To talk about the reality of labor and postpartum, we have momma Rhowena Adolfo Patel on board. She’s the wonder-mom behind Healing Mama™ Co., and she’ll guide us through the right hospital bag items that we mommas should have.
Momma Rhowena is the founder and CEO of Healing Mama™ Co. She started this business initiative to extend care to fellow moms (and even their birthing partners!) to heal and thrive in the postpartum recovery process.
In the testing and development process of the products, she recalls: “I need every mom, especially first-time moms, to feel this kind of comfort, this level of care, this level of support!”
The first impulse is always out of love. Through the set of products they prepare over at Healing Mama, many mommas have been given a chance to thrive through the rollercoaster ride of delivery and postpartum.
So now, let’s hear her story.
Preparing for the birth of our baby was an exhilarating and completely brand new experience for me. I was seven months pregnant when my girlfriend gave me what she called her “Mom Must-Have Bag” because a girlfriend of hers made one for her. It was filled with items I had never heard of before, like Witch Hazel or Padsicles, and so much more.
At that moment, it occurred to me that I had not done any preparation for myself in all my baby preparation!
So, after spending the next month doing over 50+ hours of research and speaking with my midwives, I had what felt like a football-field-long list of products to get.
I scoured the internet for “labor kits” and “postpartum kits” and was so disappointed by how much these companies were charging for so few items in their boxes. There wasn’t even a single company that included all the things I knew I’d need!
I figured I could save money by doing it on my own rather than buying these incomplete kits. I was shocked to realize how difficult and grossly time-consuming it was to find all these products. After all the strenuous shopping experience, I thought, “Why isn’t someone doing ANYTHING about this?!”
That homemade “Mom Must-Have Bag” gift that my friend gave me has grown into the Healing Mama™ Co. A safe and trusted home, where all new and expectant parents can find exactly what they need to get through and thrive in this meaningful experience of childbirth and postpartum!
First, my girlfriend jokingly said that it would be a good business idea. My immediate response was, “Oh, don’t tempt me!”
But the real catalyst was during my postpartum journey. Having the spark to start a company, I chose to be the first test-mama and filled a 6-tier bookshelf in our bedroom with all the products and tools that I had purchased.
In the beginning, I thought I was overprepared. But within three months, I’ve used every single product. I was shocked again! If I didn’t experience it myself, I’m not sure if I would’ve believed it.
I went through so much physical and mental trauma during my postpartum healing and recovery stage. No one, not even a healthcare professional, talked to me about what this experience and recovery would be like. My husband was able to care for me without having to ask me what I needed. When I was in pain or seemed off, he’d go to the bookshelf to find what he could give me.
I vividly remember thinking to myself, “I need every mom, especially first-time moms, to feel this kind of comfort, this level of care, this level of support!” and that’s when I made the choice that I was going to do something about it.
When I started putting all the products together for my first group of test-mamas, I kept reciting this mantra “Be thorough, be practical, be thoughtful.” And to this day, this same mantra goes into every new offering that Healing Mama™ Co. releases.
When I started beta testing the idea of a kit with pregnant mamas in my life, I interviewed ten moms that were all within a year of giving birth, including myself. From this small group of moms, I learned there were still products I missed out on for myself, I knew what Cesarean mamas needed, and so much more.
I had an unmedicated home birth, so I had to put myself into the shoes of an expectant mama that would be going to the hospital or birth center. I thought, “How could I make my kits convenient but most of all a ‘grab and go’ style?” That’s when I realized that mamas need a bag filled with precisely what they need. And, it should be organized in a systematic way so that they or their birthing partner could easily navigate which product to use at any given moment.
I filled the bag with all the right products. I even included educational material that mommas need to shed light on all the blindspots throughout the childbirth and postpartum healing and recovery experience.
We also launched a labor and postpartum bag for birthing partners. The vital and critical role our partners play in the entire process deserves to be acknowledged and cared for. So, we interviewed partners from first-timers to partners with 4+ kids and put together a prepackaged, ready-to-go backpack just for them ‘cause they’ll probably be the ones carrying everything. So, a backpack was the most practical way we could support partners.
Once we clarified what Systems we would be bringing to market, we narrowed it down to three offerings:
Since we knew that experienced expectant parents might feel that the whole bag may not be necessary, that’s when we released our line of Healing Mama™ Bundles. Whereas our bags take an all-encompassing approach, our bundles are designed to provide care for specific areas during childbirth or postpartum. In line with this, expectant parents can choose bundles based on which part of healing and recovery they need the right products for.
A well-packed hospital bag can be the difference between pain and comfort. Especially during COVID, the amount of restrictions that birthing people have had to endure is unprecedented.
I’ve had more moments than I can count in tears hearing from new parents who shared how our systems or bundles have quite literally “saved” them. Some parents also shared how they didn’t think they’d need all the products in the bags then take them back within a couple of days once the baby is earthbound.
Here’s the reality of the situation: we’ve interviewed and spoken to countless birthing people who have resorted to “stealing” supplies from the hospital before being discharged. The main reason between all these parents is because they knew that they did not have any of these products for themselves.
Trust us, the last thing you or your partner need to be doing is going to the store or pharmacy with a brand new baby and trying to figure out which adult diapers or pads to buy for yourself!
Giving birth to a human being is a miracle. We’re working towards dignifying the aftermath of this experience so that brand new parents can be empowered and prepared for their own postpartum healing and recovery.
In both scenarios, the birthing person will be “opened,” and that physical trauma requires extensive aftercare.
From a physical perspective, let’s explore the aftermath of Caesarean births. This is a major surgery so you need proper surgical aftercare. Mobility will not be as available to you as a person who has had a vaginal birth, so having simple things like a pair of easy-to-slip-on socks and wipes no more than an arm’s length away from you will help you do some things on your own.
We also provide how-to’s for knowing when and how to clean your wound area and massage and help heal your Cesarean scar and surrounding area (once your incision has healed and your healthcare provider has given the OK.) And yes, Cesarean births still have vaginal bleeding (lochia) postpartum, so you will need to have the right products to wear that will soak up all this blood while not irritating your wound.
Vaginal births, from a physical perspective, will involve caring for your sore and sensitive vagina. So, you’ll need to use the proper herbs and alcohol-free witch hazel to cleanse and boost your vaginal healing. You will also need to wear padsicles! If you don’t know what this is, check out our padsicle bundles.
Side tip: if you prepared padsicles and ended up in a Cesarean birth you can use your padsicle over your healed (once the doctor has given the OK) Cesarean scar to relieve the itch and pain, while the aloe vera helps to soothe the area.
For both births, your internal and hormonal recovery is similar. You both may need the support of a hemorrhoid pillow, you will bleed, and you’ll need adequate time to heal and recover. Most importantly, both births are natural, and you are amazing for having endured the miracle of childbirth.
So my response is not going to include what the standard hospital bag checklists include, but here’s my list of what you “actually” need to pack, on top of all the standard stuff, like your clothes, toothbrush, cell phone chargers, etc.
These five products are included in all our Healing Mama™ Labor & Postpartum Systems (Bags).
1. Substance Mom: New Mama Comfort Tea by Matter Company – We include this in all our Systems, including our Birthing Partner System. It’s nature’s magic in a sachet, provides comfort in easing the pain from postpartum contractions or after-birth pain, and eases hormonal rebalancing. For me, it was the immediate comfort it gave me when it felt like I was falling down a rollercoaster or sinking into a dark hole.
2. Our Ultimate Upside-Down Vajayjay Cleansing Bottle – This doubles as a travel bidet. So, after your postpartum healing is completed, it’s perfect for camping or traveling and comes in a reusable case for easy storage and packing.
Most of the perineum wash bottles on the market are just too small, and let’s face it, mama is going to need lots of water to keep her vajayjay clean. So, we’ve opted for a 500 ml bottle that comes complete with two different spout heads so mama can choose her own “adventure down there” and figure out which spout is most comfortable.
3. Adult Diapers or Mama Diapers – We include packs of five in our bundle rather than stick you with 10-20 diapers, which reduces waste and the potential of not having too many diapers left over. So, yes mama, you and your newborn will both be wearing diapers at the same time!
4. Prunes or Magnesium Citrate (specifically this strain) – You will want your first postpartum poop to be as smooth as humanly possible. We include a bag of prunes in all our Systems for this basic reason. Plus, it makes an easy go-to snack.
On top of the needed benefits of magnesium that a postpartum mama desperately needs, the natural laxative effects of citrate will help make that first poop nice and smooth!
5. Arnica Montana Pellets – These are commonly given to birthing people after labor for bruising of the labia or vagina, after so much pushing and straining, or having forceps used on you during labor, or any other birth trauma.
Arnica Montana pellets can act as a tonic for sore muscles without having to use drugs or prescribing pain medication. It’s commonly used for blunt trauma — bruising, bleeding, shock, muscle pain, stiffness, swelling from injuries, and bruises.
Let me just add a few quick products for Birthing Partners too:
1. Unscented deodorant – With your new baby’s sensitive sense of smell, you need to keep yourself (including mama) scent-free for the first few weeks as much as possible.
2. Compact fleece blanket and a blow-up pillow – When you’re not using your pillow, place it behind mama’s back when she is sitting upright or nursing to support her. And when it gets cold in the hospital, you can remember to pass her your fleece blanket.
3. Mentos – In between contractions, you can offer mama mentos that she can choose to suck on or chew, depending on her comfort level. Plus, you may or may not have the time or remember to brush your teeth, so pop in Mentos to keep your breath fresh.
Note that these are only three of the 20+ products we include in our Birthing Partner Labour & Postpartum Backpack.
Here are some actual reviews that mamas have shared with us:
“The adult diapers/ briefs were the best part, in my opinion. So easy to take care of for bleeding, but large enough they sat above my C-section incision.”
“The squirt bottle with the ‘tea’ to put in it was very handy and soothing! Just even to feel fresh again.”
“The prunes are GENIUS! No one warns of that first poop post C-section! They were very helpful and honestly a nice snack to have in the middle of the night.”
“When we headed for the hospital, I actually packed a massive suitcase with stuff and also took my Healing Mama bag. Let’s just say… my suitcase was barely opened.”
“The larger bag had essentials like disposable undies (even the nurse commented that I had the “good kind”), mesh undies, a bag of prunes (these are the things you don’t think about), maternity pads, and a cleansing bottle. Giving birth is not as pretty as TV makes it out to seem. There is so much happening after the main show and Healing Mama had me covered from the beginning to the end.”
“Healing Mama doesn’t skimp out on essential items in their bags, and they don’t skimp out on giving back either”
Birthing partner review:
“The bag he packed himself was, well, a man’s bag. It barely had anything in it but one change of clothes. Thank goodness for the Healing Mama bag.”
Mamas need help! It’s completely ok [to ask for help] and is a sign of courage and strength. So while you are pregnant, start welcoming the care and love of the people around you.
After giving birth, you are physically in the most nutritive-depleted state you have ever been in your life. And with that comes having to care for a baby that fully depends on you. This can be a disastrous combination if you’re not adequately prepared for it.
It’s not a coincidence that it takes two people to make a baby, and it takes a minimum of two people to care for a new baby. New mamas need to rest as much as possible for at least the first three months. I know that some mommas will say this is more time than they took for themselves (or believed that they needed), but it took nine months to grow a baby within you! Taking a third of that time to thoroughly and adequately heal is also necessary.
If your partner cannot be with you for this long postpartum, then plan for a postpartum doula, or ask any of your loved ones to be your companion. And yes, please, prepare for support for at least the first three months! Having this support planned ahead of time can be the difference between suffering and support.
We can save so many new moms from postpartum blues, depression, and the more severe and rare cases of postpartum psychosis if they are given the care, healing, and support they need and deserve!
Aside from the super important stuff from Healing Mama, there are practical items every mom needs in her hospital bag. When you reach the third trimester, you have to start packing your stuff so you can easily grab and go when it’s time to go to the hospital.
Mommas need the best love, support, and care as they go through this challenging (and yet fulfilling!) period in their lives. Women need to have access to education and resources to help them survive and thrive through every stage in their mommahood. As our guest expert has mentioned, mommas need help, PERIOD! It’s not a bad thing to ask for what we deserve.
And as the popular proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think it also takes a village—and a loving one at that!—to raise a mom.