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


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

Back to the Basics: Why You Should Read to Your Kids

June 10, 2015 in Education, Guest Post, Parenting, Power of Words, Relief Society, Uncategorized by Robyn

I was excited to get this blog post in our inbox about the importance of reading to our children.  I will never forget the first Relief Society Enrichment meeting that I attended after my first baby was born.  It was a presentation on reading to your children.  My baby was only about a month old but I immediately started reading to her from that day on.  I am forever grateful that another woman shared with me her passion for reading to her children.  My family is forever changed by it.  I know it prepared my children for school but more importantly it strengthened my relationship with them.  I have never regretted the time I spend cuddled with my children reading.  I especially love finding my children reading to each other.  And as I read with my children I also remember my mother’s voice reading to me before bed.  It was a treasured time.   I knew I mattered and I enjoyed the adventure and warmth of listening by her side.  I hope this post ignites in you a passion for reading with your children.  –Robyn


(Image credit: jbird via Flickr Creative Commons)

(Image credit: jbird via Flickr Creative Commons)

Many of us have fond memories of our parents cuddling with us in bed, a book propped up on their laps and our little fingers eagerly reaching over to help flip to the next page. Those nights spent reading books with our parents will always be treasured, and it’s unfortunate that not many children are able to experience that nowadays. In a world where time is moving faster than ever and parents hardly feel like they have time for all their responsibilities, they often dismiss reading as an unnecessary activity, unaware of all the benefits they could be missing out on. If you haven’t read to your children in a while, here are some reasons why you need to reconsider:

1. Reading Helps Build Language Skills Reading aloud with a child doesn’t just help them become more familiar with sounds and the words of your language, the healthy exchange of ideas is also essential in helping them construct their own sentences. There have been studies that showed that children who are read to do better in school, and this can be attributed to how a child’s vocabulary expands as parents read to him. With a better grasp of the language and the ability to communicate, they’re able to perform better in school.

2. Reading Makes Them Better People The imagined worlds of books help thrust kids into situations they otherwise wouldn’t experience in the real world. As a blog post on Tootsa MacGinty explains, the regular reading of books can help “create empathy toward other people, because literature values humanity and celebrates human spirit and potential, offering insight into different lifestyles while recognising universality” – a good excuse to pick up a book if ever you needed one!” By reading to them, we help our kids identify with the different characters in books, and appreciate their situations and learn how to react to them.

3. Reading Together Strengthens Bonds When your kids reach a certain age, you’ll find that they’ll be spending less and less time with you, and the cuddle time you used to enjoy when they were younger will be few and far between. Reading together helps recreate this cuddle time and strengthen your relationship. As you go through a book, make sure you ask your child about their opinions on the story and the characters, as this will give you the chance to get to know more about your child, and his or her interests.

Do you still read to your children? What do you think is the biggest benefit you can get from reading to your kids?

Author Bio: SleepyMum Ram J is an advocate of childhood literacy, and she has dedicated much of her life to helping parents rediscover the joys of reading to their kids. When not spreading the word of childhood literacy, she sometimes volunteers at local daycares.

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,


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

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.



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 Lani

In Good Hands

March 22, 2013 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Faith, Family History, Lani, LDS History, Midwives, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Priesthood blessings, Relief Society by Lani

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: . . . and shall gently lead those that are with young.” -Isaiah 40:11

Today’s Women’s History Month stories come from our Latter-day Saint birthing history. I fantasize about having a book containing all the recorded birth accounts of our early Mormon mothers and midwives. What an amazing book that would be! I have a feeling that those account would do for us modern mothers what the following two accounts have done for me. They would show us over and over and over that God cares deeply about each birth and that we are given divine aid and protection as we participate in the sacred work of giving life to His children.

This first account was shared by a friend in her sacrament meeting talk about family history work. It describes a miracle experienced by her own ancestors. With her permission, I share it here:

Benjamin Boyce (1884-1962) tells the story of when his wife Maud Evelina Brown (1884 – 1935) was pregnant and very sick. His autobiography reads, “After about three weeks the doctor said that she would have to have an operation. I asked if she would lose the baby and the doctor said ‘Yes’ But Maud refused to be operated on and said, ‘Go get the Elders and I will be all right.’ I did….[they] administered to her saying ‘You will have a son, who will be a joy and a comfort to you the rest of your life.’ This blessing was literally fulfilled, six weeks later [our son] was born, July  1, 1914.” (Dan and Echo Boyce, Boyce Family History, Vol. 1, 1973,  p. 406)

Talk about getting a “second opinion,” huh? There is no greater “doctor” than the Lord, and we can always put our faith and trust in His opinion and counsel. I am amazed by Maud’s great sacrifice, faith, and determination. She was willing to lay aside the understanding of men and put herself and her baby in God’s hands. In turn, she was granted a beautiful miracle.

The next story comes from the beautiful book, Daughters in My Kingdom, given to all the Relief Society sisters last year. I was thrilled to see the stories of some of our early Mormon midwives and lady doctors shared in this great book. The following story, in particular, was a powerful and beautiful testament to me that those who oversee our births can be given clear and direct guidance straight from the Lord on our behalf when they are in-tune.

Emma Andersen Liljenquist attended a course in midwifery in Utah after President Brigham Young had urged many sisters to receive medical training to meet the needs of the Saints and their growing families. This was also at the time when women were officially called and set apart as midwives for life (you can read more about midwifery as a spiritual calling in our book and here). Emma recorded these experiences from her years as a midwife among the saints:

After being set apart by Apostle John Henry Smith and several others, I returned home to do my work, having been promised by the Apostles that if I lived right I should always know what to do in case of any difficulties. . . . That promise has been fulfilled to the very letter. Many times when one of my patients was seriously ill, I have asked my Heavenly Father for assistance, and in every case it was given to me. One in particular was a lady who had just given birth to a baby and hemorrhage set in. The husband called the doctor, but he did not realize that it was so serious. I . . . asked the Lord to help us. The hemorrhage ceased and I did the necessary things for her. When the doctor arrived, he said he could hardly believe what had happened, but said I had done exactly what he would have done. . . . I have brought over one thousand babies [into the world]. Once again I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for His help and the strength the Lord has given me, for without it I could not have rendered this service to my sisters in our community. (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 55-56)

I am in awe of Emma’s great faith. I can’t imagine how humbling it must be to know that you are overseeing the entrance of another human soul into mortality and protecting the sacred vessel bringing that soul here: the mother. What a marvelous yet daunting task to shoulder. I don’t know how anyone could do it without the Lord. I love Emma’s humble insistence that she could not have done her duties without His help. As I said before, there is no greater “doctor” than the Lord, and as our Father and Creator, He knows our bodies and their physical processes better than anyone. He knows exactly what these physical bodies need to heal and be made whole.

Sometimes, however, the Lord calls babies or mothers home. Sometimes their right path is not to be healed or delivered from difficulty. Though I cannot begin to imagine the heartache felt by those left behind under such circumstances, I feel certain that those babies, mothers, and grieving loved ones are no less “in good hands” as they endure those losses. Having lost close loved ones myself, I can testify to the overwhelming peace that can envelop and surround and strengthen those in mourning.

Whether we are given miraculous healing and rescue or given miraculous peace in times of loss, I know with all my heart that we are always in Good Hands.

by Robyn

Women’s History Month: Pioneer Birth Stories

March 8, 2013 in Adversity, Church History, Faith, Gratitude, LDS History, Midwives, Relief Society, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

 In researching midwives and birth in the history of the church I found this beautiful tribute to our pioneer sisters in the March 1997 issue of the Ensign by Susan Easton Black. I love to read of our pioneer sister’s courage because it strengthens my determination to live with faith as they did.  I thought I would share it here in honor of Women’s History Month. – Robyn

“Courage an Unfailing Beacon”

by Susan Easton Black

“My Babe Seemed So Beautiful”

The challenges certainly were formidable for Latter-day Saint women who knew they would soon give birth. Facing the dangers of childbirth in extreme conditions without proper supplies and sometimes without proper help must have been frightening to these women. Yet with unflinching courage, they joined the exodus, gave birth, and continued the trek.

“I was informed that on the first night of the encampment … nine children were ushered into the world,” wrote Eliza R. Snow of the exodus. “And from that time, as we journeyed, mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances except those to which they had been accustomed. … I heard of one birth occurring in the rude shelter of a hut—the sides formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, [with] a bark roof, through which the rain was dripping: Kind sisters held dishes and caught the water—thus protecting the mother and her little darling from a shower bath.” 6

Zina D. H. Young, who became the third president of the Relief Society, remembers giving birth in a wagon on the banks of the Chariton River in Iowa. “[We traveled in] the face of the fierce winds of departing winter, and amid rains that fairly inundated the land,” she wrote. “By day we literally waded through mud and water. … I called for a halt in our march. There was but one person with me—Mother Lyman … ; and there on the bank of the Chariton I was delivered of a fine son.”

Almost immediately, they resumed travel. “Occasionally the wagon had to be stopped, that I might take breath,” wrote Zina. “Thus I journeyed on. But I did not mind the hardship of my situation, for my life had been preserved, and my babe seemed so beautiful.” 7

Women’s History Month on The Gift of Giving Life

March 1, 2013 in Relief Society, Women's Rights by enjoybirth

March is National Woman’s History Month, so we thought we would highlight some LDS Women and their contributions to birth and mothering!

Look for a post at least once a week.

Make sure you also celebrate the history you are making in your life!




by Lani

Every Member a Doula

February 15, 2013 in Adversity, Death, Doulas, Grief, Lani, Loss, Relief Society, Savior by Lani

Every Member a Doula
By Lani Axman

A few weeks ago, I was reading along in a book and was struck by some words. This was not a book about birth (on the contrary, it was about dealing with death), but it brought birth to my mind:

In order to be a truly helpful friend to the bereaved, we need to decide whether we can tolerate the other’s pain or not. It is extremely painful to be a witness to intense mourning. It is tempting, when uncomfortable because others are in the throes of grief, to shut them off, to encourage them to stop crying, to deny their pain, or to try to rush them through the painful mourning process. However, fully grieving is necessary and healthy. Denying another the opportunity to grieve fully is a great interference as well as a rejection.

This came from The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum. Judy Tatelbaum tells us that those in mourning need special care:

The breaved often need a special friend to act as a kind of spokesperson or intermediary. This person can also act as a confidant, as well as someone who can comfortably run interference for the grieving family. Such an intermediary needs to be comfortable protecting the bereaved, even if it means being impolite at times. . . .

It may help the bereaved to hear of our own experiences. . . . Our sharing can lift some of the painful aloneness felt by the bereaved and may contribute useful information as well. Others who have grieved can offer hope and a model for survival. . . . We should use judgment in sharing our experiences, knowing that we are talking to a very vulnerable human being whose needs at the moment are great.

I couldn’t resist writing in the margin of my book as I read these words: “doula” for grief.

You may have read Heather’s recent post about dolphins and doulas. In it she gives a lovely description of what a doula does for birthing mothers:

Creating a “circle of love” around a laboring woman is exactly what doulas do. Our job is not to help the woman give birth, she has to do that on her own power. Our job is to encircle her with support, protection, love, and to stand as a buffer between her and the rest of the world at such a vulnerable time in her life. A doulas top  priority is to help a woman’s loved ones circle around her and create that “circle of love” for her while she labors and births her baby.

My grandmother died last May, and for the past few months I’ve been coming to grips with that loss and allowing myself to recognize and express my grief. My grandmother raised me from the time I was a tow-headed two-year-old until I was nearly nine years old, and I spent all my summers and school vacations with her throughout the remainder of my childhood and adolescence. She was, in a very real sense, my “mother.” She was the most constant and consistent source of love and security in my life. So this past year has been a hard one as I’ve travelled through various emotional phases… denial of her death’s impact, panic, despair, guilt, recognition of my loss, etc., and I continue to heal a little more each day.

As I read Judy Tatelbaum’s book about grief and, in particular, the passages I quoted above, I realized that going through grief is not unlike giving birth. Both are highly sensitive, vulnerable, sacred, and emotionally and physically taxing experiences. In both situations, the support of the people around us is crucial. The birthing mother and the bereaved both need doulas to comfort, guard, and stand by them as they do their important work.

After I pondered this connection, I then I realized that the same is true for any crisis or challenging life experience. We all need doulas in our lives. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” Becoming doulas is exactly what the Savior has asked us to do:

As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9).

Ancient carving of a birthing woman receiving support

For those familiar with both Mormon and birth-lingo, perhaps we should proclaim: “Every member a doula!” Every member a “woman who serves.” I am deeply grateful to the people in my life who served me during this past year of vulnerability and grief. They were remarkable doulas, and as I have healed and become stronger I have tried to emulate their love and tenderness in doula-ing the “hands that hang down” (D&C 81:5) around me.

Whether you know someone in grief, in labor, tending to her hospitalized child, coming to grips with a terminal illness, suffering after a traumatic experience, reeling from a divorce, trying to heal from addiction, dying herself, or in any other challenging circumstance, please know that your friend desperately needs an angel in her Gethsemane to strengthen her (Luke 22:43). When we stand as the Savior’s doulas “at all times and in all things, and in all places,” He will “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us]” (Mosiah 18:9-10).

Sometimes I feel sad that I can’t be a professional birth doula at this time in my life, but it makes me happy to think that, in the meantime, I can be a doula to everyone I meet. I heart doula work.

2014-04-17 03.21.24 pm

Related Reading:

“The Angel Standing By,” by Elizabeth Day (in the “Pain” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“The Society for Relief,” by Felice Austin (in the “Fourth Trimester” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“Healing from Loss and Other Sorrows,” by Robyn Allgood (in the “Atonement” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

Gestating in Grief, (Birth Faith)

What Friends Can Do, (Birth Faith)

Why hire a doula?, (Birth Faith)

by Robyn

A Pioneer Birth Story: Emmeline B. Wells

July 17, 2012 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Church History, LDS History, Relief Society, Robyn, Uncategorized, Women's Rights by Robyn


With Pioneer Day approaching I wanted to share a birth story from one of our pioneer sisters.  I was pleased to find something that Emmeline B. Wells wrote.  There are so many titles and achievements attached to our 5th General Relief Society President: writer, poet, pioneer, teacher, leader, political activist, women’s suffragist, and mother.  Even with her many achievements she maintained very close and tender relationships with her five daughters.  She recalled the birth of her second child after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley after a long arduous journey and many hardships:

“Nov. 2, 1874 This is Belle’s birthday, she is twenty-six.  What a contrast to the day when she was born, then the weather was severely cold and the wind blew fiercely, the snow, hail and sleet drove against our poor wagon and tents – the only homes we had.” (Olsen, Vicky Burgess, Sister Saints, Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah 1978, 464.)

I can only begin to imagine what my pioneer sisters endured as they bore children in such humble circumstances.  I often wish for even more words to describe their thoughts, feeling and sensations as they birthed their children.  However, I am grateful for the few words recorded here.  They teach me that against all odds, God will be manifest in the most humble of circumstances and bless women as they lay their lives down to give life.

In reading about Emmeline I found this quote, “I believe in women, especially thinking women.”  I love this quote because it reminds me of Henci Goer‘s book, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth.  Like Emmeline, I believe in thinking women.  Thank you Emmeline for your legacy.

by Robyn

Believe, Obey, Endure: A Guest Post by Donna Ryan

May 9, 2012 in Breastfeeding, Cesarean, Dads, Faith, Fear, Free Agency, Guest Post, home birth, hospital birth, Midwives, Relief Society, Robyn, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

 I have not met Donna in person but I can tell that she is someone I would invite to my baby shower.  I love this Southern gal who doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is. -Robyn

As the author of Banned From Baby Showers, I’ve often commented on how difficult it is for me to be “vanilla” or neutral.  I have strong opinions on many topics, but natural birth and breastfeeding top the list.


Allow me to tell you a bit about myself before diving into my topic.  I was raised in the Baptist church, but religion wasn’t terribly important to me.  I was kicked out of my house when I was 16, smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day for many years, and was about the last person you’d ever think would join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  I met a sweet Mormon boy when I was 21 and he was 18.  It was love at first sight – at least for me!


He served a mission in Montreal and we were married in the Salt Lake Temple two days after he got home.  That was over 17 years ago now.  We have 4 beautiful children that keep us on our toes.  We live in the Fort Worth, Texas area and are incredibly blessed with an amazing life together.


I graduated from college in 1993 with a degree in Broadcasting and never gave one thought to childbirth, except that it must be terribly painful because that was all I had seen on TV!  When I became pregnant with our first baby, I saw a very busy OB in Provo.  My husband wanted me to see a midwife, but I wanted nothing to do with any “witchdoctor”!  I wanted the drugs because I was scared of the pain.  I didn’t care how the baby got here.


Fast forward 9 months.  I narrowly escaped a c-section after a typical epidural birth, but I had a baby boy in my arms.  A few months later, a close friend gave birth without drugs and I was in complete shock!  I had never known anyone to give birth naturally, and I had been convinced throughout her pregnancy that she couldn’t do it.  Between that one experience, reading a few birth stories and a bit about the history of childbirth in America, I knew I’d do things differently the next pregnancy.


I had my 2nd baby in a hospital with a CNM and it was an amazing life-changing experience!  I knew when I did it, anyone could do it!  That, really, is my message to all women.  I am not special.  I do not have a high pain tolerance. I am just a woman that got educated on the process of birth and trusted my body.


My next two babies were born at home, one water birth, and one “on land”.


I taught The Bradley Method Of Natural Childbirth from 2003-2011, obtained another certification from ICEA (International Childbirth Educators Association) in 2009, and most recently, wrote my own curriculum called Birth Boot Camp, a 10-week program for couples wanting a natural birth.  Classes are online and we are also training women to become Birth Boot Camp Instructors.


Enough about me!  When Robyn asked me to write this post, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive.  I have written about my religion and birth on my blog before, and while many women agreed with me, plenty were offended.  If you are interested, here it is again.  The Brigham Young quote really riles people up!  For the record, I believe Brigham Young was an inspired prophet and I believe he really did see our day.


Simply put, Heavenly Father created our bodies.  He wants us to have joy and replenish the earth.  He loves His daughters as much as He loves His sons.  I don’t think any of us would dispute any of these statements.


I have spent nearly a decade (almost 16 years if I include my own births) teaching about and witnessing how women’s bodies functions in labor and birth.  It is an amazing and remarkable system that works because He designed it that way:

  • In most cases, mom gets breaks between contractions.
  • When she does not have drugs in her body (pain-relieving or augmenting drugs), her body will release endorphins to help her cope.
  • After her baby is born, a woman’s oxytocin levels are the highest they will ever be in her life.  This helps her bond with her baby.
  • Her breasts, when labor starts on its own, are prepared to and designed to nourish her baby.


The system works because Heavenly Father made it that way.


I have no interest in taking away anyone’s free agency to decide how or where to give birth.  My goal is to help women believe in themselves and in this process.  Birth is amazing and I’d love to see all women embracing this experience instead of fearing it, like I did with my first.  Repeatedly over the years I have heard lessons in Relief Society that fear is from Satan, not Heavenly Father.  I believe that is absolutely true.


I was at a Stake Young Women’s meeting yesterday morning and the theme was “Believe, Obey, and Endure”.  If you have a Young Woman living in your home or are a Young Women leader, you likely attended the Young Women’s broadcast the week before General Conference.  This was also the title of President Monson’s talk.  While we can see and abide by this counsel in reference to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can also believe in our bodies to function the way Heavenly Father created them using these same guidelines.  I mean no disrespect to this powerful talk given by our Prophet.  Please indulge me:


Believe:  Either you believe that Heavenly Father created a way for you to grow a baby and for the baby to get out, or you believe that doctors and epidurals are blessings from God.  I’ve heard this statement many times from my Sisters.  I admit that it makes me sad, for I believe that Heavenly Father wants us to experience labor and birth the way He created it.  Have faith in your body and your baby.


Obey: To quote President Monson, “Obey the laws of God.  They are given to us by a loving Heavenly Father.  When they are obeyed, our lives will be more fulfilling, less complicated.  Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear.”  Sisters, women all around us are going against the laws of nature as created by God, being induced, forcing their babies out before it is time.  The cesarean rate is 34% in the US.  More complications arise with breastfeeding when a woman is induced or has a cesarean.  Our bodies do not work as they were designed when these laws of nature are broken. True, there are times when medical intervention is necessary and is a blessing in childbirth, but this should be the exception rather than the accepted standard of care.


Midwife Ina May Gaskin is an example of a care provider that trusts the process.  She does not intervene unless absolutely necessary, and as a result, her cesarean rate is less than 2%!  Dr. Robert Bradley was another example.  He did not induce labor and he gave women the time they needed to labor and birth their babies.  In over 24,000 births, his cesarean rate was 4%.  They both respected and obeyed the laws of nature.


Endure:  President Monson used this definition for endure — “to withstand with courage”.   Labor, for many women, might be the hardest thing they are ever faced with, but the reward at the end is so great!  You find that you are strong and capable, not succumbing to the pain.  When you overcome the challenge of labor, both you and your baby benefit.  Think of the promises made to us by our Father in Heaven if we will but endure to the end.  They are rich and so worth any sacrifice we may make here on Earth to return to live with Him someday.


I prefer to use the word “embrace” instead of “endure”, especially in reference to labor and birth.  Remember, fear is from Satan.  Embrace your labor.  Enjoy it!  These are the last hours before your baby comes Earth-side and you meet him/her for the very first time.


Labor and birth serve as a bridge between pregnancy and becoming your baby’s mother and father.  Dad’s role in labor is important for him too in becoming a father.  I guess that is a topic for another day, however.


I am grateful for this opportunity to reflect on the wonderful God-given privilege of bearing children. I hope what I have written has touched your heart.  I have a tendency of getting people riled up, but that truly is not my intent.  I do not wish to make others feel defensive.  I simply want them to believe in themselves and trust their bodies to do the work that Heavenly Father created them to do.   I am proud to be a daughter of God and for that sacred “Gift of Giving Life”.