Category Archives: grandchildren

Help! I Am a First-Time Grandmother-Doula!


“There is always room on Marmee’s lap!”

 That is what I tell my grands, anyway.

Marmee, Benjamin, and Lucy:  November 2011.


Benjamin, born 2009, snuggling with Marmee.


Lucy, born 2011.

Dear Grandmothers-To-Be:

Proviso: I am not a certified doula. If your daughter requires a certified doula, see the website,

I am a grandmother and volunteer doula for my daughter.

I have experience in the hospital setting, with an attending midwife.  I have not yet assisted at a home birth.


IF your daughter invites you  to serve as the “doula,” please do not panic!  It is a great honor for your daughter to ask you to fulfill this role.

If she does not invite you to serve as the “doula,” please read this article:  “Dueling With the Doula.”

If you are able to remain stoic, calm, patient, quiet [and mostly invisible] during the labor and birth process, you are a good candidate to be a doula.

I am a grandmother of two, with one on the way:  I have been my daughter’s doula for the two previous births and I am currently packing my “Doula Bags” for the third birth.

I will provide you with guidance:  I will describe how I prepared for the blessed events and I will provide “Marmee’s Doula Check List.”



What Is a Doula?


[Image credit:]

The babies in my parents’ generation were born at home.  [My parents were born 1918-1920].  In attendance at these home births was a midwife or a family doctor.   A close relative probably fulfilled the role of the doula:  perhaps a mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, or an aunt.

During the next generation, we lost the knowledge of the assisted home birth because of the shift to the “medical model,”  when hospital births replaced home births.  This transition occurred a decade or two before I was born, in 1952.

Thankfully, today we are reclaiming the knowledge and skill of the midwife and doula.  Grandmothers are perfectly suited to step into the role of doula, in this reclamation.

Doula” is a Greek word which means, “servant:”    “Doula” is “one who serves.”

The doula’s role is to provide comfort, support, and encouragement to the mother — before, during, and after the delivery of the baby.  

The Birth Team:

The husband coaches the mother.

The midwife guides the birth process and offers medical advice, knowledge, and skill — and instructs the hospital staff.

The doula does not interfere with either of these other roles:  She assists the husband and midwife, if asked to do so.

She is responsible for offering a variety of “comfort aids” to the mother.  [More about that later.]


If you are traveling to a different city, ask your daughter if she would like you to arrive one week before and to stay one week after the “due date.”

Making plans ahead of time is tricky:  The midwife will advise, as the due date approaches.

If possible, plan to drive instead of to fly.  You will have more flexibility and more room to transport your “comfort aids.”

The Birth Facility:

Your daughter will choose either a home birth [with midwife], a “birth cottage” [with midwife] or a hospital birthing facility [with a midwife].

It is appropriate, at any one of these settings, for the grandmother to serve as “doula.”

Before the baby is full term:  

  • Learn the route to the birthing facility.
  • Arrange a tour of the birthing facility.
  • Ask prior permission to use the kitchen, during the birthing session.
  • Arrange for authorization, if necessary:  You will need a valid driver’s license.
  • Secure a copy of the house key of the parents-to-be, in case you need to bring an item to the birthing facility.

Educational Resources:

As soon as your daughter asks you to serve as the doula, order your educational resources and begin your study.

I recommend these three resources as absolutely essential:



DVD:  Comfort Measures for Childbirth, by Penny Simkins

Happiest Baby

CD, DVD, and Book:  The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, M. D.

The Birth Plan:

The father and mother will provide you with a copy of their Birth Plan, which the midwife will require.

Marmee’s Doula Check List:

Personal Items for the Doula:

  • toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth rinse
  • hard candies, cough drops, breath mints, gum
  • zip lock bags, thick freezer type:  small, medium, and large; black Sharpie pen [for organization]
  • toiletries
  • clean apron, with pockets
  • backpack [to transport the comfort aids]
  • fanny pack [to keep essential items at hand]
  • iPhone and re-charger
  • fresh change of undies & clothing; sweater
  • lined notebook, pen, and pencil:  to record the Birth Story


  • shoes: clogs that are comfortable, waterproof, and washable:  Birkie Classic Clogs —   — OR
  • shoes: comfortable athletic shoes, with good arch support
  • sox

Comfort Aids for the Mom:  [See Penny Simkin’s DVD for details.]

A Word About Safety:

  • Place layers of sterile towels over hot/cold comfort aides, before placing them on the mom.
  • Disinfect all surfaces and comfort aids:  before and after each birth session.  I use Seventh Generation Disinfectant Wipes.
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For Labor Positions: 


  • *Pilates & yoga floor mat with carry bag or strap; blocks [2]; stretch bands; belt
  • a sarong  or “rebozo:”  a long piece of sturdy, woven cloth



Image Credit:  Mexican Art Show




 Image Credit:

  • *ball or sphere for birthing  [also known as a  Swiss-, physio-, or exercise- ball or sphere ], extra inflating pin, “Faster Blaster Hand Pump,” and carry straps






  • a waterproof garden kneeling cushion/knee pad [Use this as a waterproof bath pillow, for laboring in the hospital bath tub.]
  • GNP_2

For Massage:

  • cornstarch [organic]
  • massage rollers
  • oil, organic:  without or without essential oil
  • pure cotton socks, extra-large, organic
  • three tennis balls

For Comfort: 


  • heating pad, electric
  • rolling pin:   [Note: no longer sells these.  Google “Tupperware Rolling Pin” to find a “vintage” one.]
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  • two pair:  100% pure organic cotton socks, extra large, with NO elastic Spandex [You are going to place the rice inside the socks and then heat them in the microwave, at the Birthing Location.  The socks will give off a strange odor, if they contain elastic or Spandex.]
  • 4 cups of raw rice, organic:  [I used Jasmine.]
  • frozen bags of peas
  • eye pillow
  • hand-held fan:  I chose this one:  It is a Fair-Trade hand-woven fiber fan with leather handle, from Ghana. To order:  Google African fan or Ghanan fan or Ghana fan.


Aromatherapy, if desired [ask the mom]:

  • cotton balls for essential oil
  • squirt or “spritz” spray bottle, filled with distilled water and essential oil
  • organic 100% essential oil [let the mom choose her favorite single-source or blended oil]+
  • organic oil for massage:  grapeseed, evening primrose, or almond

Personal Care & Comfort:


  • pillow, travel, waterproof, inflatable:  for mom to cradle her head, in the bath
  • brush, comb, stretchy head band and/or pony tail bands [to get hair off of mom’s face]
  • homeopathic Arnica Gel
  • arnica-gel
  • homeopathic  Rescue Remedy Spray by Bach
  • images-12
  • emery board or nail file
  • two pair of soft knee sox [the mother’s legs may get cold]
  • lip balm [organic & for sensitive skin]
  • wash cloths: thick, dark color
  • OTC pain relief for Dad [Advil or Tylenol]
  • Sea Bands” and/or “Preg Pops,” in case mom has  nausea
  • sea-band-morning-sickness


Nutrition and Hydration for Everyone:  You may need to bring a small ice chest.

A Note on Nutrition:

Since babies invariably arrive at odd hours, the hospital cafeteria may be closed, after the baby is born.  However, the new mom will be famished!

So, plan ahead and provide nutrition and hydration for her, as she will need to quickly stabilize her blood sugar, be able to sleep well, and fortify herself for nursing.

I did not plan ahead and all I could offer my daughter was two white-bread sandwiches from the all-night deli, at the hospital.  [She said that they were delicious, anyway.]

[Note: the kitchen will have cups, straws, spoons, water]

  • bottles of pure drinking water:  labeled for each person
  • “Emergen-C” powder packets:  contains electrolytes
  • organic milk and protein powder
  • nutritional bars:  meal-replacement; energy; power
  • organic snacks:  sunflower seeds, almonds, crackers & almond butter; granola bars; fruit [cut-up]
  • “Honey-Pax:” individual servings:
  • sandwiches
  • “Mom’s Milk Tea” to fortify mom, for nursing

Dad & Mom May Wish to Bring From Home:

  • toiletries
  • pillows & pillow cases
  • blanket

Before the Due Date:

  • Keep your vehicle filled with plenty of fuel.
  • Go to the bank and get a quantity of single dollar bills and quarters [for parking and vending machines].
  • Pack your vehicle with everything you will need, in duffle bags, and in your back back.

Before You Leave for the Birth Facility:

  • Bring your keys, driver’s license, sunglasses, purse, cell phone & re-charger, and frozen bags of peas.


Filed under Birth of a Grandchild, Child Birth, Doula, grandchildren, Grandmother, hospital

Marmee and “Mr. Manners”

Dear Faithful Family & Friends,

While we continue to await the birth of Lucy Elanor, I will share another story about my grandson, Benjamin, if you will humor me.  By the way, did you notice that I wrote, in my previous update:  “the birth of our first granddaughter?”  I was, perhaps, inspired by “Marmee” of “Little Women” and her four daughters . . . .

While we wait, Marmee has been enforcing good manners in her home.  It began innocently enough:  I told Benjamain [2 & 1/2  years old] that, when I was growing up, my father did not allow any of his children to say, “I do not like this!” when considering a home-made offering at the dining table.  Our father taught us what his father taught him:  “If your mother made it, it is good!  Now, be quiet and be thankful!”   My father and mother raised four children on one modest income and my mother was the Queen of Casseroles, Soups, and Stews.  As for me, I had a healthy appetite and never met a food I did not like.

Anyway, I offered choices to Benjamin, suggesting “Thank you but I do not care for this”  or “I do not prefer this but I thank you” or “Thank you but I am not hungry at this moment.”

Benjamin caught on quite rapidly to the language of polite nonconformity.  Soon, he developed the art of defying instructions with exquisitely good manners, as he charmingly refused to pick up toys, take his bath, and settle down for a nap.

I realized, too late, that I had perhaps gone too far in my Etiquette Lessons, when Benjamin’s father, Daniel, related to me this recent conversation:

Benjamin:  “I would like to watch another ‘Construction Site’ DVD.”

Daniel: “No, you have watched enough DVDs.  You may play with your toys or we can read a book together.”

Benjamin:  “Thank you for your offer . . . but I would prefer to watch another Construction Site DVD.”

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The Most Fashionable Grandmother

I was at the City Parks & Recreation Aquatics Center with my daughter and toddler grandson the other day.  Upon my soul, I could never understand how a grown woman — I  mean, an intelligent, educated, cultured, dignified woman– could make such a spectacle of herself at the pool!  Mercy!  You never saw such bobbing, twirling, jumping, crawling.  You never heard such laughing and singing!

For the life of me, I could never understand this — that is, until I became a grandmother and became that spectacle.  My daughter, now six months pregnant with her second child [a girl], takes all this in stride and watches Benjamin and me, as she sits on the side of the pool.  If I were not playing with her son in the pool, I am rather sure she would be mortified at my antics.

. . . Sigh . . .

. . . I try to imagine myself as one of the serene parents or grandparents, “watching” my  kids, from a safe distance, while lounging in a deck-chair [shaded by an umbrella], reading from a Kindle, and talking on a cell-phone . . .

. . .   I try to envision myself as one of the more “fashionable” mothers or grandmothers, showing up for Pool Duty wearing:  a pristine “bathing suit” that will never get wet, expert make-up, coiffed hair, jewelry, and perfume . . .

. . . Sigh . . .

And me?  I show up for Pool Duty, fresh out of the shower, wearing tousled hair, sun block, lip balm, a faded Speedo swim suit and Speedo Vanquisher optical goggles.

No make-up, no coif, no jewelry, no perfume . . .

I’m a 59-year old grandmother and it’s “Tot Time” in the “Activity Pool:”  I’m with my two-year-old grandson and, for two hours, Benjamin leads me back into the world of childhood wonder and play, as I follow him around the pool.

We pretend to be Kangaroos or Alligators or he rides on my back and I’m a Bucking Bronco.  We laugh after I scoop him up,  when he stumbles and “bobs” his head by accident. We cheer in triumph, when he “bobs” his head on purpose.  I help him float on his back and we twirl around, faster and faster, until we are both dizzy. We sing nursery songs, as he sits on the side of the pool. He jumps into my arms, on cue:  “London Bridge is falling DOWN!”

. . . Sigh . . .

. . . . I may not be the most fashionable grandmother at the pool but I am pretty sure that I am the luckiest one.

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A Letter from Marmee

Dear Family & Friends,

Stephen & I are blessed with two children, two grandchildren [and one on the way], two god-children, nieces and nephews, and children of our friends.  This is the season not only for congratulations and celebrations but also for changes and challenges:  graduations, baccalaureates, commencements, parties, and vacations will soon segue into packing up for college, traveling, settling into a new city, making new friends, finding a new church, etc.  This letter is my encouragement to all the young people whom I love, who are going through this transition:

Dear ___________:

It is an honor for me to write to you a letter of encouragement.  I extend to you a hearty “Well Done!”  and I wish you joy and every success, in your future education and vocation.  I also desire to impart some truth and wisdom that will [hopefully] serve you, long after the excitement of the celebration is over.

During this season of transition, it is possible that you will move away from your family, friends, church home, and youth group.  Who will you choose to be?  What will be your character, virtue, and strength?  Will you decide to love the Triune God with “ALL of your heart, soul, mind, and strength?”  What or Who will be your constant and guiding North Star?

When you are parted from all that is familiar, you will need more than fond, warm, positive memories.  You will need to choose and establish community, based upon the rock-solid foundation of creed.  In fact, you will flourish only when you find “community and creed.”

The ancient and historic creeds of the church are most simply stated as The Mystery of Faith:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

These three historical acts [the Death/Atonement, Resurrection, and Second Coming] are the “irreducible minimum” central truths of Christianity.  St. Thomas said, “Truth is the conformity of the mind to reality.”   This historic truth is the reality of the Triune God invading space and time, in the grand redemptive narrative.  If these historical acts are true, then Christianity is true.  Regardless of what you experience in life, the transcendent truth of The Mystery of Faith is the unmovable anchor of Christianity.

Christianity is true because it represents reality, regardless of our “experience.”   As challenges and changes, trials and tribulations, disappointments, and losses occur in your life, the one constant that remains is the truth of Christianity.  This truth is the North Star, regardless of your own subjective and personal experience.

The New Testament assures us that “He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not, with him, freely give us all things?” [Romans 8.32.]

 The Cross of Christ is the assurance, the proof of the love of the Holy Triune God.

How are we to respond to this sacrificial love?

The New Testament instructs us:  “You are not your own; you have been bought with a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6.19-20]

The love of Christ compels us to live a life of costly discipleship, honoring and obeying the Holy Triune God.

As you enter adulthood, I pray that you will live as one who understands what true freedom is:  “The capacity to do none other than obey God.”

If a person does not become what he understands, he does not really understand it.  [Soren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855].  Know what your believe and live what you believe, in thought, words, and action.  Become a person of integrity.

This is a bittersweet time for you, as you say “goodbye” to your high school years and enter your college/university years.  If you have been blessed with a great family, good friends, a solid church, and a supportive youth group, then you are indeed fortunate.

However, when the memories of those years fade and when the transformed life becomes difficult, pick up this letter and read it again.

Remember the rock upon which your faith is founded:  the Cross of Christ.

Remember the truth of the sacrifice of Christ.

Remember the truth that “you are not your own; you have been bought with a price:”   Therein is found true wisdom and freedom.

From the Book of Common Prayer:

A Prayer for Young Persons:

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world:  Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals.  Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start.  Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

For Schools and Colleges:

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities [and especially ___________], that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Travelers:

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence, we find wherever we go:  Preserve those who travel [in particular, __________] surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Protection:

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coram Deo,


Margot Blair Payne, May 2011 and Revised January 2013.

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Filed under Graduation and Commencement, grandchildren, Grandmother, Special Occasions, theology and doxology