“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.
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.
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
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]
- 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
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.
For Labor Positions:
- *Pilates & yoga floor mat with carry bag or strap; blocks ; 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.]
- cornstarch [organic]
- massage rollers
- oil, organic: without or without essential oil
- pure cotton socks, extra-large, organic
- three tennis balls
- heating pad, electric
- rolling pin: [Note: www.Tupperware.com no longer sells these. Google “Tupperware Rolling Pin” to find a “vintage” one.]
- 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
- homeopathic Rescue Remedy Spray by Bach
- 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
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
- “Mom’s Milk Tea” to fortify mom, for nursing
Dad & Mom May Wish to Bring From Home:
- pillows & pillow cases
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.