When I arrived in Canada in June 2015, I immediately made contact with the local abortion care clinic to see what their needs were. I had founded a clinic escort group back in Richmond, Virginia years before and wanted to continue the work. It turns out that the clinic here didn’t want an escort team (they’re not for all clinics) but I found another way in which I could be useful – Post-abortion care packages! Lovely gift bags full of items to help ease recovery both physically and emotionally. I’ve been doing these now for two years and love the shit out of them. The patients seem to like them too.
What follows is something I wrote when I made my first package. Please feel free to use and share!
There isn’t much about post-abortion care packages online so I thought I would share my process here. If you can think of anything to add, please comment and let me know!
I am a very poor little writer so I hit up Walmart for some supplies. I needed the following:
- Lap blanket (nice and fleecy)
- Tea (Chamomile has a relaxing effect, peppermint is a good choice as well)
- Protein bars
- Soup packets
- Chocolate (DO NOT give this to the patient before the procedure!)
- Fabric and rice for a homemade heating pad (directions to follow)
- Tylenol or Ibuprofen (no Aspirin! It is not good for post-operative bleeding)
- Pads (make sure you get incontinence pads rather than the regular ones shown)
- Bag (I am useless and could only find a Christmas bag)
The total came to just under $40 Canadian so homegirl needs to think of some cheaper ways to do this and/or get some donations – more about that later.
Once I got home and got my daughter settled in her high chair with some pasta, I pulled out my sewing machine and set to work on the homemade heating pad. It’s just one of those very simple bean bag type things you see at craft fairs that you can put into the microwave for a minute. Before you go and make a zillion of these, make sure that the doctors in your clinic approve of applying heat post-surgery. Some suggest it while others suggest cold packs. It’s important for the patient to follow doctor’s orders!
So, first thing’s first – grab some cotton fabric. It MUST be 100% cotton because it will go in the microwave. Fat quarters from quilting stores are perfect but flannel is amazing because of its hand (this is sewspeak for “feel”). Ideally, you would first iron your fabric but I am driving a patient tomorrow and therefore, need this one ASAP. I basically had to make it in the fifteen minutes between my daughter happily munching away and her screaming to be let out of her high chair. Other things you’re going to need are:
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine (unless you want to hand sew entirely)
Cut out some random rectangle of fabric. Yes, I know, this is terribly non-specific but I was in such a hurry that I didn’t measure. I cut out something that, when folded in half, would comfortably cover a decent amount of the lower abdomen, where most women will use it when experiencing post-operative cramping.
Once you cut it out, fold it in half with right sides together and get ready to sew! My suggestion is to set your stitch length to small since you’ll have lots of itty bitty pieces of rice in there and you don’t want them to leak. Using the foot as a width guide, sew around all the edges, leaving about a six inch gap at the end as an opening for the rice.
Reach into the little bag you’ve just made and pull it right side out, using a pencil or other pointed object to poke out the corners so they don’t look rounded.
Now is the fun part – spilling rice all over the kitchen! Those of you with partners who know how to open a bag of rice will be able to just pour those bad girls right in there. The rest of us will use an ice cream scoop.
*Here’s an extra-special tip – add two drops of peppermint oil to your rice! Though most essential oils do not have evidence to back the properties they claim, there is definite science to the anti-nausea properties of peppermint. You can get some inexpensively at any vitamin store.
Now you’re ready to sew up the opening using your hand sewing needle and a blind stitch. This is a very easy stitch to learn, even for beginners!
VOILA! You’re finished!
Once I was done with the heating pad (took about fifteen to twenty minutes because of the ice cream scoop technique), I put the entire care package together and added a note. Please don’t forget the note! Regardless of why a woman chooses to have an abortion or how she feels about it afterward, it is important that you let her know that you are thinking of her well-being.
It doesn’t even matter if you have the penwomanship of a Kindergartner.
Now my post-abortion care package is ready! But it does feel a little lacking. What would you add?
If you’re interested in donating supplies, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!