“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.