Tag Archives: mothers and daughters

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

A Daughter’s Lament: Part One

My Parents:  1946

My Parents: 1996

Dear Readers,

My father had not always been a gentle and patient man — not, that is, before my mother gradually slipped into the abyss of Alzheimer’s.  You have, perhaps, heard of the “blessings of Alzheimer’s.”  I will explain:

My mother suffered, for at least five decades, from a sad loss.  I knew, of course, that death was tragic but her loss was not tied to a death, unless it was the death of a dream.  Now I know, too late, that the death of a dream is, indeed, a deep loss.

If I had been more mature, I would have helped her to carry that burden.  But, alas,  I was selfish:  I wanted my mother to enjoy the life that she had been given, instead of focusing on what she had lost.  I yearned to know my “whole” mother, as she must have been, before the loss had touched her.  I resented the intrusion of her grief, which ebbed and flowed.

A few years before her death, the fog of Alzheimer’s gradually enshrouded her memory.  Thus, she was able, finally, to release her sorrow.  Evidently, she simply forgot the circumstances that were tied to her grief.  We  [her children] never breathed a word of those circumstances, so afraid were we that she would remember and, once again, take up the old burden.

It was then that my mother began to repeat stories and we braced ourselves, when she asked us: “Have I ever told you-all the story about Clyde Dunn?”

It was two years before my mother’s death and I perfectly remember the setting:  We were dining at Osaka’s Japanese Restaurant in Tallahassee.  Present were my parents, my husband, my son, my daughter, my future son-in-law, and myself.

When my mother asked us if we had heard the story, I groaned inwardly and said to myself, “Only 50 times.”  My father, I was certain, had heard the same story 100 times.  However, he smiled gently, patted her hand, and entreated her, “You tell it, Peg; it is a good story.”  [The story is below.]

I was never quite so proud of my father as I was at that moment.  He was teaching us how to honor my mother, during the “long goodbye” of Alzheimer’s.

Every one of us desires, before death, to know that his or her life was significant — that it mattered.  My mother loved to tell that story, I suppose, because it reassured her that her life had contained worth and meaning.  Goodness knows, I was woefully — and now painfully — inadequate in giving her that reassurance.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have passed.  However, do not wait for those Hallmark dates to come around again.  If your parents are still alive, I entreat you to pick up the phone or write a letter and let your parents know that they made their lives count and you appreciate them.

In spite of their many failings, their lives are still significant.  Forgive them for those failings and tell them now that you appreciate the things that they did right.

This is my lament:  My mother was a heroine and I never appreciated it — until Rev. Dunn stood up to deliver this tribute to my mother, at the Memorial Service in 2005.

This is his story.  Whether he is still living, I do not know.  My mother’s name, at the time, was Margaret Elizabeth Van Hoy and she was 25 years old.  This story has now become part of our family history.

Coram Deo,


The Rev. Clyde H. Dunn [1997]

“I shall always be grateful that God placed Margaret at Mebane High School for the year 1943-44.  That was my senior year.

By the time I was a senior, I had gotten ‘hooked’ on alcohol.  I found myself in the predicament of not wanting to drink but unable to give it up.  One day, I went to school ‘under the influence’ and the principal discovered my condition.  I was immediately expelled, with the condition I would not be allowed to return to school to complete my senior year.

Your mother learned of my situation and sent word by a student for me to come and see her.  She saw a potential in me that the principal and other teachers did not.  When I met with her, she said that if I would promise to give up drinking, she would do what she could to get me back into school.  I promised and she met with the principal and he allowed me to return and finish my senior year.  I dread to think how different my life would have been had Margaret Van Hoy not intervened.

Upon graduation, I joined the U. S. Marine Corps.  I was converted [to Christianity] at the First Presbyterian Church, in Hollywood, California. I received a call into missionary service at a China Inland Missions Station in Tientsin, China.

After returning from military service, I completed college and seminary.  By then the ‘bamboo curtain’ had fallen in China and I was unable to fulfill my missionary calling.  I entered the pastorate of the United Methodist Church.

In 1958. an emphasis was put upon service to the ‘Chinese Dispersion’ and we volunteered.  We served with the Board of Missions from 1959-1972, mostly on the island of Taiwan.  After working ourselves out of a job, by turning over everything to the nationals, we went back into the pastorate here and served until 1993.

I do not think my life would have turned out the way it did if it had not been for your mother.  I will always be grateful for her, for the help she gave me, back in 1944.

~~The Rev. Clyde H. Dunn; Raleigh, NC.  [Written for my mother’s memorial service:  August, 2005.]


Clyde Dunn wrote and published a book about China:

Title T.C. Chao’s Struggle for a Chinese Christianity
Author Clyde H. Dunn
Contributor Emory University. Division of Religion
Publisher Emory University, 1974, Division of Religion, Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez., 1974
Length 240 pages
Subjects China


Clyde H. Dunn, a student minister from Emory University, was appointed to serve the [United Methodist Church] circuit from 1950-1953. During World War II, Dunn served with the U. S. Marine Corps in the Pacific.   John Ben Kelly and his family recalled the time Dunn was spending the night at their home and their three boys, Johnny, Jimmy, and Bobby, got in a pillow fight after Dunn had gone to bed.  John Ben kept calling to the boys to be quiet or they would wake the preacher.  A little while later, he discovered that Dunn was right in the middle of the pillow fight.

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Filed under Tribute to My Mother