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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, http://www.dona.org.

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:  www.allomother.com]

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 — http://www.birkenstock.com   — 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: 

* http://www.gaiam.com

  • *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:  www.BirthingNaturally.net

  • *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: 

* http://www.target.com

  • heating pad, electric
  • rolling pin:   [Note:  www.Tupperware.com no longer sells these.  Google “Tupperware Rolling Pin” to find a “vintage” one.]
  • il_fullxfull.319327955
  • 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:   http://www.honeypax.com
  • 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

Summers of Contentment: Part 1

Introduction: The Heirloom Vines

The snow was so thick, that winter day in 1899, that two horses pulled a sled, to relocate my great-grandparents and their belongings from Davidson County, NC, to Winston-Salem, NC.  Traveling with my great-grandparents, David Israel Long and Lillie Victoria Charles Long, was their first-born, an infant daughter, Susan Hope Long, my grandmother.  My great-grandparents brought heirloom seeds, slips, cuttings, and vines, to nurture and protect, until spring, when they would transplant the tender heirlooms into the rich garden soil of their new home site.  Among these was the Scuppernong vine.

David Israel Long purchased farmland at the south-eastern end of Winston-Salem, in the village of Waughtown, overlooking the rolling hills of the Piedmont. There, he built a sturdy two-story farmhouse for his family, which would grow to include eight children who survived infancy.  He also built a barn, a Summer House [an outdoor kitchen], and other essential out-buildings.

In 1918, my grandmother married and designed her first and only home, an Arts & Crafts Bungalow, in Waughtown.  Their home-site contained gardens and meadows.  From her parents’ gardens, only one or two miles away, my grandmother brought heirloom seeds, slips, cuttings, and vines, and, eventually, the new gardens flourished under her skillful care.  My father, Alton Bernard “Nobby” Blair, was born in that home, in 1919, in a sturdy four-poster bed that remains in my family.  He married my mother, Margaret Elizabeth “Peg” Van Hoy, in 1946, and his military career took him and his growing family far away from Waughtown.

The farthest he ever traveled from Waughtown was to Japan, during the years 1957-1958, when he was an Air Force commander on a radar base on top of a mountain in Hokkaido.  My mother, sister, brother, and I stayed behind, in Yadkinville, NC, which was a short drive from Winston-Salem.  During this time, my brother, Michael, was an infant; I was four and five years old; and my sister, Susan, was eight and nine.  We two sisters enjoyed extended visits at my grandmother’s home, during the summers:

 The Summers of 1957 & 1958:

I remember what large hands my grandmother had:  skillful, hard-working hands; wide, with thick fingers.  [In contrast, my mother’s hands were “aristocratic” and delicate, with long, thin fingers.]  With those hands, “Mommo” [MAW-maw] taught us [her granddaughters] how to knit and crochet.  She also sewed clothing for us and for our dolls.  With her sister, my Aunt Elizabeth “Bill” Long, she created beautiful, colorful, and warm quilts.  Mommo planted her gardens, carefully tended them, canned the produce, and stored the glass jars in the cool, dark cellar.

Mommo washed our hair in the kitchen sink.  Corky was Mommo’s pet parakeet; we watched him bathe and play in a trickle of water from the sink faucet, after Mommo rinsed our hair.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember my grandfather, “Daddah” [Raymond Earl] Blair, very well, but I do remember that Corky perched on his shoulder while he – [Daddah, not Corky!] — read the newspaper, after returning home from his office at the Southern-Pacific Railway.

During the summer, the Waughtown uncles, aunts, and cousins came over to Mommo’s house, to prepare for special occasions, like birthdays and holidays. The uncles set up long folding tables in the spacious side garden, the aunts helped in the kitchen, and we cousins played:  we hiked to a nearby pond to catch tadpoles; visited the mule in the meadow; played with Walkie-Talkies, made out of tin cans and string; and explored the detached Summer House,which I remember as a detached old-fashioned kitchen.

If it was The Fourth of July, we always made homemade ice cream:  one of my uncles was in charge of the hand-crank machine.  Toward the end of the freezing, my uncle placed a thick towel on top of the machine, grabbed a young boy cousin, and sat him on top of the thick towel.  How this assisted the freezing, I cannot remember.

At dusk, we cousins picked juicy figs from the garden and ate them.  Then, we played Tagor Hide and Seek, often hiding in the detached garage, which had an earthen floor and housed the 1954 green Chevy.  In the evenings, we caught fireflies in clear glass jars, after the adults helped us to punch holes in the metal lids.  And finally, after dark, we ate the homemade ice cream and the adults helped us to set off firecrackers: a perfect ending to a perfect day.

One summer morning, Mommo was dressed, as usual, in a house dress, apron, and low pumps.  [She never wore trousers or shorts, unless she was mowing the lawn, vacationing at the beach, or on a camping trip.] This particular morning, a man with a flatbed truck arrived to deliver live chickens in wire cages.  Mommo carefully chose her chickens and paid the delivery man.  She carried the wire cages and a broom out to the back garden. Then, she opened up the wire cage and grabbed one of the chickens by the neck.  Imagine her, in her house dress, apron, and pumps, as she took the broom handle and placed it over the chicken’s neck.  She then straddled the broom handle, placing one of her pumps on either side of the chicken’s neck.  We watched, fascinated, as she reached over, lifted that poor creature’s feet and – YANK! — the head disengaged.  For years, my mother admonished us: “Stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off!”  However, I had never seen that simile in action, until the day I watched that headless chicken run zigzags around the backyard.

After the chicken finally keeled over, Mommo drained the blood, and carried it into the kitchen, to begin the mind-numbing and tedious work of plucking the feathers.  I offered to help and began the joint task with considerable zeal, as we sat in the kitchen and worked tete a tete and “knee to knee.”  However, after only a few minutes, I sighed heavily and asked Mommo if I could go outside and play.  To my relief, she smiled and said “Yes.” She seemed to understand that I was a young child and needed to play with my siblings and cousins in the daylight hours.

Mommo stewed the chicken in a large stockpot, on top of the range-top on the electric stove.  Next to the kitchen was a shaded screened porch, which had a large table.  I returned from my outdoor play, in time to help her roll out the dough for the dumplings, cut long strips, and shake salt and pepper over the strips. When the stew was finally ready, Mommo opened the screen door and called all the family in for supper.  I can still hear the satisfying “thump” and “slap” of the wooden-framed screen door, as we, the cousins, opened the screen door, one by one, and allowed it to slam shut behind us.

There was only one time that I disappointed Mommo and, to this day, I regret my childish irresponsibility:  I was, perhaps, five years of age and one morning, at breakfast, Mommo told me to stay near the house and be ready to try on some clothes, which she was sewing for me.  However, an hour or two later, my cousins and siblings suggested, “Let’s go to the pond and catch some tadpoles!”  I was off like a shot.  I simply forgot that Mommo needed me.  When I returned, Mommo was angry with me and I was filled with shame.  I had not meant to be naughty; I merely forgot, because I was so young.

All too soon, the summer was over and it was time for me to return to preschool or kindergarten and ballet and tap lessons.  We packed up and said goodbye to Mommo.  We returned the weekend closest to Mommo’s birthday [September 16].  By then, the Scuppernongs were ripe and the fragrance pervaded the gardens, where we celebrated her birthday and picked the ripe wild grapes.


During those summers, I was a young “slip” of a girl.  I was like one of the “cuttings” from my grandmother’s heirloom Scuppernong vine, which she kept in a pristine glass jar on her sunny kitchen windowsill, where she nurtured and protected each tender sprout.

Like the patchwork pieces of fabric in my grandmother’s quilts, I had been “cut from the same cloth” as she, and I was connected to her:  Whether or not we shared the same geography, her presence was with me, all the same.  I flourished, strong and healthy, safe and happy, under her capable hands and attentive eyes.

~~~Margot Blair Payne

Written in the year 2010, on September 16:  the birthday of Susan Hope Long Blair, my grandmother.

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Filed under Childhood Memories, Grandmother, Simple Pleasures, Summer Vacations

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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The Fragrance of Scuppernongs

This evening, on our wedding anniversary, my husband brings home to me a gift:  a brown paper bag full of moist, ripe Scuppernongs.  The aroma, redolent and wild, takes me back, more than 50 years, to the North Carolina home and gardens of my grandmother.  My husband sits with me on the porch at dusk and patiently listens to my memories of a time he never knew, of a place he never visited, and of a woman he never met.

My husband declares that, come spring, he will build a sturdy wooden grape arbor inside our walled garden.  It will stand alongside the southern side of our brick house, next to the kitchen.  I envision just how it will be:

Our transplanted Scuppernong cutting will remember that it descends from a centuries-old native North Carolina vine.  Over the years, our vine will flourish and blossom, proudly and generously, in the soil, sun, and rain of North Florida.

And, finally, early one fine September morning, a few years from today, our wild grapes will display the delicate, translucent hues of amber and bronze.  Then, we will gather our grandchildren under the arbor and lift them up, one by one, to pick the ripened globes. Their eyes will register surprise and delight, as they bite into the tough outer skin and taste the juicy sweetness within.

The canopy of the arbor, dense and verdant, will shelter us all and, even 50 years from now, the fragrance of Scuppernongs will linger still.

Margot Blair Payne

September 2, 2010: Our 37th wedding anniversary

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