The Midwife’s Story

A number of years ago I read an article about a Finnish midwife. In 1909 she had been at the center of a court case, determining the legality of midwifery in Massachusetts. She had been arrested a number of times (despite the fact that her statistics for live births were better than most doctors practicing in the area).

I was struck by her determination, her sisu, in serving childbearing women in Gardner, Massachusetts. Why did she persist after multiple court appearances and a three-month sentence in the House of Corrections?

Her persistence fascinated me. So I began researching her life. I visited Gardner, Massachusetts and found her burial place in the Crystal Lake Cemetery. During the trip that my husband and I made to Finland, I visited the parish where she lived. The church records listed the significant dates in her life.

The court cases that were brought against Hanna influenced the decline of midwifery in the first half of the twentieth century. I am in the process of writing her story.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is STORY.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Book Review

As a former labor/delivery nurse and Lamaze instructor, I am an advocate for prepared childbirth. Women need information and guidance as they make choices about childbirth care. They need to know what to expect.

But in the preparation for childbirth, the postpartum time period may be given brief attention. Women benefit from knowing what to expect in the weeks following childbirth. According to research cited in the book, When Postpartum Packs a Punch, the range of women experiencing post partum depression is 12% to 25%.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

 

As I read through the book I found the author’s observations consistent with my own as a nurse. Ms. Cowan tells her experience of postpartum depression, along with the stories of women that she has interviewed. She provides a discussion of treatment options. She explains the way her faith in God guided her.

Like the author I have experienced help and healing by trusting God when experiencing suffering. I believe that God helps us grow when we turn to him.

Inspirational quotes appear throughout the book. The tone of the book is hopeful, pointing to healing. Women experiencing depression and the people that support them can find help in this book. The book can also provide a greater awareness of the needs of women in the weeks following childbirth.

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The Health Benefits of Dates and a Muffin Recipe

Dates have some surprising health benefits for expectant mothers.

Women often receive a prescription for iron during pregnancy.  During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases by 50% and the red blood cells increase by 30%. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin that carries oxygen; iron is a component of hemoglobin.

Iron is a vital mineral during pregnancy. A low hemoglobin level is associated with fatigue and is a risk factor during childbirth.

I looked up iron-rich foods in my nutrition almanac and found this list:

Organ meats and meats, eggs, fish and poultry

Blackstrap molasses

Cherry juice

Green leafy vegetables

Dried fruits [including dates]

 

A research study, published in March of this year, looked to see if eating dates in the last trimester of pregnancy had an impact on a woman’s     labor, childbirth experience. The study demonstrated that women who consumed dates had less of a need for medication to augment their labor.

Here is a muffin recipe that has iron-rich ingredients, including dates. Brown rice flour or a gluten-free blend works fine.

Date Muffins

Ingredients:

1 + ½ cup flour
½ cup almond meal
2 + ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup pitted and chopped dates
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup honey
3 Tblsp. unsulfured dark molasses
2 eggs
½ cup almond milk (or other milk of choice)

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Stir the chopped dates into flour mixture until well combined.

Mix together the melted butter, molasses, honey, lightly beaten eggs and milk.

Then mix the liquid ingredients into the dry. The batter will be a little lumpy. Fill the muffin cups—I had enough batter for 14 regular size muffins.

Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Date Muffins

You can find the study about the effect of date consumption on labor here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28286995

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Viewpoint of Alternative Science: Breast-feeding is Unnatural

Cathy Areu was a guest on Tucker Carlson Friday night. She argued that breastfeeding was not natural because it put too much pressure on a woman to feed her baby. She insisted that it was natural for a dad to feed the infant formula. She referenced a recent “study”.

I watched the astonished expression on Tucker’s face as she made her case. Lol.

The argument was so bizarre that I looked for the study on-line. Ms. Areu was referring to an article that was published by Heatstreet on April 26, 2017. The article, “Study: Describing Breastfeeding as ‘Natural’ Is Unethical Because It Reinforces Gender Roles” was written by Jillian Kay Melchior. She writes:

It’s “ethically inappropriate” for government and medical organizations to describe breastfeeding as “natural” because the term enforces rigid notions about gender roles, claims a new study in Pediatrics

I checked the link to Pediatrics and found the opinion piece that was published on April 1, 2016, a little over a year ago. Not a recent study.  The article,  “Unintended Consequences of Invoking the “Natural” in Breastfeeding  Promotion,” * was written by Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill.

They wrote: Promoting breastfeeding as “natural” may be ethically problematic, and, even more troublingly, it may bolster this belief that “natural” approaches are presumptively healthier. This may ultimately challenge public health’s aims in other contexts, particularly childhood vaccination.

This perspective really startled me. I looked for other viewpoints. CNN had an article about the study and I was grateful that they included an opposing view. Carina Storrs authored the piece entitled, “Are there unintended consequences to calling breast-feeding ‘natural’?”

In her article she included this quote: “(The authors) are using this article to label the breast-feeding group in a very negative way, and to equate breast-feeding with people who don’t want to take immunizations,” said Eidelman, who was lead author of the 2012 AAP policy statement on breast-feeding.

It was troubling to me that, in the Pediatrics article, assumptions were being made about women who breast-feed and women who have questions about vaccines. It is true that some parents are reluctant to vaccinate their child because their child was injured by a vaccine.   Some have studied the issue and are concerned about the risks.    They have   legitimate concerns. The vaccine controversy will not go away by labeling people and denigrating them.

Wow! Over the next few hours I kept thinking about the dismissal of breastfeeding. We know that breast milk has immune factors that formula cannot provide. We know that it is most easily digested and absorbed by an infant. It is recommended that a mother breastfeed her infant for six months to avoid food allergies. The benefits are too many to enumerate.

Breastfeeding

I found that I agreed with one statement that Ms. Areu made. Breastfeeding is hard. The first time a woman breastfeeds she needs support and guidance. But her labor and birth experience have also had an impact .

My observation as a labor/delivery nurse is that the interventions that take place in the hospital can influence the breastfeeding experience. Medications given to induce labor and for pain management can have negative side effects. Women that have cesarean sections have a more difficult time establishing breastfeeding.

How soon the baby is placed in the mother’s arms (hopefully skin to skin in the first hour of life) influences early success in breastfeeding. If the mother has been traumatized by the manner of birth, breastfeeding may be more difficult to establish.

As I tried to understand the upside-down way of thinking that Ms. Areu was demonstrating I wondered what has happened to science.

Are we being asked to consider all medical interventions as natural? When we observe normal physiology and gain practical insights, are these unnatural?

I am sad because the turmoil in science and medicine is only making it hard on parents. My hope is that the medical community will listen to the concerns parents have and treat them with respect.

If you found this article interesting I hope you will visit my Facebook page.

*Jessica Martucci and Ann Barnhill, “Unintended Consequences of Invoking the “Natural” in Breastfeeding Promotion”, PEDIATRICS Vol. 137 No. 4 April 01, 2016

 

 

Women’s Rights & Midwifery

Prayer and RestWomen today have more rights than our ancestors. As we have made progress it is odd that the loudest voice in the current women’s movement is for abortion. I would rather support the right of women to give birth in the setting that they choose. Across the world there is unresolved controversy over midwifery and home birth.

At the same time that suffragists were fighting for a woman’s right to vote, the medical system in the United States, was fighting against the practice of midwifery.

For the past few years I have been researching the life of Hanna Pörn and her court case. She was a Finnish midwife that received a certificate of midwifery from the Chicago Institute of Midwifery. She lived and worked in the Finnish/Swedish community of Gardner, Massachusetts. After eight years of practice, having better statistical outcomes than the local doctors, she was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The case went to the district court, and was appealed several times. In 1909 she was found guilty and sentenced to two months in jail.

Other countries have had lawsuits against midwives. In recent years Agnes Gereb left her position as an obstetrician and trained as a home birth midwife in Hungary. After delivering many babies in the home setting, she was arrested because one baby died. She was placed in house arrest and the case has been moving through the courts. You can read about her case here.

Today my husband handed me the Wall Street Journal pointing out this article, Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife. Ellinor Grimmark trained as a midwife in Sweden in response to the current shortage of midwives.

In spring 2013, with one term left in her studies, she asked supervisors at the hospital where she planned to work to accommodate her conscience rights. [She did not want to participate in abortion.]

She received a furious call from one manager. “How could you even think of becoming a midwife with these opinions?” *

It is a strange world if, in order to attend the birth of babies, you must be willing to kill babies. This brings to mind the Biblical account of two midwives.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiprah and Puah, “ when you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl let her live.” The midwives however feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do; they let the boys live. Exodus 1: 15-17

Ellinor Grimmark was unable to secure a position in Sweden and is now living and working in Norway. Swedish mothers are coming to Norway to give birth.

Many women are seeking a kinder, gentler way of birth.   Birth  has    physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. Midwives understand this.

So  much  emphasis  is  placed  on  the   physical aspect of birth alone—treating pregnancy like an illness. Frequently, aggressive management of labor takes place in the hospital—and there are consequences. We need to swing the pendulum back. Let labor and birth take place at a natural pace. Midwives have an important role in providing healthy birth care.

In Illinois the Home Birth Safety Act is up for debate in the senate.      Thirty-two states allow midwives to provide home birth care. Illinois should join these states and pass SB 1754. If you live in Illinois, call your state senator and ask him to support SB 1754.

*Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2017, A17.

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Making the Transition to Motherhood

It’s Friday and I am joining the community hosted by Kate Motaung. For five minutes we write fast and free. The prompt is: EMBRACE
Five minutes ends at this mark: //

Last week I was at the zoo with my daughter and granddaughter. At the gorilla house we saw two mama gorillas with their infants—one 7 months old and one 3 weeks old.

7 month old gorilla in his mother’s arms. See his head?

The mama gorillas were carrying their infants around as they swung from the ropes or as they sat. The 7 month old baby was allowed to be with one male gorilla but the other males were chased off. These female gorillas had embraced motherhood.

So I have been thinking about the human experience of transitioning to motherhood. In our fast paced culture we don’t give much support to the enormous changes that take place in a woman’s life when she makes the transition to motherhood. //

South Korea has begun establishing post partum care centers. An expectant mother can book a two-week stay at the center. Nurses will care for her infant and bring the babe to mom for feedings. Meals and special treatments like massage are provided for mom. You can read more about it here.

I am grateful that women from my church brought meals and even helped clean my house during the weeks after my twins were born. My mother and mother-in-law came for periods of time. New mothers need to be nurtured as they embrace motherhood.

How can we help the women in our circle of influence with the transition to motherhood?

  1. Bring a nutritious and hearty meal or bring a frozen meal that she can have on hand.
  2. Offer to help clean, do laundry
  3. Listen to her as she processes her experience of childbirth

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The Women’s March on Washington

A friend of mine is going to participate in the Women’s March on Washington that will take place on Saturday (1/21). I have seen pictures of pink hats that women are knitting for this event on instagram. I don’t plan to go, but the event has captured my attention. The following paragraph is taken from the mission statement of the march:

The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

This statement sounds good—defend the marginalized. Who are the most marginalized? What rights are human rights? Life is the most basic right. The organizers have issued a statement. The march is for pro-choice women only. Pro-life women are not welcome. This saddens me.

As a nurse I am concerned about reproductive health.

According to World Magazine chemical abortion (pills that terminate pregnancy) is becoming more widespread with less medical supervision. The FDA published a report of adverse events following use of abortion pills in 2011. Fourteen women died. Another 339 women experienced blood loss requiring transfusion.    Young  women  need  to  be  fully educated about medications and treatments that they receive.

More needs to be done to rescue the girls that are caught in the web of human trafficking. Abortion clinics enable abuse when they don’t report the pregnancy of underage girls.

Women need complete information about the side effects and risks associated with hormonal birth control. An article published by the BBC News Magazine was titled “My Nightmare on the Pill”. Vicky Spratt wrote:

We can’t make informed choices without information. We need better research into how hormonal contraception can affect women’s mental health, better ways of monitoring reactions in patients, more awareness and support for those who do experience serious side effects. No woman should feel dismissed or ignored.
To read the whole article click here.

Midwifery Today published statistics on maternal death following childbirth. Almost all countries are seeing the rate go down. In the U.S. the rate is going up. In 2015 the rate was 14 deaths per 100,000 births.

Women would benefit from an increase in the availability of midwives. Illinois could move forward and license certified professional midwives. Midwives educate women on healthy lifestyles and childbirth care at lower cost.

Pray for the women in our country and across the world. Pray that they would find their identity in Christ. Pray that every woman could grow and mature with support, health education and good healthcare.

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Reading, Waiting and Listening

Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you. Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive through the Spirit the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you. Take time to read His Word as in His presence; that from it you may know what He asks of you and what he promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you, a holy heavenly light in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life.                                         Rev. Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917)

The virgin Mary is an example of waiting on the Lord. She had questions, but she responded with trust. Can you imagine what it was like when the angel Gabriel appeared to her?

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth. . . . And he [Gabriel] came to her [Mary] and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”       Luke 1:26, 28-35, 38

Does Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s presence and conversation with the angel amaze you?    Mary must have known the scriptures and    promises of God. She must have been living with deep trust in God’s sovereignty.

God ways are often outside of our expectation. God chose Mary to give birth to the Son of God in humble circumstances. Jesus did not arrive on earth in royal fashion. His birth was not supported by high technology.

As I meditate on this, I see that God was affirming childbirth and the family unit.

It is true that we need to spend time in God’s word. God speaks to us through the scripture. We can learn from Mary’s example, reading God’s word, waiting, listening and responding with trust.

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Ancient Wisdom, New Life and the Love Hormone

Could the book of Job be a description of  God’s  design for  the  earth   following the flood? Currently I am reading  The Remarkable Record of Job*  by Henry Morris.   Throughout the book he points out amazing insights about our world, offered in this Old Testament book of the Bible.

Morris theorizes that  Job  lived before  Moses  and possibly before   Abraham. The book makes reference to the great flood (Job 22:15-16). Prior to the flood the earth was covered in a mist, but following the flood a new water cycle was established. Dr. Morris reflects on passages that describe this great change. Job records references to wind, water vapor, clouds and rain.

He [God] binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the clouds are not split open under them. Job 26:8

For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything  under  the    heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it and searched it out. Job 28: 24-27

Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge . . . Job 37: 15-16

Dr. Morris, a scientist,  wrote a fascinating book that points to the details of God’s creation which we continue to discover. As a nurse I realize that we are still learning about the wisdom of God’s design for childbirth.

Once again  I was in awe of the miracle of new life  when  I  attended the birth of our seventh grandchild!

My daughter was able to go through labor with supportive care, but without medication or interventions. She gave birth to a healthy son.

The baby was placed on her chest, skin to skin, immediately after the birth. The baby stimulated her body to release the hormone, oxytocin, which is produced in the brain. This hormone has a calming effect and also stimulates the womb to contract. She did not need to have pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin) given intravenously.

Oxytocin has several of purposes.  It stimulates uterine contractions,    reducing bleeding. It enhances bonding between mother and baby.   It is involved in the let-down reflex that occurs during breastfeeding.

Kelly Brogan M.D. discusses the difference between oxytocin, an endogenous hormone, and pitocin in an article here.

Another article  (American College of Nurse-Midwives)  calls for more   research on oxytocin and pitocin. Click here.

A Swedish doctor has written a book titled The Oxytocin Factor:Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love and Healing.  Throughout the book Dr. Moberg cites the research that she has done at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She lists the factors that enhance the body’s release of calming oxytocin: gentle touch; massage; quiet environment; various scents and music. For a brief review of the book, click here.

It is a common practice to give pitocin prophylactically following birth. My daughter requested that it not be given routinely.

Praise the Lord for this healthy birth!

We are thankful for the availability of modern medicine, but give praise to God for his marvelous design for childbirth.

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*Henry M. Morris Ph.D, The Remarkable Record of Job, Master Books:Green Forest, AR, 2000.

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Is Birth a Human Rights Issue?

The first debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump left me with a sense of incompleteness. Some of the questions posed by the moderator had little relevance to current issues in the United States. After the debate I wrote a letter that was published on the editorial page of our     local newspaper. Here is the text of my letter:

During the first presidential debate the topic of abortion did not come up. Neither candidate was asked about taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. I was thinking about this when I opened the current issue of Midwifery Today. The theme of the issue is: Birth Is A Human Rights Issue.

I wonder if we have lost sight of mothers and their infants in the attention that has been placed on the provision of contraception and abortion.

The article written by Jan Tritten quotes a point listed under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations 1948):      Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Some would like us to believe that the most important issue for women is the freedom to have an abortion.   Is anyone paying attention to        maternal/infant morbidity and mortality? Why is the United States one of the few countries where the maternal death rate is increasing?

More attention needs to be directed at healthy choices that support life. Countries that have a greater percentage of midwives have better outcomes. Many states in the U.S. have limited the practice of midwives. In Illinois midwives have been fighting for legislation that would license them to attend homebirths.

Healthy women want to have the option of giving birth at home with a midwife.

Recently a law that requires pregnancy care centers to offer referrals to abortion clinics (SB 1564) was signed into law in Illinois. This law strips away the conscience rights of health care workers. I hope this law is challenged. In the meantime I think abortion clinics should have the same standard. They [clinics like Planned Parenthood] should be legally required to offer referrals to pregnancy care centers.

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