by Robyn

Echo Squires: A Pioneer Birth Story

June 26, 2017 in Birth Stories, Church History, LDS History, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

Echo Lavinia Squires, Edward Martin Company

So, I want to apologize for neglecting the blog.  My husband and I were called to serve as the Trek Coordinators for our ward trek to Martin’s Cove, Sixth Crossing and Rocky Ridge this July.  We were given a late start, like the Martin and Willie companies and so we have been a little busy. We have been deep in preparations and while it is a lot of work, it has been a tremendous blessing to learn the stories in more detail and be filled by the indomitable spirit that these Saints had.

I wanted to quickly share a birth story I found while studying the efforts of the rescue party for the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.  Patience Loader recorded the birth of a baby girl:

I well remember that when we campt in Echo Canyon that Sister [Sarah Cattlin] Squires was confind in the morning[.] she had alovely baby girl and thay named her Echo [Levinia Squires.] the morning she was born the father [Henry Augustus Squires] was run[n]ing around camp enquiring of everybody if they had apin to give him to pin something around the baby but I don’t think that he was able to get one[.] the breathren fixed the wagon very warm and comfortable for Sister Squires and boath her and baby ar[r]ived safe into the City.

There is also more to the story that John Jaques, who was a member of the Martin Handcart Company, recorded about Robert T. Burton, one of the rescuers:

The next camp . . . was in a small canyon running out of the north side of Echo canyon, a few miles above the mouth of the latter. Here a birth took place, and one of the relief party generously contributed part of his under linen to clothe the little stranger. The mother [Sarah Squires] did quite as well as could have been expected, considering the unpropitious circumstances . . . The little newcomer also did well, and was named Echo, in honor of the place of her nativity. She is still a resident of the territory, is a happy wife and mother, and lives in the north country (November 26, 1856).

It should be noted that Robert T. Burton’s job was to record the distribution of supplies which he cared for meticulously.  He did neglect to record that he literally gave the shirt off his own back to the little baby. His granddaughter later told the story, “After he had distributed all the clothing, Robert noticed a mother whose newborn baby did not have sufficient clothing to keep it warm, so he took off his own homespun shirt and gave it to the mother to cover the baby.”

Robert T. Burton, Rescue Company of 1856

His biography states that was just one example of how he lived his life with generosity. Some of his final words to his children were the reminder to “be kind to the poor.”

Kindness is an echo, isn’t it?  May we all look for an opportunities to “echo” service today.

 

Sources:

Tell My Story Too, page 431.

https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/pioneers/1873/robert-taylor-burton

https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/pioneers/19316/sarah-minnie-catlin-squires

https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/pioneers/41265/echo-levinia-squires

https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/sources/17824106200553894265-eng/archer-patience-loader-reminiscences-transcript-ms-6218-p-57-92?firstName=Echo Levinia&surname=Squires

 

 

by Robyn

Book Review: The Midwife: A Biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston

September 29, 2016 in Book, Book reviews, Church History, home birth, LDS History, Midwives, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

laurine-ekstrom-kingston2

The Midwife: A Biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston  By Victoria Burgess

Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books 2012

I don’t know if anyone else out there loves reading midwife memoirs but I do.  I noticed this biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston on kindle and decided to give it a try.  The book is broken up into six sections: the history of her family, her childhood within the Fundamentalist group, her marriage to the son of a prominent Fundamentalist leader, her philosophies of midwifery care, stories from her work as a midwife, and reflections on her life and what she is doing today.

I thought the book was going to be more about her work as a midwife but the majority of the book is about her time as a part of a Fundamentalist Mormon Co-op.  Even though that is not what I was expecting, it was still very interesting.  I have to admit to not having much of an idea of how daily life flows in tightly knit polygamist (more accurately defined as polygyny) groups. I have never bothered watching Big Love or any reality shows depicting the practice.  So for me it was educational and handled tastefully.  Polygyny is an undeniable part of our history and Laurine’s life gave me a peek inside to what it might have been like for early Mormons who practiced it. For Laurine, it allowed her to work more freely as a nurse and midwife.  Many of the midwives from LDS history were part of plural marriages.

Laurine is a fascinating woman, one who was steeped in her religion, but often functioning outside of it due to her work as a nurse and midwife.  The critique I would offer is that the book could have used a little more editing and revising.  There are errors common to writing and sometimes the flow is choppy or the style distracting. However, that did not stop me from reading the entire book before my Labor Day weekend was over.

by Robyn

Back to School

August 29, 2016 in Doulas, Education, LDS History, Midwives, Robyn, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

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My kids have been back in school for a few weeks, and well, so have I.  Actually, I started taking some online classes this summer at my local university.  I was nervous to go back to school, twenty years after graduating with my degree from the University of Utah.  What I have found is that I still know how to do the school thing. But I chuckle to myself when I have to type in my online introduction.  I should probably just start with, “So I’m probably one of the oldest people in this class, if not the oldest.”  It isn’t too hard to guess that from me saying I am a mother to six children.

One thing I noticed through the years of teaching childbirth classes is that I would get more than my share of university professors and students in my classes.  And now I know why, evidence based research is highly emphasized on college campuses.  University folk tend to want to educate themselves on the topic more than someone outside an academic setting.  And they are great for giving referrals.

The truth is, I am actually enjoying the experience more this time around. It is nice to take one or two classes at a time and really soak in the material. Life experience really does count. The two psychology courses I took this summer emphasized how internalizing the concepts and applying them to real life is what will help us remember them.  I just have more life experience to apply them to now.

I’m not going to lie.  I am mourning the passing of the stage of life of having babies.  At the same time I am excited for what lies ahead.  It is a whole new chapter I am beginning and I’m not exactly sure where it will lead. I just know that for now I’m on the right path with taking prerequisites for the nursing program.  In one way or another I will continue with my love for childbirth and mothering.  In the midst of taking classes this summer I was blessed to be present for five beautiful births as a doula, each so unique and different, each with their own rich lessons to leave me with.

This fall I am taking a Library Sciences course.  I love it.  I finally have better tools to tackle a project that I have wanted to do for a few years now, researching the history of midwives in Idaho.  I had little pieces here and there but with the added knowledge from how to search and organize from my class, I now have a list of over twenty midwives.  While that is encouraging, I still need more and better sources so, just in case you have any information, I am asking for stories of Idaho midwives whether they be pioneer, settlers, immigrants, or Native American.  I have really struggled to find stories of Native Americans because they passed on information orally.  So if you have any hints for me of where to look, I would really appreciate it.

Why am I doing this? Karen Cornwall Madsen was able to put it into words for me:

The century-long struggle of women to gain legal equity and political equality, to obtain opportunities for education and economic self-reliance, as well as their ubiquitous efforts to address social welfare and community needs are all stories formerly excluded but integral to what we call American history. Moreover, they are fascinating accounts that introduce a whole roster of intelligent, capable, articulate, and imaginative women into the pantheon of American heroes. We women today are their heirs, beneficiaries of their convictions and their courage to turn those convictions into reality. If one is left a legacy from an unknown source, there is usually a natural curiosity to know the identity of that source and to discover the connections that have linked them together. This kind of curiosity has driven the interest in women’s historians to connect with their own past and to write the missing pages of history. They are not like physicians dispassionately dissecting the corpse of history. They are both intellectually and emotionally connected to their task. As women, our lives have been shaped by our collective history. It has given us “a usable past,” a frame of reference in which we can better understand ourselves and our own personal histories. To be deprived of that past is indeed a loss of an enriching and motivating spirit. (“History: A Journey of Discovery,” September 29, 1998.)

Wish me luck!

 

 

by Robyn

Women’s History Month: The Female Council of Health

March 7, 2016 in Book, Church History, LDS History, Midwives, Priesthood, Relief Society, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

RS-Book-Cover-small

Has anyone else found this treasure?  I had been eyeing this new book, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, and recently found out that there are portions of it already online with plans for the entire book to be available online within the year (source).  The timing of the release of this book is perfect with March being Women in History month.  It is another source to glean from our heritage of Relief Society sisters.  I love learning from my sisters of the past.  It points us to our future.  Heather has blogged about the history of midwives within the LDS church , in this post, “Midwifery as a Calling.” I recommend reading it if you haven’t yet. I found this excerpt from this new book that reaches a little deeper about the beginnings of organizing health care for women in the early church,

The hardships of the westward trek and isolated frontier settlement brought health concerns, including distinctly female concerns, to the forefront. Midwives and other women began attending meetings of the Council of Health with male practitioners when the group was formed in 1849.6 Some women, however, were uncomfortable discussing medical matters in the Council of Health, which caused “a slackness of attendence of the females, which was suposed to be caused by there being present male members.” As a result, the Female Council of Health was organized by July 1851.7 Midwife Phoebe Angell, mother of Brigham Young’s wife Mary Ann Angell, was designated president of the women’s council, and she chose two midwives as counselors. The women’s council met about twice a month, initially in Angell’s home. As membership expanded, the group later held some meetings in the newly erected tabernacle on the south end of the temple block.8 On November 13, 1852, the council selected one woman each from most of the city’s nineteen wards “to look after the poor.”9 After Angell died in November 1854, her counselor Martha “Patty” Sessions became president of the Female Council of Health, though by then Sessions was also serving as president of the newly organized Relief Society of Salt Lake City’s Sixteenth Ward.10

This council was separate from the reorganization of the Relief Society and took place before Brigham Young asked sisters to “get a classical education and then get a degree for Medicine” in 1873 (Daughters in My Kingdom, 54). This Female Council of Health was a precursor to the trainings that Dr. Ellis Shipp established for sisters in the Salt Lake Valley in the 1880s.  Midwife Patty Sessions often refers to attending these meetings in her journal (Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Sessions).  Richard L. Jensen offers insight on what these meetings were like:

They heard lectures by local physicians, “discussed faith and herbs in healing, attempted to design more healthful female fashions, spoke and sang in tongues, and enjoyed a social and spiritual interchange” (see Richard L. Jensen, “Forgotten Relief Societies, 1844-67,” Dialogue 16, no.1 [Spring 1883]:107).

Our circumstances today are not exactly the same as our sisters of the past.  This council was organized to fill a specific need of their time.  I feel that it does reflect a desire of the priesthood leaders of the early church to meet the needs of women.  They knew there were needs specific to women that needed women. They wanted women to be a part of their councils and when they became aware that the women needed their own forum to better meet each other’s needs they formed the Female Council of Health.

I do feel that God does still care greatly for the health of women. We have recently witnessed a rediscovery of the divine nature of pregnancy and childbirth.  Many women have felt called to the work in one way or another.  I felt called to it over 12 years ago.  The spirit compelled me to become a childbirth educator. It has been a great treasure and blessing to me through the years.  I have come to a place where I am pondering my next steps forward.  I have loved being a childbirth educator and have found myself doing more and more doula work instead of classes.  And the promptings keep coming that I need to move forward with midwifery and health care training.  I have pondered different paths and at times feel confused about which one to take.  Studying the history of health care within our church is helping me find the path that God has prepared for me.  I don’t know all the details of it yet. It is different than what I expected but it is nonetheless His and inspired and I’m choosing to go forward and let faith instead of fear lead me there.

 

by Robyn

Midwives: What’s gender got to do with it?

February 1, 2016 in Book, Book reviews, Church History, home birth, LDS History, Midwives, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

Mother George 2

A friend of mine shared with me this incredible piece of history from a community not far from where I live.  She happened upon a mini medical museum at Caribou Memorial Hospital in Soda Springs, Idaho and told me about Mother George.  It happens to be black history month and so I thought it appropriate to share the story of Mother George, a black midwife who lived near Grays Lake, Idaho in the 1880s.

Grays Lake

 

From what I have read of this midwife’s history, I don’t think she was Mormon but she delivered babies of LDS families in the surrounding communities.  Ellen Carney, a local historian, shared that she delivered both white and black babies, owned a ranch and practiced frontier medicine during the gold rush era (source).

The controversy concerning Mother George comes after she dies when it is discovered, as the body is being prepared for burial, that she is actually a man.  Yes, a man.  Nobody knew otherwise. The discovery was shocking for the community even though it was noted that she had some masculine features. Lee Cantwell, an LDS retired dentist and author, recalled that his grandmother, Effie Allsop Greene, who was born June 14, 1889, said, “I was delivered by a Negro nanny on a cattle ranch in Grays Lake, Idaho. My mother told me that Mother George had the largest hands she had ever seen on a woman and that she wore men’s shoes” (source).  However, it should be noted that once the true gender of Mother George was revealed most families would not admit to having had her services.

This small piece of history begs so many questions:

Who really was Mother George?

How did he come upon midwifery, especially as a black man?

We may never know but if you feel like cuddling up for an interesting read, “Mother George, the Midwife Who Shocked Grays Lake” is available on kindle for only $2.99.  It is the imaginings of author, Lee Cantwell, of how Mother George may have come to be. If you would like to read the first chapter you can go to this link. I admit I quickly devoured the pages of this piece of historical fiction.

Mother George book

As a black man of that era, pretending to be a female midwife may well have been his only way to engage in a profession that he found fulfilling.  White men of that time would not blink an eye at having a black granny midwife care for their wife, but a black man?  And what opportunities were there for a black man to become a doctor? Today, it wouldn’t seem controversial to have a male caregiver such as an OBGYN or MD but what about a male midwife?  There are more and more female OBGYNs and MDs.  But it is rare to find a male midwife.

I’m guessing that Mother George was nothing like this:

male midwife

You  should know that this advertisement is a farce but I couldn’t help but share it.  Too funny!

Do you know any male midwives?

Do you think they are just as accepted as female midwives?

Does gender matter when it comes to maternity care?

I’m not trying to pass judgment here.  I have had positive and negative experiences with both genders as it pertains to childbirth.  I have had a female OBGYN but felt my male OBGYN was more understanding and supportive of my birth wishes.  I’m sure that my experience is not necessarily because of their gender.  I have only received care from female midwives and I have been very pleased.  I felt their care was very personalized in comparison to my experience with doctors.  But I know there are midwives on both ends of the spectrum.  I have to wonder if I would have been able to have the same kind of bond with a male midwife.

 

 

midhusbands

There was a time when men took over childbirth and vigorously defamed midwives.  I would hope that today we can blend the strengths of the masculine and feminine to provide optimal care for women and their babies.

Is it acceptable to be a male midwife or a contradiction?

by Robyn

Women in History Month: Mary Ann Hamblin

March 18, 2015 in Church History, LDS History, Midwives, Relief Society, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

March is Women in History month so as I ran across this little tidbit I wanted to share. It is about Mary Ann Hamblin who was Julie B. Beck’s great-great grandmother and a midwife.  In case you didn’t know we counseled with Sister Beck as we worked on this book.  Her thoughts were invaluable.  (You can read more about Heather’s visit with her here.) Sister Beck shares about Mary Ann as she explained three paintings that hung in her office while she served as the General Relief Society President,

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Midwife: Thy Path Her Chosen Way, by Crystal Haueter, courtesy Church History Museum

“This third painting that hangs in my office depicts a pioneer midwife. It reminds me that one sister, with one skill, can be a blessing to many. An example of this is my great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Hamblin, who was a midwife. She helped bring over 2,000 babies into this world. She made a valuable contribution to the Lord’s storehouse of time and talents.” (Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance, 2009, 4-6).

The manual that this excerpt is from is a training manual for Relief Society Presidents.  The word “midwife” literally means “with woman.” I couldn’t help but read this section and think of the many Relief Society Presidents on different levels who have been “with woman” just as a midwife is.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone who has served as both a midwife and RS President liken the two callings.  It is a privilege to be with women not ahead or behind but beside them, serving next to them with compassion.

A RS President is often called upon to assess the needs of a family, particularly the mother.  A midwife also does this.  In fact the midwifery model of care insists the midwife monitor the mother’s physical, psychological and social well-being while providing her with individualized education, counseling and hands on assistance.  A RS President does much the same while adding to that list a woman’s spiritual well-being.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many midwives also take into consideration a mother’s spiritual well-being.  I know my midwife did with me.  We spoke of spiritual matters often.  I often felt like I had just had a visiting teacher in my home only she was taking prenatal assessments as we chatted.

The Relief Society motto is “Charity Never Faileth.”  The midwives model of care has not named charity by word but midwifery care would have little to offer without it.  I have been honored to witness the charity of many different midwives as they watched over, counseled, listened, served and loved the families they come in contact with.  It is a midwife’s responsibility to love her work and the people she serves. It has been my observation that anytime charity leaves their work, the work seems to leave them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sister Beck is who she is because midwifery as a way to care for others was passed on to her.  I know that I am who I am because of the women who came before me and that is why I love honoring women in our history.  Their stories really do teach me that Charity Never Faileth.

 

by Lani

She Understands me

March 3, 2014 in Adversity, Church History, Death, Grief, Lani, LDS History, Loss, Midwives, miscarriage, Motherhood, Music by Lani

Ellis-Shipp

“It is to me the crowning joy of a woman’s life to be a mother.” -Ellis Reynolds Shipp

Did you know that Dr. Ellis Shipp, one of Utah’s first female doctors (who trained many women to become nurses and midwives), wrote a hymn in the hymn book? I had forgotten until yesterday when my friend (who is mourning her second miscarriage) posted this on facebook…

As I sung/listened to this hymn today, I realized that the woman who wrote the words understands me. Some of her own babies did not make it past infancy, yet she pushed forward, continued to bear children, and went on to help Utah women as their midwife and first female doctor. She has been a hero of mine for years, and only became more dear to my heart through the re-discovery of this hymn. Even though it made me cry, her song brought me joy and peace today.

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You can read more about Dr. Shipp’s wonderful legacy in Robyn’s post HERE.

by Robyn

LDS Birthy Momma Christmas Wish List

November 27, 2013 in Book, Book reviews, Church History, LDS History, Midwives, Obstetricians, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

It’s that time of year!  Lani wrote a great post on Birth Faith with ideas for gifts for the baby shower basket.  I love her idea of giving the gift of an emergency birth kit.  I love practical and useful gifts like that.  Along with that I have found a few birth books by LDS authors for your favorite LDS Birth junkie. If you know of any others by LDS authors, please let me know.  I would love to add them to this list.

 

Pregnancy, Childbirth and Your Growing LDS Family by Kathleen Tooley Johnson, RN

LDS birth book

This book is a hands on how-to of birth.  It is geared toward natural birth but any mom to be would find the information helpful in preparing for birth. I also liked how the relates scriptures and gospel principles to pregnancy and childbirth.

 

Zion’s Hope: Pioneer Midwives and Doctors of Utah by Honey M. Newton, CNM

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I have enjoyed the brief peak into different midwives and doctors of our pioneer history that the author compiled into this book.  Their faith in birth and motherhood is so uplifting.  You can read more about this book in this post where the author was kind enough to tell us more about the process of writing Zion’s Hope.

 

Wise Childbirth, What You’ll Want to Know as You Make Your Birth Choices by Jennetta Billhimer

Wise chilbearing

 

I admit that I have not read this one.  It is not geared specifically for an LDS audience but it is written by an LDS author.

 

The Way of the Peaceful Birther by Amy Cox Jones

Peaceful Birther

 

This book is available only on kindle.  I have only read the excerpt provided by Amazon.  It is not written specifically for an LDS audience but the author is one of the organizers behind the LDS Holistic Living Conference.

 

Creating a Joyful Birth Experience by Lucchia Capacchione and Sandra Bardsley, RN

joyful birth

Sandra Bardsley is LDS and co-authored this well-balanced childbirth preparation book.  I bought this book before I realized Sandra’s connection to the Church.  I even used a quote from their book when writing my “Healing From Sorrow” essay in The Gift of Giving Life.

 

Polly’s Birth Book: Obstetrics for the Home by Polly Block

Polly's Birth Book

 

This book is great for emergency preparedness and/or midwifery educational purposes.  You can read more about this book here and here.  You can order this book on Amazon or contact Polly’s daughter on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/PollysBirthBook.

And we can’t forget The Gift of Giving Life!

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We hope you will take advantage of our upcoming sale price on our book for the holidays.  Stay tuned!

And, my wish as a LDS birth junkie momma would be to have a lovely spiritual birth DVD documentary for moms.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Someday maybe . . . but if you have some resources you would like to put to use, let us know!

Do you have any great ideas for birthy mommas?

Happy holiday shopping!

by Robyn

Women’s History Month In Summary

March 31, 2013 in Angels, Church History, LDS History, Midwives, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

We hope you have enjoyed learning more about our legacy as women of the LDS faith.  I know I have enjoyed reading these posts, some old ones, some new ones.  We hope that if you stumble upon a birth story or history of an LDS midwife, nurse or doctor that you will share it with us.  We learn from our past and gain strength from our sisters as we learn their names and stories.  I believe that learning of them allows you access to their influence from the other side of the veil.  May you rejoice in the legacy of the strong women who have come before us.

Here are a few other posts that we did not have time to share this month:

“Inspired by Some Higher Power” Zina Diantha Huntington Young

The Thirteenth Apostle: Susa Young Gates

 

by Robyn

Women in History Month: Every Neighbor a Midwife/Doula?

March 29, 2013 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Book, Church History, Death, Doulas, Family History, LDS History, Loss, Midwives, Relief Society, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

pioneer homebirth

 

 

I went to my small local library in search of stories of our pioneer sisters.  I was lucky enough to find a series called Covered Wagon Women which is a compilation of diaries and letters of women who came west.  I was drawn to the story of Jean Rio Baker (1810-1883) because it sounded so similar to that of one of my ancestors who also came from England crossing the ocean and the plains.  Jean settled in Ogden, after arriving in Utah and so did my ancestors so I like to think that they may have known each other.  She is not a well-known woman from church history which attracted me to her story.  The unsung heroes deserve to have their stories told as well.

Jean was a mother to seven children and left England as a widower.  One of her sons died during the journey to America.  Another son died after settling in Ogden (Holms, 204-207).  She describes five births that took place during her journey.  Two fine healthy boys born on the sea voyage and three while crossing the plains (Holms, 213, 222).

She was even called upon to help a woman in labor. From what I can tell, she did not have training nor was she called as a midwife as was done in the early days of the Church.  I think this was quite common that as a neighbor you could be called upon to assist in labor.  I’m sure there were many more unassisted births because of their frequent isolation.  Many times a midwife or other physician was not to be found.  Here she describes being called upon to help, August 25,

“Travelled 10 miles and encamped by the river, I was sent for to Sister Henderson, who had been sick for two days. In one hour, I was enabled to assist in giving birth to her daughter, but the Mother is so much exhausted that I fear she will not rally again. 26 – Remained in camp all day, setting tires, Sister Henderson very low, the infant quite well.  A hunting party, which set out yesterday, returned with plenty of fresh meat. 27 – Sister Henderson died to-day at noon, we buried her at 9 p.m., she left seven children” (266).

Every Neighbor a Midwife/Doula?

If you lived in those days, yes.  And you probably were called upon as doctor and nurse too.  Being the female neighbor meant being ready to help in all kinds of situations as women and children were often left alone.  This is referenced in the book, Pioneer Women: Voices From the Kansas Frontier, “oftentimes women were called upon to take care of ailing neighbors as well.  Traveling to nearby homesteads, they delivered the newborn, soothed the ill, treated the wounded and even dressed the dead for burial” (Stratton, 73). The author also noted,

“Pregnancy and childbirth involved particular apprehension for the pioneer woman and her family.  During pregnancy adequate medical supervision was totally lacking.  Likewise, the expectant mother often had very little female company to console and guide her through any difficult times.  Worse yet, an unbalanced diet, a heavy work load and poor housing conditions placed serious physical handicaps on the pregnant woman and her unborn child as well.  Childbirth itself was often the most difficult time of all.  For the most part, women struggled through labor and delivery with little assistance.  While a practicing physician was occasionally available to them, blizzards, floods, or other mishaps often delayed him until it was too late. In many communities, the tireless hands of an experienced midwife brought some relief to the new mother.  Yet all too often the woman isolated on her homestead found no medical help forthcoming.  Instead, she relied on the assistance of an anxious husband, a concerned neighbor or an older son or daughter” (Stratton, 86).

As I thought of her story I wondered if we realize that we should be looking for opportunities to serve our pregnant sisters.  We may not have to do it in the same way as Jean or other pioneer women, but we still need each other.  What I am saying is that we could do more than just ask, “how are you doing?”  Today we may not experience the same kind of hardships, but many of our sisters suffer quietly with numerous challenges.  I think we should be ready to sit down and let that mothers talk about their fears.  We ought to listen and then offer words of encouragement. We can babysit children while moms have been on bed rest or just need a break.  I like taking a meal to a new mother but I recognize that maybe help with breastfeeding her baby in the middle of the night is needed more.  I love participating in mother blessings (we have a great essay in the book about mother-centered showers) because being surrounded by loving sisters is irreplaceable.  I guess that is why I love Relief Society and Visiting Teaching, they give us an excuse to do and be more.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every visiting teacher was a doula too?  Think of how we would be transformed.  A girl can hope right?

Jean also describes the birth of one of her grandchildren during the trek, September 22, “As I feared, my dear girls labor came on during the night, and at daybreak a little grandson was born to my very great joy. I have some fears for its life, but I do hope our Heavenly Father will spare it to us, and make it a blessing to us all, and an honorable member of his kingdom; the children are all over-joyed.” (Holmes, 273). I think it was common to know that birth opened the doors of heaven, both life and death and that for one sacred moment both mother and baby linger between the two.  A pioneer woman laid her fate in God’s hands.  Today we do not have the same circumstances but I would think that God still expects us to reverence birth as a sacred door from heaven and back and put our faith in Him that He will guide us through whatever comes.

 

Sources:

Holmes, Kenneth, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1851, Arthur H. Clark Company: 1984, Glendale California.

Stratton, Joanna L., Pioneer Women: Voices From the Kansas Frontier, Simon and Schuster: 1981, New York, NY.