Midwifery as a Calling

October 19, 2011 in LDS History by Heatherlady

By Heather

One of my assignments for this book has been to research the birthing history of early LDS women. It has been an incredible experience and I’ve learned so much about birth and about midwifery. One of the things that I was most impressed to discover was that in the early days of the church, midwifery was a spiritual calling. A woman was called to be a midwife by priesthood authority, often after having been nominated by the Relief Society, and set apart by the laying on of hands. She was usually set apart by a General Authority of the church, if available, and the calling was for life, much like the calling of Patriarch.

The first woman we know of who was set apart as a midwife was Patty Bartlett Sessions, who is probably the most famous of the early church midwives and who personally delivered at least 4,000 babies during her life time. As a young girl, Patty received a strong spiritual confirmation about her calling as a midwife and had been working as a midwife for many years before she joined the church. When she arrived in Nauvoo she was set apart by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball as a “Doctor of Women” and went on to deliver thousands of babies for the LDS community. (Sessions, 1997).

During the early days of the church, hundreds of women were set apart as midwives.Some had formal training before their calls but others didn’t. My favorite story is of Josephine Catherine Chatterly Wood, of the Escalante area. When she was twenty-nine years old and the mother of several children, her Bishop called her to be the midwife of the community. At first she refused, saying, “I am green as a cucumber and I don’t know how babies are born.”

The Bishop promised to give her a blessing, and in the blessing he told her that she would be guided by the Lord and that great wisdom would be hers. Still feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, Josephine read all the books she could find and prayed and studied tirelessly. Before her first call to a mother in labor she asked her husband to give her a blessing, then, Josephine she went to the Bishop’s house and made him come with her to the birth because she was so nervous. The birth went well. Yet for several years afterward, Josephine would occasionally call the Bishop to come help her with the delivery of a baby.

Caroline Redd, one of the women who was attended by Josephine for eight of her births, said this of her: “None served more or gave more than she, and none was loved more. She loved to do the thing she was called to do. She loved her husband and family. She never complained. God gave her wisdom and power because she could translate pain into joy.” (Noall, 1942)

In general though, most LDS midwives had some sort of formal training. Later-day Saints were very unique in this respect in19th America when few midwives had any sort of training. The reason LDS women were so highly skilled in midwifery was for several reasons. Some of the early women coverts to the church came to Salt Lake City from Europe and had studied midwifery at schools in Scotland and France. Also, Brigham Young felt deeply about properly caring for prospective mothers and was particularly impressed by the trails and tribulation that women suffered when they had to “go down to the Valley of death” to bring forth the new citizens of Zion.

Even though Brigham Young had a real mistrust of doctors, which was probably very valid considering most of them didn’t have any sort of training, he eventually changed his mind and in 1880’s he started sending women to medical school to learn obstetrics. It was around this time that germ theory was being adopted. Germ Theory had been discovered in the 1860’s, and the medical profession was starting to become more research based and professionalized. Perhaps Brigham Young was inspired to hesitate about doctors until the saints could be assured that they were getting quality medical training and care.

Dr. Ellis Shipp was the first woman sent by Brigham Young to the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia to study medicine and obstetrics. After she returned from studying medicine she traveled all over the Mormon territories training hundreds of women as midwives and in the basics of home nursing.In fact, during the 19th century Utah had one of the largest numbers of women doctors than almost anywhere else in the world. (Dorigatti, 2009)

The need for midwives in the newly established Zion was so great that in each Ward, the Relief Society would nominate two women to be trained and set apart as midwives for the women of the ward. These prospective midwives would usually travel to a place where Dr. Shipp, or another traveling doctor, was holding a temporary midwifery clinic. Since the time commitment was great–at least three months, and the cost very expensive (the cost the book was $20, which was a small fortune back then), the Relief Society of each ward would pay for their books and then feed and watch over their husbands and children while they were away.

One midwife who gained her training this way was Phebe Amelia Richards Peart, a midwife in Farmington. Her daughter said, “When she was on her first case, she decided that some day she would be a midwife…. Knowing how greatly midwives were needed, she looked forward to the day when she could study for this profession…. Some four years later, after she had become Mrs. Jacob Peart Jr., she laid her plans before her husband and also her mother, Mary Thompson Richards. She asked their permission and their help in taking a course of study under Dr. Shipp. It was, however, obvious, from the start that she could expect neither encouragement nor help from her family. Both her husband and her mother were bitterly opposed to the suggestion. They held to the then popular conviction that a woman’s place is in the home. To them it seemed unthinkable that Phebe should attempt such a career. The Relief Society was sympathetic to her desire and through it, even in the face of dire opposition at home, Phebe eventually complete her training and received from Dr. Shipp a certificate which made her eligible to practice nursing and obstetrics.” (Noall, 1942)

Several of the accounts I read also spoke of midwives as “presiding” at a birth. Typically when I think of “presiding,” I think of a priesthood holder presiding over a church meeting. The man presiding isn’t always the one who is in charge of conducting the meeting; commonly he doesn’t say anything, but he is there representing the priesthood authority of Heavenly Father. I like the image of a midwife not “delivering” or “catching a baby,” but “presiding over the birth.” Her job isn’t to do the work–that is in the hand of God, mother and baby–rather, she is there to oversee the process and to represent the power of the Heavenly Mother.

One midwife, Annie Bryceon Laker who served in Southern Idaho, once told her friend that, “… the strength that comes to us is from the Priesthood, and the power we receive through the Priesthood is from our Father in Heaven.” (Noall, 1942)

The experience of the early Later-day Saint women has taught me several important lessons. First, that God is very interested in the way in which His daughters birth and how His children come to this world. Second, that the Lord qualifies whom he calls. Though midwives may no longer be called and formally set apart, many of the midwives (and doulas and childbirth educators) I know, both in and outside of our faith, will tell you that they feel like God called them to do this work and that he inspires and guides them in their work.

We plan to include some of this information in the book, so I would love to hear comments or questions.

Sources:

Noall, Claire. 1942. Mormon Midwives.UtahState Quarterly, Volume 10.

Sessions, Patty Bartlett. 1997 Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions. Donna Toland Smart (editor). Utah State Univeristy Press. Logan, Utah.

Dorigatti, Barbara T. Thompson. 2009. Pioneer Midwives. Daughters of theUtah Pioneers Lesson for September.

My First Birth Experience

October 17, 2011 in Birth Stories, Heather by Heatherlady

by Heather

On the night before Asher was born my Dad, brother, and two sisters were visiting us. They were headed back  the next morning, because my little sister was going to the Christmas Ball, and had been hoping the baby would be born while they were in town– no such luck. We’d spent all evening playing board games and eating pizza (the last thing I ate before labor). I had been having contractions pretty regularly but I had had lots of practice contractions for the last few months so I didn’t think much about them. They didn’t hurt or feel like anything abnormal. After my family left at about 10 PM I asked Jon to time my contractions because they were really frequent. We timed them and they were about 5 min apart and at least 1 min long, which is when most doctors tell you to go to the hospital. But they didn’t hurt, they just felt tight, so I wasn’t very worried. I called the midwife and left a message on her phone telling her that I was having more frequent contractions, but I really didn’t think I was going to have the baby for a few more days. I was only a day away from my due date, and was fully expecting to go a week or two past it. So Jon and I went to bed and I had the best sleep I’d had for several weeks, I think it was God’s gift to me so that I would be rested for labor.

The next morning at about 6:30 AM I woke up with really strong contractions. I knew that this was it and that the baby was coming that day. I woke up Jon and told him, and he jumped out of bed completely excited. The contractions were coming about every five minutes and were getting stronger, but I was handling them really well. We called the midwife, Vivian, and at first she asked if she should come in a few hours. I was having pretty strong contractions and didn’t really know what to tell her, but then I had a contraction while I was on the phone with her and had to stop talking so I could relax and breathe through it. After that she said she would cancel her appointments for the day and be over within the hour.

It felt really good to sit on the toilet, it made my hips wider, and so I sat there for several contractions while Jon got the birth pool, which the midwife had dropped off at our house a week or two before, set up in the living room. Jon also turned on the hypnobirthing CD which really helped me to relax and focus. I did a lot of pacing in between our bedroom and the baby’s room. I held my belly, hung my head to my chest, took deep breaths, and waddled in a figure 8 pattern in one room and out the other. This really helped me stay focused and peaceful. One time Jon made the mistake of getting in the way of my figure 8 and I whacked him out of the way. I remember walking like this until the midwife showed up and she and Jon filled up the birth pool.

By the time the birth pool was filled up the contractions were getting much much stronger and I was having a hard time breathing through them and staying calm. I whistled a lot to help me stay relaxed. I am a very auditory person and a long slow whistle at the start of each contraction helped me stay calm and focused. At about 10 o’clock I got into the birth pool, which was a big, deep pool that had ducks on it. The water was really hot and it relaxed my body all over. For the last hour or so I hadn’t been able to talk because I was too focused on the contractions, but as soon as I got into the birth pool I was able to talk with Jon and Vivian and even laugh. I still had to stop and focus on relaxing and breathing during contractions but in between contractions I was able to talk and laugh with them. Jon turned the hypnobirthing CD on and put in on repeat, I don’t remember listening to the words but the music helped me relax. Vivian checked the baby’s heart beat with an underwater Doppler every 10 min or so, and it brought me such peace to hear my baby’s heart beat and know he was on his way. I even think I fell asleep a few times in between contractions. I also remember staring at the Christmas tree while Jon stroked my hair and hummed to me. That was definitely the best part of labor.

After about an hour or two in the birth pool the relaxing effect started to wear off. The midwife told me I should probably get out and walk around for a little while, as staying in the same position tends to slow labor down. I got out of the pool and Jon helped me get dressed in my blue fleece nightgown again. But labor out of the water was SO MUCH HARDER! It felt like my body weighed a thousand pounds and that the contractions were harder to handle. I really started to panic and it took both Jon and Vivian’s skills to calm me down and help me focus again. I remember one particularly strong contraction when I was holding onto the bed posts and squatting; Jon was squeezing my hips and Vivian was brushing my hair telling me to “focus on the good, focus on the good sensations and let the pain go.” I remember it felt SO nice, and I felt SO supported and loved. The only time I laid down on the bed was when Vivian was checking my dilation and effacement (which she did only once). It was agony to lie down and even worse to have some one stick their hand up there! She told me I was at a 5 and I started to cry. I felt like I had gone so far and was afraid to think I was only half way. But she quickly told me “Five does not mean half way, you are doing great, five in not half way– five is close to being done.”

The rest of the labor is kind of a blur of pacing in the hall, squatting by my bed, Jon stroking my hair, and Vivian rubbing the pressure points on my feet– which was amazing. Finally I was able to get back into the birth pool, which had been filled up with more hot water. I hadn’t really been planning on a waterbirth, I thought that I would want to get out when it came time to push, but after feeling how much harder labor was out of the water I told myself that I was NOT getting out of that tub until the baby was born. Not long after getting back in the tub the transition contractions started and honestly I don’t remember too much about that time, I was too focused and was off in a whole different world. It was kind of a surreal experience. I remember being on my hands and knees with Jon stroking my hair and Vivian pouring water over my back. I remember Vivian asking me if I wanted to be checked again and I said “NO WAY!” I remember Jon and Vivian trying to get me to eat something, but all I wanted was apple juice. I also remember feeling so helpless and exhausted and telling Jon I wanted to be done –that I had changed my mind and didn’t really want to have a baby. I remember TOTALLY losing it and Vivian grabbing my face and helping me breath and calm down. I remember her telling me that she thought being on my hands and knees was a good position to help the last bit of cervix dilate and to help the baby move down. During this time the other midwife, Heather, showed up but I don’t remember even looking at her until after the baby was born.

Looking back, I think I started to push too early. I didn’t really have the urge to push, I just couldn’t feel the contractions anymore and so I thought “time to get the baby out”. I learned after that sometimes women get a break right before pushing where the contractions stop hurting, I should have just rested and enjoyed it, but I was too anxious to get the baby out. I pushed on my hands and knees for a long time. For lack of a better description, pushing felt like having a REALLY big bowel movement– not what I was expecting. After a while Vivian told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head. It was the most amazing feeling. I remember being shocked that there was so much hair! I think Jon reached down and felt it too. I was grateful to my friend who had told me that, “Crowing does not mean you are done– you still have a lot of work left to do!” Vivian told me to try a different position for pushing because hands and knees didn’t seem to be working. I turned on my side with Jon supporting my shoulder and my leg resting on the birth pool. After about an hour of pushing I felt my water break and the “ring of fire” around my perineum, and not long after the baby flowed out of me and into the warm water. I didn’t realize this till just a little while ago, when Jon was reading this and said, “Hey wait a minute! I am the one who caught him!” I thought that Vivian and Heather had reached down to get him, but I guess it was Jon (I didn’t know that ;). But he had to hand the baby over really fast to the midwives because the umbilical cord was wrapped around him twice. They untangled him and then put him on my tummy and I was stunned. Actually, one of the very first thought that crossed my mind was “Your not Luke (the name I had chosen), who are you?”

The first few minutes of his life were amazing. He had his arm totally wrapped around his head (like he was trying to touch his ear with his hand), which was why he was so hard to push out and why I tore– I had to get an arm and a head through. He just moaned and moaned and I was worried because he didn’t cry— I didn’t know that babies who are born in the water are extremely calm and peaceful. In fact, Heather (the midwife) said that the first time she did a water birth she messed with the baby way too much because she thought something was wrong because it was so relaxed and peaceful. Right away the midwives did all the Apgar tests while I held him in my arms and he was perfectly healthy. He even started trying to nurse within a few minutes of birth– I tell you my little boy likes to eat! After holding him for about five minuets we realized that no one had checked to see if he was a boy! He was. It is funny to watch the video of me right after his birth because I am so awestruck and overwhelmed and act like I was on some sort of “happy” drug– which in a way I was (after natural child birth you get the biggest rush of endorphins you’ll ever have in your life). Jon held the baby while I delivered the placenta and then the midwives got me out of the pool and wrapped me in warm blankets. I had a pretty bad tear and at first they were worried that I would need to go to the hospital and have my OB stitch me up (I had a backup OB just in case I had to transfer to the hospital). But after looking at it closer they realized it wasn’t as bad as it looked and were able to numb me and stitch me up. During that time Jon carried Asher around, who was still attached to the placenta (some research shows that the longer a baby is attached to the placenta the more stem cells they get, keeping them healthier their whole lives; as well as having less jaundice after birth) and he just kept moaning and moaning. I don’t think he cried full out for almost a day.

After being stitched up the midwives cleaned up the birth pool and the rest of the house (I swear they even did the dishes). I put on the pretty white nightgown I’d ironed weeks before and snuggled into bed with Jon and the baby. All in all the labor and birth was about 9 hours, unless you count the early labor when my contractions didn’t hurt and then it is more like 30 hours– but I slept through most of that so I don’t really count it. My sister-in-law was the first one to come visit, and them the rest of my in-laws showed up with THE BEST chicken dinner and yogurt parfait I’ve ever had in my life. They pampered me and made me feel like a queen. The next two weeks were wonderful because my mom came and took care of us, Jon’s mom came, Jon’s grandma came, and our ward brought SO much food. Our house felt sacred and peaceful. Most the time we left the blinds closed and just had the Christmas tree lights on. We had the most peaceful “babymoon” and we were really sad when we had to “emerge” and start normal life again. The only thing that was really hard was that I didn’t sleep for the first week he was born. Honestly, in a whole week I only got about 4 hours of sleep. I had plenty of help with the baby it was just that my mind was too excited and I couldn’t calm it down. I discovered chamomile tea and Unisom and am very grateful for them.

Birth was such an amazing experience for all three of us. In fact, I think Jon is more passionate about natural birth and home birth now than I am– imagine that! It was the HARDEST thing I have ever done in my life, and I remember right after it was over thinking “I don’t ever want to do that again.”But I guess God blesses women with forgetfulness, or they wouldn’t ever have any more babies! But then again I’ve never felt more powerful, strong or capable in my entire life. It was a wonderful way to start out my journey into motherhood. If I could do it all again– I would do it exactly the same. Asher has been the greatest blessing in my life and I can’t imagine the world without him. He had a really peaceful entry into this world and I just pray the rest of his life is just as beautiful. I am so grateful that God has trusted me to be his mother. I feel honored.

by Lani

We’re giving another book away!

October 13, 2011 in Book, Giveaways by Lani

Due to some publishing delays, our release date has been revised again.  February 14, 2012.  (Though we’re still holding out hope for a Christmas miracle!) So tell the one you love that you want our pretty book for Valentine’s Day!

But tell your Valentine not to wait until February to order! Ordering now will save 10%, and we’re going to give you another incentive to buy your book(s) now…

We’ve already promised free copies to our previous giveaway winners. But we’ve decided we’re going to give away another copy of our book!

See our Blogger blog HERE to find out how you can enter to win this free copy!

Please Share Our Book with our Button

October 10, 2011 in Book by enjoybirth

Want an easy way to share information about our book?

If you have a blog, all you have to do is put our button on your sidebar.  🙂  (code on the right)

If you are on Facebook, share our page with your friends.

Thanks for spreading the word that birth can be a spiritual experience.

 

Our Blog is changing

September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized by enjoybirth

While we get things shifted an organized, you can see our blog still at http://thegiftofgivinglife.blogspot.com/

Our book has been born. It is beautiful. Buy Here.

September 11, 2011 in Slideshow by enjoybirth

Available online and in stores.


 

  Click here to buy now!  

 

One Sentence Summary: A spiritual look at pregnancy and birth through inspiring birth stories and essays from dozens of real LDS women, scriptures, words of the prophets and other spiritual texts, The Gift of Giving Life if the essential pregnancy companion for every LDS woman.

“… imparting the beauty and joy, and the faith and trust, that is inherent in becoming a mother.”

Make sure you sign up for the newsletter at the right for updates and to get a free Meditation MP3!

Praise for The Gift of Giving Life

More relevant than ALL other pregnancy/birth books

“I am so glad this book was written. I have read lots and lots and LOTS of pregnancy/birth/early parenting books, but I have never read a book as pertinent to me as this one. I bought 4 copies; one for my doula buddy, and the other 2 for my pregnant sisters. I can’t wait to give them away! THANK YOU ladies for all that you put into this work. Your time and hard work are evident, and The Gift of Giving Life will have a prominent place on my bookshelf and in my soul. Also, my husband is annoyed because reading it makes me want another baby. :)”  – Amber

 

Most Amazing Book I have Ever Read

“I preordered a book and it showed up late last week… I have NOT been able to put it down. I’m only half way through, but it’s already one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. It has touched my heart and spirit in amazing ways. It has helped me to see the recent birth of my daughter in a much more spiritual manner. I already ordered another copy for a friend who just found out she is expecting with her first… I just want to buy a copy for everyone! Thank you so much all the sacrifice and love that went into creating this book.”   – Michelle

 

Fulfilling as childbirth worker and mother

“Got my book yesterday, I cannot tell you how fulfilling as a doula, childbirth advocate and LDS mother this book has been so far. I can’t begin to thank you all”   – Natalie

 

Not just for pregnant women!

“I just talked to my Dad’s wife (my new step-mom) who is reading the book and she said that it is not just for pregnant women it is for all women. She is done having babies but said it makes her feel so amazing for being a woman.”  – Felice

 

Life Changing Book

Here is a bit from an early review from Jocelyn on her blog We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ.  Definitely go read the whole thing.  But I loved these parts.

I’ll admit that when I heard about this book on my friend Heather’s blog, I wondered if it was going to be very granola…and TMI.  I wondered if it was going to push certain ways to be a Mother.  I wasn’t sure I’d fit into their recommended “way”.
But from the taste that I received yesterday, I realized that this is going to be the adventure of a lifetime (times 22 women’s lifetimes)…as that is what giving the gift of life to another person is:  the adventure of a lifetime.
Although I’ve only just begun the journey through this book, I am able to say with confidence that this book is one of those life-changing books that “found me.”
This is my book of the year!  It is more than a book on Motherhood or giving birth.  It is a book about placing your hand squarely in the Lord’s and saying, “Here am I, send me!”
This is just the beginning!  Join us for our Virtual Book Tour to find out what others will be saying about our book.  It is such a joy to know that all our hard work will be blessing others, which is what our biggest desire was!

Read Other Blurbs and Reviews

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See the Table of Contents

Read Excerpts from the Book

Read Excerpts from the Book

September 11, 2011 in Slideshow by enjoybirth

We have quite a few excerpts from the book available to read here.  This will give you a taste of what the book will be like.

Excerpt 1: Creating a Sacred Cesarean

In America over 30% of birthing moms will end up with a cesarean.  This section of the book was written to help moms create a sacred cesarean.   We decided to include almost the complete section (minus the birth stories), rather than an excerpt, in hopes that any mom in this situation can hopefully have a more positive birth.

Excerpt 2:  We Are Each Eve

We are all daughters of Eve.  How are modern women like her today?  Click here to read the excerpt.

 

Resources

September 10, 2011 in Slideshow by enjoybirth

We created this book as inspiration to help families have more spiritual births.

We referenced quite a few outside resources throughout the book and here is where you can find the different links from some of the chapters.  (More resources coming soon.)  Just click on the link below to go to the resource page for that chapter.

If you don’t see something you’d like on this page, send us an email and we’ll try to get resources for you.

  • Our free gift to you!
  • We Are Each Eve
  • Heavenly Mother
  • Our LDS Legacy
  • Our Mother’s Our Daughters
Chapter 2 Resources – The Importance of Birth
  • Counsel with the Lord
  • The Cesarean Choice
  • Choice and Accountability
  • Birth Plans
  • Mother-Centered Baby Showers
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Creating a Sacred Cesarean
  • Meditation
  • The Spirit-Mind-Body Connection
  • Constant Nourishment
  • Faith
  • Power, Love and Sound Mind
Chapter 9 Resources – Pain
  • Healing from Loss
  • Healing from Traumatic Birth
  • Strengthening Marriage During Pregnancy and Beyond
  • Line Upon Line
  • Babywearing
  • Breastfeeding
  • Diapering options

Fun!

September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized by enjoybirth

Our book has been born! You can buy your copy now! 🙂

The Gift of Giving Life Blog