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

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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.

by Robyn

Polly Block, Mormon Midwife Part 1

March 25, 2013 in Church History, Conversion, Education, Faith, LDS History, Midwives, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

Polly Block midwife

I wanted to share some information about Polly Block, a more recent LDS midwife.  I had the privilege of connecting with her daughter, Jeanette, who provided me with this background information about her.  She also kindly wrote about her mother’s life of service in the church.  What a treasure to have this information.  Thank you Jeanette! If you would like to contact Jeanette about ordering a copy of Polly’s Birth Book you can go to their Facebook page.  Polly’s Birth Book is a nice addition to your emergency preparedness library. Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of this post.  –Robyn

***

Polly Block is a world renowned and highly respected midwife. Midwives from all over the United States and worldwide frequently seek her counsel in midwifery (natural childbirth) & pregnancy, because of her broad experience with special birthing techniques. Polly was invited by a scholar from a national foundation to assist in research on birthing customs in different cultures. Home obligations prevented her from accepting this honor.

Polly’s special interest has been the effect of herbs on pregnancy, labor, and delivery of birthing mothers. She has also developed an extensive home nursing file in natural childbirth and midwifery skills, which stresses diet, massage therapy, natural food supplements, and advanced first aid techniques as the basis for preventive health care and home preparedness. Polly has often been invited to share her data with leading researchers and practitioners, as well as midwifery schools in the field of home birth, natural childbirth and midwifery.

Polly was guest speaker at University seminars on childbirth and midwifery. She taught six-day training classes in midwifery in many of the states. Polly participated in the Carol Sakala research, reported in Content of Care by Independent Midwives, published in the Social Science & Medicine Journal, printed in Great Britain in 1988. She was asked to donate six weeks of training to a newly developed program, The Russian Birth Project, in St. Petersburg, Russia, wherein three of the nineteen maternity hospitals were being devoted to the training of midwives. Polly did not attend, but both Polly’s Birth Book and A Superior Alternative, Childbirth at Home were used.

At retirement, the author was a great grandmother, and spent a lot of time writing good family reading materials to “help raise” some of the many children she helped bring into the world. Her sixteen titles and Polly’s Birth Book speak for her. All of Polly’s birth books, A Superior Alternative Childbirth at Home, Aaron your Awesome and other writings of her writings are paperback and very affordable.

In 1988 the Utah County Sheriff’s Emergency Preparedness Department asked Polly Block to enroll as an Emergency Midwife in the event of a natural disaster. Polly was also asked to prepare the Emergency Childbirth Handout issued from their office for the public.

 

It is a well-known fact that in disaster situations triage rules the day! This means that women will be told to stay home or go elsewhere to deliver their babies because childbirth is not a life threatening emergency! Rightly, the Sheriff’s office wanted to help the layman to become prepared to assist a mother in natural childbirth. While Polly’s Birth Book alone lacks the element of hand-on experience for the reader, nevertheless it is by far the most sought after childbirth “how-to”.

Polly's Birth Book

 

 ***

In the words of her daughter, Jeanette:

She was a convert from the Bible belt. After her conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saint she served two full time missions. After her missions she met my father, and then introduced him to the “singing mothers? (Today this is the female part of the Mormon Tabernacle choir.) He felt it was the most beautiful thing he ever heard and there they fell in love. But she would not marry him until he had chosen, of his own free will, to become LDS. He was due to go back into the services and could not live any longer without her…. so … he was baptized in the Jordan river in Lehi, Utah. (I remember he always thought it was so special that Christ was baptized in River Jordan and he was in the Jordan river.)

While he was gone, she continued and hungered for more about the Lord and the gospel. She actually was the oldest person in the seminary class that she enrolled in. However, she didn’t care and was soooo happy and grateful to have the opportunity to have it.

She got her degree in personology. When my father returned, she had four miscarriages, so she started learning how to prevent such a tragedy from happening again and became an herbalist. She then had  four children.

During this time she was a writer. She published, off the top of my head, I want to say 27 times. Her works were varied, anywhere from the most fabulous children stories, pioneer stories, family history, to Aaron’s accident (all of which are for sale).  She also kept avid journals as they are the record in heaven.

She always remembered that if she did the Lords bidding she would be OK. “Remember the Lords simple love, He loves us …. simply because we ARE. He sent us down here to gain a body and to learn.” This she did willingly while learning all she could.

She really did put 110% into what she did. That was until she started midwifery, then it turned 160% after a tragedy in our town … a newborn was found in a dumpster. This just devastated her.  I was about 10 at the time and I remember her saying, “This is such horrendous thing happening to these little innocent, sweet spirits, abortions, and now this! I need to help the Lord to bring these sweet spirits to this earth as safely and a healthy as I can, and as inexpensively as possible, after all these years, I feel this is my calling in life.”

She then wrote A Superior Alternative, Childbirth At Home. I guess we were at that age where my little brother, Aaron (4 years younger), and I were… uh shall we say “demanding” of her attention, and it drug out the process of the book. So she made arrangements for a “nanny”, locked herself in the remodeled garage for what seemed forever (it wasn’t really, it just seemed forever) and there Polly’s Birth Book was born.

She lectured many seminars on birthing during and after she retired actual birthing babies (except for mine).

She supported a long journey with my father through the Boy Scouts of America, 62 years, until my father’s death. In fact, twenty minutes after his passing, we received a phone call to see if they could have an eagle interview with him. She even designed many of the patches for the BSA.

About six months before she passed away the Russian government contacted her and said they would take care of all her needs, medical and housing, if she would just come teach their people HOW to birth their  babies as their mortality rate was sooo bad. (Now Russia will not allow adoptions out of their country.) She was ready to go. I gently sat down and said, “Mother, it’s a red country, a third world country, they don’t have the medical help you need, and you’re diabetic and quite simply … we will never see you again , they will keep you there cause you are helping them so well.” She replied,” that’s OK dear, I’ll see you again in the next life. You will always know I am there.” (AND SHE IS)   I SMILED SOFTLY AND SAID,” Mother, kindly call them back, tell them thank you for the honor and invitation, BUT your daughter said you couldn’t go …. and send them books…..so she did….

She loved the Lord and it shows in her writing. The very best advice she gave was to utilize the Lord and the Priesthood, pray often AND stop and listen and feel his guidance.

SHE WAS A PREPPER! She thought of so much more than the norm thought to prepare for … lol. She just didn’t get her fallout shelter.

She prepped right down to a wood burning stove and a ton of coal…. that is as beautiful today as the day she put it in the ground…40 yrs ago/ lol I remember my father came home from Geneva Steel and there is this huge square hole dug very nicely and a very heavy gage black plastic laying nicely in the bottom overlapping the outskirts of the hole by about 3 feet. OHHHHHH BUDDY! WAS HE MAD! “YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR YOU HAVE TORN UP MY GRASS! IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.” She simply said, “I have got it all planned out very carefully, and you will have your grass back, it won’t go bad, and easy to get to when we need it, BUT when the Prophet said to get prepared, I took him for his word and as she raised her eyebrow, and said and if you don’t like it then you are just going to have to look the other way.” He said nothing as he really loved the fact that she would be taking care of their family way after they were gone. And really, he took joy in huge gardens, bottling, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and prepping himself.  And I know they are proud of me and my husband as we take up where they left off.

OH BY THE WAY she folded the outskirts of plastic over the top of the coal then had another sheet of the plastic over the top and tucked way down the sides so that water will pass by.

She was sharp as a tack and was reading stories to her grandchildren right up to a few hours before she died with grace and honor. I am blessed and honored myself to have her stories still so close to me as they have truly taught me the plan of salvation. I love them.

Polly spent her life dedicated to helping, uplifting and educating in the field of midwifery and emergency preparedness bringing children into this world as safely and affordable as possible, through midwifery and training midwives.

“Healthy children should not only be born to the rich.”

We will miss her as she has returned home to her sweetheart and Father in Heaven in November of 2007. It is my intention to keep her legacy by helping to the best of my ability and keeping her midwifery books in print, available and affordable.