Category Archives: hospital

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

A Friend In Need: Hospital Visits


[Image: Courtesy of “Scattered Joy” blog]

Dear Readers,

We are all familiar with this question: “What can I do for my friend who is ill?”   Perhaps my story will provide some answers to that question!

It’s been quiet here at “Margot’s Corner” because I have been ill for a month, including a hospital stay for ten days.  I will spare you the details, which are interesting only to my family and medical team.  Happily, I  am now home, recovering  from my “mystery malady.”

I learned, through this challenging time, to ask for help.   One friend, in particular, was an “angel of mercy,” during my time of need.  She will know who she is, when she reads this entry:  This is my “thank you” to her and to ALL my helping and praying family and friends!

Note:  “Hints” are for friends of the patient.  “Tips” are for the patient.


Hint:  No one receives adequate  sleep in the hospital and an ill person craves sleep more desperately than even nutrition and company.  So, always ask your friend if he/she is accepting visitors.


  • When you sign the hospital admittance papers, specify “No Visitors”  and “Do Not Give Out Information About Me.”
  • Ask the staff to post a sign on your hospital door.  My sign specified:  “No Visitors, Except for My Family and Priests.”  You can, of course, give your room number to specific clergy, family, and friends.
  • Disconnect the “land phone” in the hospital room.  In fact, disconnect BOTH land phones, if it is a semi-private room.  They will, invariably, loudly ring and interrupt your sleep.
  • Use your cell phone, if you must, but turn the ringer OFF when you are sleeping.


I asked my friend to ignore the sign on the door.  I have known my friend for over 30 years;  she practically IS family.

Having an eye for design, my lovely blue-eyed friend wore a beautiful Delft blue top, blue crystal earrings, and she carried a vase of “living” bright red tulips, still blooming from their bulbs.  When I saw my friend walk into my hospital room, I exclaimed, “What beauty!  What color!”   [Pause.]  “And just look at the tulips, too!”

Hint:  A patient in the hospital craves beauty and color:  As I gazed at those tulips, they were a living symbol of nature and a reminder of hope:  I would soon return home, to plant my spring flowers!

Hint:  Hospital rooms are very small, so be prepared, to [instead] deliver flowers to the home of your friend.  He or she will enjoy them during recuperation, I assure you!


Tip:  No appetite for hospital meals?  From the Dietician’s Aide, request the “Fruit Plate with Cottage Cheese” or the “Supper Salad.”

Hint:  During my hospital stay, I had little appetite for solid food — yet I craved something cold, liquid, nutritious, refreshing, healthy, and not sweet:   My friend had the perfect solution:  She brought me, for three consecutive days, a hand-made “Green Smoothie,” from her own kitchen:  It was chock-full of organic vegetables and fruits, with no added sugar of any kind.  I kept the “Smoothie” cold,  in the styrofoam and plastic water pitcher on my “meal tray.”   I am convinced my recovery began after the first sip of that “Smoothie.”  My friend also provided the Smoothie recipe:

Green Smoothie Recipe

“If using a regular blender:  First cut up [the veggies and fruit] into smaller pieces because they can get “stuck” or frozen.  The key is to use small portions and blend, a little at a time, instead of putting it all in at once.

This will probably make enough “Smoothies” for two people.  It will last two to three days, in the refrigerator, or you may freeze it in small containers, defrost, and re-blend.  This recipe will yield about eight cups.

Put a few ice cubes in the blender and crush, to help solidify everything else.  Then, add ingredients, one at a time, and blend:”

1 hand-full of fresh baby spinach leaves

2 small heads of broccoli

1/2 apple [core but do not peel]

1 banana

a little bit of flax-seed oil, if you have it

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

4 frozen strawberries

4 slices of frozen peaches

Whatever else you may have in the refrigerator  . . .

Ice:  enough for desired consistency



Tip:  The staff is very busy and does not have time to help a patient take a shower.

Tip:  Plan ahead:  Keep your essential toiletries in a travel pouch and grab it before you rush out the ER or Hospital.

Tip:  The hospital supplies some toiletries but they are not available in quantity or quality.

Hint:  While in the hospital, I was not yet strong or stable enough to take a shower by myself.  So, my friend brought me samples of her luxurious shampoo and conditioner and helped me with my shower & shampoo.  Now, that is a true girl friend!

Hint:  A patient needs toiletries — without fragrances and with gentle [and, if possible, organic] ingredients. Ask your friend for suggestions.  I recommend:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, comb, headband, bath/shower gel, face moisturizer, body lotion, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, and lip balm.
  • To encourage sleep:  A sleep eye-mask, silicone ear plugs, and a homeopathic remedy:  Hyland’s “Calms Forte.”  [Of course, ask your physician about this remedy.]



Tip:  Plan ahead:  Every morning, ask “Housekeeping” for fresh bath linens, sox, and two hospital gowns.  Also, ask “Housekeeping” to make your bed with fresh sheets, while you are in the shower.

Tip:  Tie the first gown in the back.  Over that first gown, tie the second gown in the front.  Now, you have a “gown” and a “robe.”  Clean sheets, clean gown & robe & sox, clean body & hair:  It is bliss!


My friend recognized my need for stimulating conversation and indulged me by sitting with me in the “Waiting Room,” where we discussed theology for about fifteen minutes.

Hint:  Your friend is eager to hear about the “outside world” and craves stimulating conversation.  For myself, I was so weary of repeating my health issues that it was a relief to talk about anything other than my health.  So, dear friends, please do not ask your ill friend for details.


  • Offer to read a favorite book  to your friend.
  • Bring an iPod with ear buds and recorded books and beautiful music.
  • Or, bring a magazine or a journal that you know your friend might appreciate:  Ask for suggestions, however!  A Birkenstock-wearing, silver-haired grandmother [like me] will prefer to read “Real Simple” or “Southern Living,” for instance.


Even though my priest, Fr. Michael, referred to my hospital stay as a “Reading Vacation,”  the truth is that I was sleep-deprived:  my head hurt, my eyes would not focus, and I had difficulty concentrating.  I chuckled every time I glanced at the 1300-page volume of “Les Miserables,” which I asked my husband to bring me.  I was too weak to even lift the heavy volume!

I would have been much happier with “Anne of Green Gables,”  which I read, with glee, when I returned home.

Hint:  Everyone needs a “comfort book,” to read when ill.



Visiting a friend in the hospital is an immense labor of love, time, and energy:  A visitor must park in the parking deck, find the elevators, walk through endless corridors, and find the room number.  After that Herculean effort, a friend does NOT want to find an empty room when he/she arrives.

[For instance, each diagnostic test, plus transport, requires one to two hours.]

Hint:  If your friend is accepting visitors, send a text message confirmation before you leave for your hospital visit.

Tip:  Text or call your family, friends, and clergy and advise them:

  • if you are going to be absent from the hospital room for any reason.
  • ASAP, after you find out you will be discharged.


Gifts from Family &  Friends:

Tip & Hint:  I sent brief daily email updates to one friend and to one family member:  They “spread the word” to a wider circle of family and friends.  Family and friends knew how to pray specifically for me.  Such a blessing!

Hint:  Friends prepared simple suppers for Stephen, which were invaluable.  After working all day, Stephen came to visit me in the evenings in the hospital, knowing that he could look forward to a home-cooked meal.  All he needed to do was microwave the supper.  Soup and stews work particularly well.

Hint:  Once I returned home, friends prepared simple suppers for both Stephen and me, which were delicious and most welcome.

Hint:  Ask about strong preferences and intolerances.  Store the supper in containers that your friend does not have to return.  Or, if this is not possible, clearly label the storage containers and offer to pick up the containers.  This is such a huge help!

To all my dear family, friends, and priests who are reading this blog entry:  Thank you for your care, concern, and prayers!

Coram Deo,


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Filed under friendship, Help a Friend Who Is Ill, hospital