The environment and energy of the birth space affects the labouring client and support people. Here are some ways doulas help set the space.
Most importantly, before entering the birth-space, “baggage” must be left outside. Pause before going in. Turn off phone-ringer. Tidy your appearance and put on your nametag if you have one. Take a deep and calming breath.
Here are some practical things doulas can do in the room:
1). The first thing you do every time you enter or re-enter the room is to WASH YOUR HANDS. Put a pair of gloves in your pocket.
2). Deal with all the material stuff - clients’ and your own. Put things away. Besides looking messy, clutter is a safety concern. Hang jackets, deal with extra clothing, put bags somewhere reachable but unobtrusive. Beware the “splash zone.”
3). Put spoilable food in fridge or freezer and non-perishables on a shelf near the fridge.
4). Fill the blanket warmer or dryer. Ensure there are enough washcloths, sheets, and towels. Put pillows where they’re needed for client comfort.
5). Set up your doula area - your client file, birth notes, re-read the birth plan and remind yourself of client wishes.
6). Manage liquids. Put ice chips in the freezer. (Remember the spoon.) Fill water bottles / tea / labour-aid liquid. Ensure there are a couple of bendy-straws available.
7). Set the tone of the room:
- Fix lighting with dimmers, curtains/blinds, candles, night-lights.
- Set the sounds as your clients wish - a playlist on their phones, affirmations, or silence.
- Take care of smells. Most hospitals have a scent policy so check that before using essential oils, which are fine to use at home. Ditch stale coffee and anything else that might smell offensive to a labouring client.
- If the client has a focus point image or item - unpack that and set it out.
8). Check for any other comfort bits or necessities. Is there a birth-ball or birthing-stool?
9). If you are to take photos or video, get the camera set up. (But only if there’s time and you aren’t needed for hands-on birth support.)
Besides the aesthetics, safety is a concern. Watch for trip hazards.
At birth centres and hospitals, there’s a great deal of equipment that has to be wheeled around in time for the birth and even more in case of emergency.
At home births, there should always be a clear path in case of transport to the hospital and there’s usually routine equipment that needs a place.
Most of the things doulas do to take care of the space are the things that only get noticed if they’re not done.
For example, perhaps no one notices the blanket warmer getting filled, but they’ll surely notice if there are no warm blankets.
Ideally, we want the details looked after before anyone has to ask.