She Asked Me to Pray

After working in hospital labor/delivery units for many years, I had the opportunity to join a home birth practice. I attended healthy women in labor at home. During the active phase of labor the doctor or midwife arrived. Approximately ten percent of the women were transferred to the hospital for interventions–less than ten percent required a cesarean section. I am grateful that I was able to observe the natural progression of labor in the home setting. The following poem reflects combined experiences. The poem and is an edited version of one previously published on my blog..

Labor pains came gently through the night.

Morning light streamed on her rocking chair.

Her labor intensified. She walked slowly,

hand on my arm and listened for encouraging words.

Her movements were intuitive. She labored,

finding comfort in firm back massage.

She knelt down and asked me to pray.

No pain medication. She asked me to pray.

I prayed as she moaned and released her body to

Waves of pain and pressure. Her cries filled the air.

Her body pushed. The midwife supported

the baby and lifted her to welcoming arms.

I recorded the time of birth.

Morning light was now an afternoon glow.

I marveled at God’s design.

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The First Weeks with a Newborn Infant: 10 Recommendations

Childbirth can be exhausting. There are ways to prepare for this time period and ways to reduce stress during the first few weeks after giving birth.

In the final weeks of pregnancy stock up on basic household needs and staple items (like we have been doing through the pandemic). During the first few weeks after childbirth shopping may be difficult to squeeze in. You may want to have a supply of paper plates to simplify mealtime clean-up.

The first two days after giving birth should be spent resting and getting to know the baby. It is important to sleep and recuperate. Women who do not get adequate sleep these first two days may develop a sleep hunger that persists.

When you go home with your newborn, be aware that an infant has no concept of night and day. One of your first tasks as a parent is to teach your baby that daytime is for socializing and nighttime is for sleeping. You can get this message across by keeping lights dimmed and avoiding any interaction other than feeding or soothing at night. This practice will help your baby have his longest sleeping stretch at night

In order to feel good, it is important to eat balanced meals, but when you are home meal preparation time is limited with the new tasks of caring for an infant. In the final weeks of pregnancy plan ahead. Whenever possible cook double amounts and freeze extra for meals later. Mornings are usually the best time to organize the evening meal.

Recognize that time for household chores will be limited after the baby is born and begin to organize priorities. Which household tasks are most important to you? How long do they take and how often do they need to be done? By developing some priorities, you will avoid being overwhelmed. Low priority items can be left for the late afternoon when an infant may have a fussy period.

If you have a two-level home be sure to have a changing table and nursery supplies on the first level. Climbing should be minimized at first. Following a cesarean section, stairs should be avoided for two weeks. In that case, have all of your living needs on one level, temporarily. 

Observe your baby and get to know his/her personality. What is her favorite sleeping position? What techniques are most soothing: rocking, being snuggly wrapped, sucking, music? Every baby is an individual and has preferences. As you get to know your infant and begin to read his cues, parenting will become easier and increasingly satisfying.

As your baby grows include her in your morning activities. Place the infant seat in the room where you are working. An alert baby enjoys companionship.

Communicate with your partner specific ways to be helpful. Talk about expectations that you have of each other. How do you see each other’s roles?

Keep healthy snacks available. Fresh fruit, carrots, celery, yogurt, cheese and granola bars provide a quick nutritious boost.

Photo courtesy of Carlo Navarro on Unsplash.

This post is shared with #Alittlebitofeverything Link-up

Birth During the Pandemic

Yesterday I listened to a couple take about their birth experience. They had planned to have a home birth. Having had the experience of assisting at home births, I thought their choice was good—especially during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the mom needed to be transferred to the hospital after many hours of labor. Soon after arriving she had a cesarean section. I was pleased to hear that they placed the baby on her chest, skin to skin in the operating room—a soothing and a bonding moment for mom and baby.

The baby was then taken to the neonatal intensive care unit due to a low blood sugar. The mom was tested for covid and although she had no symptoms, she tested positive. As a result, neither she nor or husband was allowed to go into the nursery. They were separated from their newborn for ten days.

It saddens me to hear how covid has affected procedures in hospital birth care. The couple has returned home with their baby. They are redeeming time together, bonding with their baby.

So many things are more difficult during this time. My heart goes out to new mothers who are recovering from the emotional experience of birth. How did it feel to be attached to monitors and intravenous lines with care givers coming in with masks and face shields? Did they have a support person with them throughout labor? As they think about the birth experience, they are in a process of physical recovery.

Recently I found a file with notes that I had shared with my Lamaze classes.

The physical changes that occur in a woman’s body in the days and weeks following birth are enormous. The uterus which has grown to a two-pound sac at the time of birth will reduce down to a two-ounce muscle in six weeks (hence the after-birth pains).

Vaginal drainage (lochia), which lasts about two weeks, marks the healing process of the uterine lining.

During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume has gradually increased, supporting the growing baby. In the first week after birth, approximately five pounds of excess fluid are lost through urine and sweat.

Following birth there are major hormonal shifts. Estrogen and progesterone drop off markedly and prolactin levels peak. The body prepares for breast milk production. All of this happens after the exhausting event of labor!

In a future post I will share ways to prepare for the recovery period following childbirth.

Note: photo is courtesy of T. Adriaenssen

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: REDEEM

Beginning in Detroit

There is benefit in having fresh perspectives. I want to be a life-long learner, seeking truth.

Many years ago, I started my nursing career at a Detroit hospital. I worked in the labor/delivery unit, learning the medical aspects of childbearing.

When I was expecting my first baby, I was introduced to Lamaze classes. Eventually I became a Lamaze instructor. I gained an understanding of relaxation skills and ways to guide a woman through the stages of labor.

Years later, while working for a home birth practice, I saw limited medical interventions during childbirth. And I saw the tension between home birth attendants and hospital staff. Home births and hospital births, both have benefits and risks. I believe hospital-based obstetricians and home birth midwives could learn from each other and find synergy, if they were open to greater communication.

During our years of parenting my husband and I had different views and ideas. We needed to communicate and learn from each other.

Life lessons continue. When controversial issues arise, are we willing to listen to different viewpoints? My hope is that we can listen well and observe carefully without prejudice. Let’s be open to fresh perspectives. 

This week I have been participating in a writing challenge with Hope Writers. Each day I have been posting a picture with some thoughts on instagram. This is my take on today’s prompt: FRESH

I am sharing this post with Five Minute Friday .

Why is the Roe v. Wade Decision Still Raising Questions?

Roe v. Wade is once again being discussed. During the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Judge Barrett was asked many questions about the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide 47 years ago. Senator Klobuchar asked if the decision was a super precedent—a decision that should never be reviwed.

I have thought about abortion from the perspective of a woman, a mother and a nurse.

Abortion is defended as a woman’s right to choose. With the national legalization it is more than that. When abortion was made medically available and normalized, a parent was given the ability to pressure a daughter to abort a baby that might be an embarrassment to the family (as happened to one of my daughter’s friends). A boyfriend, an abuser or a pimp could more easily pressure a girl to abort an inconvenient pregnancy—releasing young men from any responsibility. The national legalization of abortion normalized the choice to kill life.

A friend of mine learned that the child in her womb had a genetic defect. She was pressured to abort the baby. She was “encouraged” multiple times by her doctor and refused. She gave birth and honored the life of that child.

In 1999 I wrote an article for a nursing journal about another woman who went against the current of medical opinion. The baby in her womb had been diagnosed with a major deformity. She carried the baby to term and was able to care for her child for a month, loving him until he passed away.

Five years ago I wrote a blog post about a patient of mine who experienced a pregnancy loss and the way that the nursing staff honored that baby’s life. Here is a portion of that article.

I recalled an experience that I had as a nurse in the hospital. My patient experienced a miscarriage. At sixteen weeks gestation, the infant had died in the womb. The mother had experienced wrenching physical and emotional pain as she labored. She had moaned, tossing and turning in bed. As her nurse, I had given morphine ordered by the doctor, but it had not covered the pain. After eight exhausting hours the body of the tiny girl baby was delivered.

We wrapped the baby in a blanket and after the mother held her, I made the memorial card. I held the tiny feet gently, applied ink and made footprints on the bereavement card—a memorial to the life of a baby girl and one aspect of bereavement care provided at the hospital.

At the nurse’s station, a doctor was explaining various medications that he had used to abort pregnancies.  He talked about the abortion process and it struck me that women going through abortion may have experienced the same misery that I had just witnessed.   The difference was that they did not receive bereavement care.  Women went home from the hospital or clinic quietly. The experience may have been traumatic and done in secret.

Although some celebrities have said that they are proud of their abortion, many women carry emotional and spiritual wounds. The group, Silent No More, testifies about the long lasting pain of abortion.

There is a deep sense among many people that the quick fix offered by abortion is not right or good.

The Wall Street Journal (10/16/2020) quoted Judge Barrett’s response to Senator Klobuchar’s question about a super precedent. “I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which indicates that Roe doesn’t fall into that category”.

The images of the developing infant are courtesy of Creative Commons through this license.

The Changing Ways of Birth

I was born in Michigan, and so was my mother. My grandmother was born in Finland.

My grandmother gave birth to her children at home. My mother gave birth in the hospital during the obstetric practice of twilight sleep and delivery with forceps. I gave birth by cesarean section.

As a nurse I worked in labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care. Hoping to help women avoid unnecessary interventions, I taught Lamaze classes.

Finally after many years in the hospital I worked with a home birth practice alongside doctors and midwives. I learned new ways to assist a woman during labor and birth. I gained new perspectives, able to see the spiritual side of childbirth more clearly. Sometimes, while caring for a woman during labor, she asked me to pray for her. Sometimes I observed the husband praying.

Every birth is unique. Every baby is a gift of God. I have been blessed with seeing the birth of my grandchildren at home and in the hospital.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BORN

Women Who Inspire Us

Today is the final day of March, Women’s History Month. The month has been designated for noting the contributions that women have made in our country. This year celebrates 100 years since women were given the right to vote. 

We remember the suffragettes. Their accomplishment is important, but there are other women who deserve our interest and respect.

Throughout history many women have used their God given abilities and talents for the benefits of others. It is inspiring to know about them.  

Eric Metaxis wrote succinct biographies of women who used their abilities in remarkable ways. In the book, Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness, Metaxis devotes a chapter to each of these women: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa.

The names of some of these women are familiar, others not so much. I learned new facts about each of these women. I found the chapters about Hannah More and Saint Maria of Paris to be fascinating.

The book reminds me that every age has its challenges. The unique skills and abilities of women are needed. The University of Michigan’s School of Nursing Magazine has a page dedicated to 2020 The Year of the Nurse and Midwife. The timing of this designation is amazing. Nurses are on the frontlines of the pandemic all around the world.

Nurses have had huge roles at other times. Florence Nightingale was very influential during the Crimean War, saving lives. Edith Cavell was a nurse and a heroine during World War I. I wrote about these two nurses in a previous blog post. Read the post here, along with references.

Raquela Levy provided midwife care to Jewish refugees arriving in Israel at the end of World War II. For a review of the book, Raquela: Woman of Israel, by Ruth Gruber click here.

Each of the books mentioned is a good read.

Sharing this post with Anita’s Inspire Me Monday and Tuesdays with a Twist and Classical Homemaking .

My Experience with Self Publishing

Fifteen years ago I began writing a novel with the intention to honor the immigrant women that came to Upper Michigan during the copper mining boom. My grandmother was one of those women.

As I wrote I was also comparing childbirth experiences in the early 1900s with modern birth experiences.

In 2009 I signed a contract with a publisher that handled self publishing and in 2010 my book, Aliisa’s Letter: Legacy of Faith was published.

The cost of publishing was more than I expected. My daughter took over the role of editor when I realized the limited editing offered by the publishing company. And she did a terrific job!

When the book was completed I needed to promote it. And the costs increased. There were fees for promotional materials and services. In the end I spent more than I received back in book sales. 

I learned a great deal about the publishing industry and myself. This also was the motivation for beginning a blog—which has helped my writing.  

One store has successfully sold my book over the years—Copper World in Calumet, Michigan.

When the publishing company I was contracted with folded in January of 2014, after a year of troubling rumors and accusations, I bought a final supply of books. 

I don’t regret my choice to self publish. It was a hard but good learning experience. Would I self publish again? I would explore more options and ask a lot of questions.

Recently I read another book about women in Upper Michigan in the early 1900s. A best selling author was intrigued by events in Calumet and wrote The Women of the Copper Country. This book focused on the the experience of immigrant women during the 1913 copper miner’s strike.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: EXPERIENCE

The Birth in Bethlehem

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

God’s amazing design is before us in the birth of Jesus. Jesus did not enter our world as an adult. He came as an infant, fully human and also God. 

He wasn’t born in a palace or a hospital equipped with modern technology. His birth was dependent on the natural physical ability of a young woman to give birth.

God didn’t need human intervention to carry out his plan for our good. This fills me with joy and trust. We can rest, knowing God is sovereign over our world. 

Luke, the physician wrote in his gospel: And while they [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in manger because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2: 6-7

Birth in Bethlehem
Painting in a Cathedral in Finland

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas!

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BIRTH

Also linking with Sue’s image-in-ing and Inspire Me Monday .

Prayer: the Antidote to Fear

There are times and circumstances that overwhelm with fear. Remember the Bible account of the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee?

A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath, the sea became as smooth as glass. Mark 4:37-39 MSG

When a woman is in labor and gets close to giving birth she may experience a rush of hormones that cause the strong contractions of transition. Some women feel completely out of control. The waves of contraction rush over her. This is the point at which women, whom I have attended in labor, ask for prayer. Sometimes it is a husband or a friend that prays. Sometimes I have prayed.

Throughout life we encounter situations where the stress of a situation may overwhelm us. God provides a place to bring our fears and concerns. We can pray. It is calming to pray with another believer. Jesus said: 

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them  by my father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them. Matthew 18: 19-20

When I meet with women for Bible study on Wednesday mornings we end our meetings with group prayer. Together we bring our concerns to the Lord. We are refreshed and ready to meet the challenges ahead.

Do you have a friend that you can pray with?

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. The prompt today is: RUSH

Also linking with Inspire Me Monday, Heart Encouragement and Welcome Heart