Nicey: my grandma’s postpartum doula

Learning about Nicey

A couple of years ago I took an advanced training in postpartum care traditions with Julia Jones (Newborn Mothers) .

I learned many things in that advanced course that impacts my work with new families in a positive way (click to see postpartum packages). But a certain assignment had the biggest personal impact.  Julia encouraged us to explore the postpartum traditions of our own family.

I didn’t think that I would learn much from this exercise but being a dutiful student, I contacted my parents. A few days later, I received an email that brought tears to my eyes.

The first thing I saw when I opened the email was this picture.

Nicey: my grandma's postpartum doula

Pictured: Nicey: my grandma’s postpartum doula (and my grandfather)

Postpartum care: a family tradition

My dad explained that she wasn’t family, but she moved in for several weeks after the births of his younger siblings. He had some vague memories of her living with them when his younger siblings were babies. He didn’t know if she helped with him or his older sister, but it was likely.

Nicey saw this as a calling and insisted on helping my Grandma with her babies.

Not only did Nicey help my grandma, she also helped grandma’s mother when my grandma and her siblings were born.

Regrets

What I wouldn’t give to be able to ask my grandma the myriad of questions that this brought up for me. What was Nicey like? Did she make any special meals to help my grandma heal? Did she have any baby soothing tips that worked?

Towards the end of Grandma Pat’s life, I became a mother and found myself in the throes of postpartum depression. I finished my grad degree and we moved away. Due to the fact that we lived far away, visits were sparse and quick so I never shared with her that I was struggling.

Truthfully, I hadn’t ever really viewed my grandma as someone I could talk to about emotional problems. She wasn’t particularly open about her own emotional struggles, especially with her grandchildren. But I am certain she would have listened.

It was so bittersweet to learn that my grandmother had an informal postpartum doula and I didn’t know it. And even more bittersweet that she didn’t live long enough to see me become one.

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