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

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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!

 

 

The Best Sale Ever for our Wonderful Readers

March 20, 2016 in blessingway, Book, Doulas, Midwives by enjoybirth

Have you ever wanted to give The Gift of Giving Life to your family, friends or as a baby shower gift?

Now is the time to stock up!

We had the pleasure of selling our book at The Empowering Birth Conference and had an amazing special to the people who were there.

$15 each or 2 for $20!

The only problem was, we ran out of books.  So we have had a few requests for that special for those who missed out at the conference.

We decided to provide this amazing pricing to all of our readers!

$10 a book – We couldn’t figure out how to do 2 for $20 on Amazon, so hope you choose to buy 2, or more.   😉  It is a perfect time to stock up on baby shower gifts!

Cheaper than a cute outfit and will provide so much more benefit.  😉

For one week only*or while supplies last – March 20-27th, so go buy it now!

gogl-coupon-while-supplies-last

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

Midwifing: Bringing about Change

February 3, 2016 in Midwives, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

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So we all know that a midwife is “a person trained to assist women in childbirth.” And that the root of the word in Old English means to be “with woman.”  But did you also know that a midwife is also defined as “a person or thing that produces or aids in producing something new or different?”

I don’t think it is a mistake that the word midwife has the meaning to aid in producing something new.  A midwife is aiding a mother as she produces a newborn baby. And midwives have been powerfully moving toward innovative choices in childbirth and feminine care throughout the different ages of time even when persecuted.  Midwives are powerful change makers.  As I have pondered this new meaning to the word midwife I have to ask myself what have I “midwifed” in the past and what will I “midwife” in the future?

What will you “midwife?”

What kind of new change will you offer your support to?

Empowering Fearless Birth is a group that has been doing just that.  A few years ago they hosted the first birth conference of its kind on the Wasatch front.  And now they are doing it again.

The Empowering Birth Conference  is Saturday, February 20th!

empowering fearless birth

The Gift of Giving Life will be there and will be presenting a class on the sacred nature of birth.  We hope you will join us in midwifing a new era in childbirth!

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

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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.

 

 

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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

Interview with a Student Midwife

July 27, 2015 in Doulas, Dreams, Education, Faith, home birth, Marriage, Midwives, Motherhood, Parenting, Placenta, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

Angela Geurts

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a student midwife? I asked my friend, Angela Geurts, to answers some questions about life as a midwife in training. – Robyn

 

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

Sometimes each of us may feel that we have a calling in the church stamped on our foreheads. For me, it has been the calling of ward/stake Emergency Preparedness Specialist. Not sure how or why, but it seems to be a calling of choice for me regardless of where I live. I’ve learned all about food storage and rotation, using wheat and stored foods, having a home apothecary of natural remedies, etc. After my 5th baby was born at home I realized “Wow, I now have four daughters. Four daughters that will grow up in uncertain times, which may very well need my help during their child bearing years and experiences… and I do not know enough.” My emergency preparedness focused in sharply on how I could be prepared for this eventuality….

The decision to become a midwife was a difficult one for me. I have always valued being at home with my children and supporting my husband as he works to provide for our family. It took me about 2 years of soul searching, scripture study and earnest prayer before I made the decision to enter this occupation of sacrifice, with my husband’s support. Many scriptures spoke to me, but I felt my answer was found in Abraham 1:2; mainly in the line “desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge.” That is what I most desired; to have the knowledge necessary to help my daughters, and women in the church to have a beautiful and safe birth regardless of what the circumstances might be. To have the knowledge, skill set and experience to provide care for them in a home setting. My world view includes the belief that in the near future hospitals may not be available in times of catastrophe or chaos as an option for birthing women, and so my focus is on gaining all the skills that may be needed in such situations.

I also was influenced by the midwives who attended my personal births, and the care and great birthing experiences that they provided for me and my family including Nancy Mooy, CNM (Utah, retired), Michelle Bartlett, CPM (retired), Kathy LeBaron, LM, CPM and Valerie Hall, LM, CPM, with whom I am now an intern. Each one of my personal birth experiences taught me important life lessons and added to my desire for other women to have the birthing options and experiences that I enjoyed. Particularly my home births, where we together as a couple received a great strengthening power from working together and relying on each other; that is when I realized “Wow, this is what birth is meant to accomplish for a family.”

 

What midwifery school and training did you decide upon?

I decided on the National College of Midwifery in Taos, New Mexico, because it was a program that I could complete from home while raising my five children, and it seemed to me the best financial option at the time; according to my financial plan, I could achieve the needed training for state licensure for about $15,000.00.

 

At what point in your path as a midwife are you at?

I am in the beginning of attaining my Primary Under Supervision numbers, with 27 credit hours of academics still complete. For births as Assistant, I have 39 out of 20 required, and for Primary births I have 6 of 25 completed. I will complete all of my academics and numbers by August of 2016 and apply to take the NARM either fall of 2016 or early 2017.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a student midwife?

A typical week… is basically fly by the seat of your pants… taking care of my home (cooking meals, cleaning – admittedly these activities have gotten fewer and fewer with all the load of midwifery), my five daughters ages 1-17, writing to my missionary son, making appointments and scheduling for the midwifery practice, completing office details like charting, keeping contacts current, and doing MANA statistics, trying to squeeze in 10 hours per week of academic classwork, attending prenatal visits 1-2 days per week, performing massages (for continued income) of 4-6 per week on average, providing placenta encapsulation services and limited doula births, and working on my current church callings (ward emergency preparedness & stake assistant emergency preparedness coordinator). A typical birth load for our practice is about 3 births per month, although births don’t usually happen like that-sometimes we have no births in a month and sometimes 6-7-there is always an ebb and flow to birth work.

 

How has your commitment to become a midwife affected your family?

Being a midwife is one of those professions that require the whole family to sacrifice and bend and flow. Particularly in home birth settings where being on call is something that is constant, and induction of labor is not an option, being ready to jump and go at all times with a young family involves multiple layers of planning and back up plans. Scheduling vacations is difficult, and often needs to be done at least 9 months in advance. There are some good things; for instance, my children often have to step up and take care of younger siblings, meals, cleaning, and planning for alternate ways to take care of their activities and commitments if Mom is not available to help. Finding the balance between meeting my family’s needs and having just the right amount of clients/clinic days/office work is a constant process. The first few years of my midwifery training, working at a birth center one hour from my home I thought was going great and the kids were adjusting and everyone was happy. Then I conceived our 6th child, and stepped back from the rate I was doing midwifery. The relief from my husband and children was tangible, and they often mentioned how happy they were to have me home again. When it came time for me to get back at it, each one of my children had different nightmares about me leaving/being gone/being injured. That is when I realized that though I thought all was well before, it really wasn’t. Finding that balance for my family is something that I intend to seek for direction from the Lord in prayer and humility for the rest of my career.

 

What are some of the blessings and challenges you have faced?

Baby number six takes the cake for being the biggest challenge (and blessing) to my midwifery education. I was half way through my training and numbers when I conceived, and really it’s taken a toll of extending my training a good two years. And accepting that, like in birth, the speed of my midwifery education and control of the outcome is in God’s hands and not mine. I’ve really tried to settle in to the fact that maybe He just wants me to get all the experience and education, and is less concerned about how quickly I accomplish it or whether I become licensed. (Of course, I do not intend to practice illegally, either). I’m just doing my best and relying on, trusting in and following the divine direction that I receive. By the way, there is plenty of ‘no clue what God wants me to do.’ So that just equates to moving forward with what I do know He wants me to do, and trying to let go of the worry over everything else.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

With a young family in tow, midwifery learning can begin in the books, long before you ever decide to begin formal training. You might also consider completing doula training or workshops, becoming a childbirth educator, taking a midwife assistant class, and perhaps some courses in counseling women with breastfeeding issues; each of which will give you more tools to help mothers if you decide to pursue midwife. I would recommend purchasing all of Anne Frye’s books including Holistic Midwifery, Healing Passage and Diagnostic Tests. Next in line would be Varney’s Midwifery, and LLL breastfeeding answer book. And of course, learning about dietary needs, herb’s and tincture’s goes right along with midwifery in all its glory 😉

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as student midwife?

I think the most touching and spiritual experiences are when the whole family participates in the birth; or when other small children are brought in with mom, dad and the new baby. But for the most part, spiritual experiences for me happen each day, mostly when I am talking with parents about how birth may go, and the type of experience that we are trying to create for them as providers. It is in those moments when I share something that is absolute truth and feel the spirit witness to me that it is true, that is part of each visit day and hopefully each birth. It’s kind of a little divine witness that helps me remember the importance of what I am doing and how I am trying to do it. Most of the time those witnesses are associated with the importance of family, and the way God has designed for families to come about, through the process of experiencing the birth together, and putting their faith in God and efforts towards educating themselves, taking responsibility and preparing themselves for the process.

 

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony? How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

The supreme courts’ recent decision on marriage, and the recent laws that have been passed in my state which have threatened my personal religious freedom (as in mandating that I cannot choose what clients I serve as a midwife without responsibility for litigation) caused me to reflect and soul search about why I am putting so much effort, time, money and sacrifice into midwifery training. This caused me a bit of grief and anxiety for a while, until I came to my real purpose: supporting, upholding and sustaining the family unit through a birth environment and experience that enables, teaches and empowers. Birth is meant to physically draw a couple together in a unified purpose which allows them to experience trial, work, long-suffering and unsurpassed joy together. That is why I am becoming a midwife, and I know in this pursuit I am absolutely using my daily work to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

Watching and learning from my preceptor, Valerie Hall, as she uses and seeks for inspiration and direction with each client and each birth has been a great blessing. There is no differentiation between religion and work, they are rolled into one; together they define each of us. Getting an answer to prayer takes effort, and keeping yourself in a position to receive answers quickly when under pressure necessitates that daily effort is made to pray, read the scriptures, spend time strengthening my marriage and my family… and still it is difficult to obtain answers quickly in times of decision making… so it’s a talent I’m trying to develop and tune into in all aspects of providing midwifery care.

by Robyn

The Path of a Modern Mormon Midwife

June 16, 2015 in Angels, Book, Education, Faith, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

An Interview With Valerie Hall, LM, CPM

So what is it like to be a midwife? Valerie Hall LM, CPM, graciously agreed amidst her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her work as a midwife.  I have known Valerie since she began her journey by becoming a childbirth educator.  She was also present at the birth of my sixth child.  I also loved taking part in the Midwife Assistant classes she offered.   My favorite part of the class was the beginning when she would ask the “hard questions,” meaning, the thought-provoking ones that cause you to search your soul a little bit. While I am not ready to begin as a student midwife yet I value the training and experiences I had in her class.  It allowed me to peek into the world of a midwife and evaluate the blessings and sacrifices associated with it.  I hope that other such classes will be offered for other women trying to decide upon the path of midwifery. Valerie has a website for her practice, Generations Homebirth, and she also has a facebook page.   –Robyn

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photo by Cali Stoddard

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

I believe my first step toward midwifery was the firm conviction I had even before I was married that it was essential for me to give birth without medications. I’m not sure why that was planted in my heart, but it was very clear. Our first baby was born in a California hospital without medications but certainly not without unwelcome interference. It was a long time before I processed the pain of that experience, but it made an activist out of me. “Activist” is the word my Dad used to describe me because it was nicer than “fanatic”.

Five more babies came along, all born in hospitals and all without medications. My activism went dormant when it became clear that most people just didn’t want to hear about it. When our 4th child and 1st daughter was expecting her first baby, she called to say that she wanted a natural birth and asked about what classes were available. From there it was a slippery slope for my husband Steve and me. We became Bradley Method teachers, then I started attending births as doula and took the DONA training.

My very first job turned out to be a precipitate birth where I beat the paramedics by about 7 minutes and the baby did not breathe for what seemed like forever. This was definitely beyond my training level! All turned out well. In the first year of doula work I caught the baby 3 times and I promise it was never my fault. At that point Steve started urging me to look into Midwifery school.

I started looking but quickly realized that at 51 years old I was way too old to start this career. But Heavenly Father would not take NO for an answer and I felt actually shoved into midwifery. Doors opened. Money appeared (usually at the last moment). Previously planned doors closed. Things fell into place. I kicked and cried and fretted and worried but always sought the next little patch of light which never failed to appear just as I was about to give up.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a midwife?

I do all my care in my clients’ homes except for a few who come from a distance and choose to meet me at my house. So a typical week looks like this:

Monday: Office work. This never, ever ends. It’s like dishes or laundry. You can’t catch up. I’m not good at sitting in front of a desk for hours on end so I’ve learned strategies for survival, like taking a break and doing crazy dances with my grandchildren who live with me.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Usually at least 2 of these days are spent traveling to clients’ homes. My assistant Angela Geurts does all my scheduling for me, bless her. So on one day I go north to the Rexburg area and on one day I go south as far as Blackfoot or Pocatello. If I can’t get all the visits in, then I do a 3rd day. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Midwives College of Utah and of the Idaho Midwifery Council (I’m giving that up soon) and on the Idaho Board of Midwifery. So there are often online or phone meetings for those organizations and also projects that I have to do for them. I try to fit those in on the days when I don’t have too many visits. Sometimes I’m gone from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm, although that usually doesn’t happen more than once per week. I schedule a full hour for each visit plus driving time. Sometimes a student travels with me.

Fridays: In the morning one of my students comes for a few hours to help with things like organizing the office (a spare bedroom in our home), making up birth kits, scanning and entering documents, sterilizing instruments, restocking my bags, etc. Sometimes I can do home chores while they’re doing this but I usually need to be close at hand to answer questions.

Of course, if someone has a baby we have to revise the schedule unless the whole thing takes place at night. Angela has a big job!

 

What led you to begin offering assistant midwife classes?

I had been thinking of offering Midwife Assistant classes for a long time. When I first went out into solo practice I didn’t think I was likely to get students who wanted to get their clinical credits with me because I don’t do a high volume of births (about 25-30 per year) so it would be quite slow. I needed trained assistants. I realized that there are many women who are not ready to jump into midwifery but who would like a gentle introduction. Also, there’s a great need to educate women so there will be someone to help at births in case of emergency. That’s something I feel very strongly about. Birth knowledge is not something that should be kept as a professional secret available only to the few. It belongs to all women. Every ward should have someone who is at least somewhat prepared to help in cases where professional help is not available. Of all the emergency scenarios people talk about, emergency childbirth is the one you’re most likely to encounter in your life. It happens every day.

As it turned out, I do have students so my need for assistants is much less than I had expected. But I’m going to keep offering the classes as long as there’s any interest because it’s a good introduction to midwifery. There are now three licensed midwives in my area and I think there might be demand for good trained assistants.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

I don’t have a lot of advice for people considering midwifery training. Just like any other major life decision, it needs to be searched out diligently and then prayed about. I do believe that it will soon become important to attend an accredited school. There is no royal road or shortcut to competence in midwifery. It’s a very responsible job and can be hard on a family if not approached with care. It’s worth taking your time and really investigating before jumping in. The rewards are great but so are the sacrifices. It’s worth investing in a quality education. “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway, till you find your dream”. If it’s the path for you, you will come to know that.

 

What is one of the funniest experiences you have had as a midwife?

There are so many good stories! This is why midwives write books. I will too someday. Stories are mostly funny after the fact, and I’m the victim in most of them. Once I was attending a mother for her 3rd baby, and I’d been present as a student for the first two so I knew that this mom always worked hard to get her babies out. This time she was birthing on her bed in a suspended squat, supported from behind by her husband. Baby was finally almost crowning after a real effort at pushing. In the intensity of the moment I forgot the fact that her water hadn’t broken yet. I was practically lying across the bed with my hands outstretched and my face right in the path. Sure enough, the water broke and caught me full in the face, completely drenching my hair. But Baby was right behind it and I barely had time to run my arm across my face to clear my eyes before I had to catch. Baby needed a bit of stimulation to get started, so there wasn’t time to do anything about cleaning up for quite a while. When I finally had a chance to go into the bathroom and wash, I looked like a creature from the Black Lagoon. Naturally, this was a birth that took place fairly far away from my home and the mom had Rh negative blood type, so I had to take blood samples into the lab before I could go home and shower. I can only hope the lab people were pretty bleary-eyed at 4 am and didn’t think strange things. Angela was my assistant and she’s still laughing about that.

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as midwife?

To be a midwife is to be a watcher at the gates of life. Every birth is a spiritual experience. Sometimes I’m very aware of the watchers from the other side of the veil. One of the richest experiences was the birth of one of my grandsons. My daughter-in-law was laboring well and there was deep peace in the room. As the birth drew near I became aware that the room was full of women. I couldn’t quite see them but I knew who some of them were. My Great-Aunt Dade who delivered many babies as a rural nurse, my Great-great-great grandmother Morilla Spink Bates who was a pioneer midwife, my own grandmothers, and other ancestors. I also recognized the presence of many whose names I did not know; they were ancestors of my daughter-in-law. I did not say anything but knew those women were there to lend support and to usher my grandson into his mortal experience.

 

Tell us more about the projects you are working on.

I’m currently working on several projects for the MCU board and the Board of Midwifery. At the same time I’m working on a book on Emergency Childbirth. It’s meant to be an updated manual like the old classic by Dr. Gregory White. But I’m also considering including it as a chapter in a longer work on preparedness for women and babies. I really need an illustrator! I’m also considering how I can complete my Bachelors degree in midwifery (I graduated with an AS from MCU). And of course I want to update my files so that all my notes are in electronic form and well-indexed so that I can find what I need easily.

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony?  How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

 

My testimony of the Gospel and of my Savior’s grace has been greatly strengthened by my practice of midwifery. I know for certain that my strength is weakness and all power comes from Him. His plan is perfect, though we are not. I can testify that He lives, that He leads us along and knows of our needs and answers our prayers.

One of the great problems for midwives is fear. I think every midwifery student encounters this. There are so many things to be afraid of, but fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time. Therefore faith must prevail. That which you feed is that which grows. I have learned to feed my faith, not my fears, and I have learned to rely on the strength of the Lord instead of my own. I must not carry fear or resentment or pride into the room where a birth is occurring. Since I never know the day nor the hour when I will be attending a birth, I must keep my repentance current.

I was given a powerful gift 38 years ago on the day I received my endowment for the first time. I believe that it was in some way tied to my mission among women. For some reason, the Lord saw fit to roll back the veil and let me truly understand the relationship of men and women on this earth and in the eternities. In one instant I saw the glory and nobility and unity of the sexes. Then it closed down and I could never explain it in words to myself or anyone else. But I had seen and understood for that one second, and in all the years since I have never had any troubles or doubts about the place of women in the Lord’s plan. It is glorious. In the World we have tribulation and uncertainty and sometimes anger or resentment about these things. But in the Lord we have peace everlasting. It is my testimony that we can choose where we will live, in Babylon or in Zion. We can choose whom we accept as authorities, the philosophies of men or the messengers from our Heavenly parents. You may have different questions or struggles than mine, but the source of light is the same for all of us. Let there be Light in your life.

 

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 Robyn

Are you in the Wilderness?

October 22, 2014 in Adversity, Faith, Fear, Midwives, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Rebirth, Robyn, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

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I have had this passage on my mind for quite a while now,

And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.

2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.

3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 17:1-4)

I recently moved a few months ago from a home that I had lived in for thirteen years. Going through the  process of relocating has had me thinking about the last time I had moved.  I had just had my first baby.  We were living with my parents in transition after leaving our apartment before our house would be ready for us to move into.  We were experiencing a lot of change all at once. I know I’m not the first woman to move while in the childbearing cycle.  I have actually noticed a lot of women doing this.

I come in contact with a lot of women and families as they have babies through my work as a childbirth educator, doula, and midwife assistant. And over the years I have noticed a pattern of change, transition and rebirth as women go through the childbearing process. There is usually more than the change of a new life coming into a family that takes place.  I have also noticed a lot of families move during this transitional period either right before or after a baby comes.  This is actually not unusual, even in the scriptures as noted in the scripture passage above.

Nephi talks about the women of his family bearing children in the wilderness and being in the process of moving for “the space of many years, yea even eight years” (1Nephi 17:4). That is a long time to be have your life up in the air. I thought moving was difficult but I am sure it would it have harder for me to be doing it for eight years.  Why so long?  Nephi explains that they did “wade through much affliction” however, “so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings“ (1 Nephi 17:2).  The process was intended to make them stronger and to bring them to a place where they no longer complained.  I’m sure they had plenty of reasons to complain, these women had left comfortable homes with servants.  They would likely have had midwives to attend them. Here in their journeys, they became each other’s midwives and did all of the menial tasks their servants would have done.  God was in the process of teaching them. This transitional period became one of rebirth and refinement.

Have you beared children in the wilderness? Or in other words, have you ever moved while pregnant or with a newborn?

What tips would you give mothers who are moving while pregnant or with a newborn?

I came up with a few ideas. Please add to my list!

  • Reach out and make friends. Create a circle of support. Find online groups and in person play groups. The ward, or even La Leche League are a few ways to get in contact with other mothers.  (Don’t forget those more seasoned mothers and grandmas nearby.  They are often aching to hold a baby for a few hours or engage in meaningful conversation while taking a walk.) Shortly after we moved we became friends with a family who had four children already.  The mother became the one I went to with questions and watched her example as she patiently raised her children.  I still look up to them and try to model many of their parenting choices.
  • Ask for help or accept help when offered. If you are pregnant or still healing from birth you have to be aware that you should not be doing it all. Physically it is different for a time.  I was healing from a cesarean birth and felt blessed that my mother came with me and helped with unpacking and setting up our new home.
  • Take your time. Your house does not have to be perfect yet. It takes me months (or more) to get pictures on walls.  I didn’t have a newborn this time and I’m still working on that three months later. First things first.  Take care of you, baby and family and the rest will follow.
  • Let the process refine you. Just as God reached out and blessed the women of Nephi’s camp, God will reach out and help you. It is your promise.  He is aware of you and wants to help you while you transition.  In this last move I felt very emotional. I had become so attached to the home itself, five of my children had been born there, along with many other treasured memories. While we were not moving all that far, it was far enough. It was a different neighborhood, ward, and stake.  I loved my neighbors and ward.  But we felt “called” to go elsewhere.  We knew it was where we were supposed to go and we are seeing the blessings and tender mercies that have come with this change.

What has helped you in the process of moving?