What's in my Doula + Birth Photographer Bag?
Cincinnati Doula + Birth Photographer
While I don't know the exact number of births I've attended, I've supported an average of five birth clients a month for many years as a Cincinnati birth photographer and doula. In the beginning of my role as a doula and birth photographer, I found myself overcompensating my lack of confidence by stuffing my bag full of unnecessary gadgets. There was once a time when I brought three bags with me to birth, full of items that rarely were used. But as my knowledge and trust in the physiological birth process grew, and my experience gave me some confidence, I've found my doula bag has gotten smaller and smaller. I know now that mothers have the ability to birth their babies on their own, and they truly don't need anything other than their primal mind (except when birth becomes a medical event, but the items required are then from a medical team). I imagine that many doulas have gone through similar situations with their bags of "tricks", too.
If you're just starting your journey as a doula, please trust yourself, and trust birth. Your client doesn't need tennis balls or massage sticks, they want you.
You, birth companion, are already enough.
Your constant support.
But birth work comes with long hours, and we can find ourselves in positions that are uncomfortable and tiring, so there are items that can relieve some of the strain. Instead of the three doula bags I used to carry around, I now use a medium size camera backpack. It has a hard bottom case and a top pouch. And that's it. I don't even bring a purse anymore. I know it's a smaller load than many doulas, but it works great for me and my clients. I often get asked exactly what I bring to births, so here are my necessities:
clary sage essential oil (to encourage contractions)
lavender essential oil (to relax birthing person)
peppermint essential oil (to ease nausea)
wallet (always sure I have cash)
extra pair of glasses (can't see without them)
gluten free snacks (I have Celiac Disease)
deodorant (who wants a smelly doula?)
sweater (dress in layers, sometimes rooms are cold but can quickly become pretty warm due to stages of labor)
small blanket (again, sometimes it's cold in those rooms and it's nice to have something comfortable to wrap around my shoulders)
And as a birth photographer, this is the gear that I absolutely can't go without:
Canon 5D III
Sigma 35 1.4
Canon 40 - 70
Canon 50 1.8
Canon Speedlite 600EX II - RT
Yongnuo Speedlite YN 600EX - RT TT (backup in the event of an emergency)
backup batteries for camera
rechargeable batteries for both speedlites
4 SD cards
Most of my backpack carries the camera gear, but other than that - it's really just materials that facilitate a calming birth environment for the client, and personal items for myself.
Remember though, you are enough. Nothing brought into the birth room will be more important than your trust in their birth journey (unless, again, birth becomes a medical event but that's out of your role anyways).