When I was a young girl, I was really fascinated with pregnancy, birth, and babies. That obviously led me into the career I chose, which in turn led me to create my own Birth Bag. As a result of this life-long appreciation for the process and gift of life, I love it when a mainstream publication does an article on birth or hospital bags around the world, which The Atlantic did this past February. (It’s available at that link.)
This first one is a birth bag from Japan. What’s packed in it?
- Clothes for the newborn
- Insurance card
- Seal impression
- Consent form for hospitalization
- Consent form for blood transfusion
- Mother and child health record notebook
- Patient’s registration ticket
- Maternity shorts
- Crop-top bra
- Daily sanitary goods (toothbrush, etc.)
- Tissue paper
Here is some of the logic, from The Atlantic:
Women should not touch water right after a delivery, for about a month. It means that women should concentrate on taking care of her baby, not housework, including using water for cooking and washing. It is said that symptoms of climacterium [psychological and biological adjustment] tend to be worse if a woman used water soon after the delivery. Although I am not sure if this is reliable, it has been handed down for long time. With the development of technology, we now have highly developed home appliances and food delivery services which allow us to live without touching water a lot in housework, so it may be one of the reasons why Japanese live longer than before.”
These confinement rules are popular in Asian cultures, although there’s not necessarily any true science behind them. As NPR once pointed out, birth often means 30 days in pajamas for a new mom. While that might seem glorious in some ways, it’s not actually necessary — and many moms around the world are very active in the first 30 days. (Although, of course, we can all use help.)
This birth bag is from Ethiopia. The Atlantic didn’t list out all the contents, but the mom said this to the author:
“I have already given birth to three children, so I know a thing or two about it. So I brought with me a towel to hold and cover the baby with. That is all he needs for now. For myself, I brought sanitary napkins, some underwear, sweatpants and a long loose dress, a pair of socks and a bottle of Mirinda [orange soda]. The Mirinda helps move your stomach as if to throw up, and it helps to turn the baby around so it goes out properly.”
If you’re wondering more about Mirinda/carbonated drinks and pregnancy, read this.
This one is from Madagascar. Consider some of the views on pregnancy in that country:
In my village we have many traditions, taboos, and things that you can’t do during your pregnancy. For example, pregnant women should not put ginger in their pocket. If women do put ginger in their pocket, their baby will grow a sixth finger or toe. I do follow them all because I try to be respectful. I don’t want to be cursed by ancestors, and above all I don’t want something bad happening to my new baby.”
A sixth finger because of ginger? Interesting.
I was a bit surprised this article didn’t mention any Scandinavian countries, who are regularly praised for some of their birth procedures and protocols — here’s a good article on Finnish children and why they sleep in boxes after being born, for example — but it was interesting to learn about birth and hospital bags from all over the world. I created the contents of my bag based on 10+ years of working with new moms and seeing the resources they need, from ginger chews to hair ties and Chapstick (Burt’s Bees). You can purchase my birth bag here, or feel free to contact me with any questions. I love hearing from expectant mothers on their concerns, challenges, and excitement!