes, birth smell is a thing) or seeing so much body fluids they weren’t prepared to see (amniotic fluid, bloody show, vernix from the baby – the “birth is glamourous” list goes on).
Gum works too – if you remember not to chew it loudly, snap it, or blow bubbles.
What other secret weapons are out there?
Wendy Trees Shiffer, MS, FACCE, LCCE is a mother and maternal-fetal health educator. She is the founder and program director for Family Trees Birth Programs serving childbirth professionals and new parents.