Did Mary Have a Midwife?

Chicago Nativity
Nativity in Chicago

As I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter I was reflecting on gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke. It is apparent that the people of Judea lived in fearful times under Roman rule. Injustice, corruption and violence were common. A young woman lived in Nazareth, north of Judea, during this turbulent time.

My thoughts turned to Mary—and the grace shown to her by God. God sent an angel to speak directly with her. The angel gives her an amazing message.

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 to 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.” Luke 1: 30-33

Wow!   Mary asks how this is possible, and then responds with          obedience.

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

We know that Mary was encouraged and guided by her cousin Elizabeth.        ( Luke 1: 39-56) God’s timing for the pregnancies of these two women was a provision and a gift. The two women spent three months together. Elizabeth gave birth just months before Mary.

The time spent with Elizabeth prepared Mary for her own labor and birth—not that it was easy.  She was away from Nazareth and her family.

And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.                             Luke 2:4-7

As a labor/delivery nurse I have worked in hospitals with all the technology and interventions that are common today. I am pleased that God chose to send Jesus to a young woman who would give birth simply. The design of her body was enough.  Perhaps she had a  midwife with her. The scripture doesn’t tell us.

My experience with home birth helps me get an idea of the birth of Jesus. Birth can be a natural physiologic process. I saw the way endorphins (natural pain relief hormones released by the body) assisted women during labor. With position changes they were able to cope with contractions that gradually became more intense. I also saw women and their husbands lean in to prayer, seeking strength from God. It was both refining and empowering.

Virgin Mary
Painting by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) Public Domain

Mary is an example for us. She was obedient and resilient. She knew the scriptures and the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel. She trusted God.

God is good. He is sovereign. The birth of Jesus is a magnificent chapter in God’s plan of salvation.

Linking with Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings,  Word of God Speak, Weekend WhispersEssential Fridays,  Thought Provoking Thursday,  A Little R & R and WholeHearted Wednesday

Passion of The Suffragettes: What About Today?

Picket_line_of_Nov._10,_1917_276023v

We went to see The Suffragettes. It was tough to watch the daily life of women who worked long hours in a laundry. The setting in this movie was the early 1900s in London. The main character was gradually drawn into the suffragette movement and became willing to fight for the women’s right to vote, at great personal cost.

I understand the passion of the women that were portrayed on the screen. They were fighting for respect and a voice. I was saddened that they felt compelled to use violence to make their voices heard. They wanted the right to vote and it was a long fight.

Are there issues worth fighting for today? I have been pleased to see that women and parents are coming together to have their voices heard.

The need for improvement in maternity care has been documented. Countries that have a higher percentage of midwives have better outcomes than the United States.

This is from an article published by  the  Global Health Work Force  Alliance:

When midwives were the main providers of care during pregnancy, women were less likely to give birth prematurely or lose their babies before 24 weeks of gestation. Women were reported to be happier with the care they received, had fewer epidurals, fewer assisted births, and fewer episiotomies – or surgical incisions to reduce the risk of a tear. Finally, in midwife-led settings, women were no more likely to have caesarean births, but they tended to be in labour for about half an hour longer on average.

In Illinois the Home Birth Safety Act is going to be introduced in the state House of Representatives. Research has shown that healthy women attended by a certified midwife have births that are as safe as hospital births, with less interventions. The midwives in Illinois have been working hard to promote this bill. You can see the petition that they have posted on change.org here.

In Indiana, parents pushed back against the aggressive promotion of the HPV vaccine for girls. The state health department had entered the vaccination records of children in a state registry and then sent letters out to parents that had not had their daughters vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.  Yikes, when I worked in the hospital the health records of every patient was private, and any violation of privacy was punishable. The following is an excerpt from an article by Jefferey Jaxen about this practice in Indiana.

It took exactly one month to the day for an activated Indiana population to turn back efforts by their state’s health department to coerce and pressure parents, outside of law, into having their children receive the potentially dangerous human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). Independent health journalist, Jefferey Jaxen, was contacted by two separate families telling of letters they received by their state’s health departments regarding their child’s HPV vaccine status. An article chronicling the incidents was immediately published to raise awareness on October 5th, 2015.

 I am encouraged by these positive actions.  We can use some of the passion that the early suffragettes demonstrated.

The definition of suffrage is: 1 an intercessory prayer, supplication      2a vote given in deciding a controverted question or in the choice of a person for an office or trust.

The definition of a suffragette is:  one who advocates extension of     suffrage especially to women.

How can you participate?

  1. Stay informed—even when the news is unpleasant. The issues that may impact our religious freedom may be uncomfortable. But it is wise to become educated on new policies and laws that affect our families. Then pray with an informed mind, seeking guidance from God.
  2. Write letters to people of influence and to representatives in congress. Change in the Indiana policy came with people writing letters.
  3. Use social media to express opinions with clarity and civility.
  4. Ask questions about health care: medications, treatments and vaccines. Medical history demonstrates that we don’t often realize the negative impact of medication until years down the road.   After a   national study the common practice of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been reduced  because of links to heart disease and cancer. Read about the risks and benefits of HRT here.The birth control pill is also getting more scrutiny. Read this article that explains why one woman stopped using the pill. Science and medicine have provided cures, but they are human institutions. We shouldn’t just follow medical trends. An educated public that asks questions may bring problems to light sooner.
  5. Be an advocate for each member of your family.   We can’t  simply  accept that one type of birth, one medical protocol, one type of treatment, is good for all people.   We have a right to be informed  and  participate in decisions about health care.

Update: the flu vaccine is just 18% effective this year. Click here for link.

Linking with Tuesdays with a TwistA Little R & R,  Friendship Friday,  WholeHearted Home,  Titus 2sdayHope in Every Season, and the Art of Homemaking

Birthdays!

Birthday Gifts

Autumn is a season of birthdays. My granddaughters, plus one       daughter and one daughter-in-love all have a birthday in September, October or November.

I was blessed in being able to attend the birth of each granddaughter—one at home and the rest in the hospital. To watch each of these    babies grow into little girls is a delight.

As I look back, each labor and birth was unique. My daughters were prepared for labor and still encountered challenges. In each situation the goal was to minimize interventions, while being open to               appropriate medical care. When the moment of pain and exhaustion came during labor, their husbands and I prayed with them. God blessed them with healthy births.

We have well equipped hospitals in the United States. But along with medical care, wisdom and guidance from the Lord is an invaluable help. I have witnessed and participated in prayers that took place during labor when I attended home births as a nurse. Less often (rarely) prayer was included in the hospital labor and delivery unit where I worked.

My own first labor/birth was an unexpected cesarean section. I still remember the name of one nurse who was supportive during labor, but her shift ended before the cascade of interventions and cesarean section took place. The communication from my doctor was cold and unkind. My daughter was healthy but it took time for me to put the    experience into perspective.

According to Post Partum Support International some women suffer PTSD following childbirth.

Approximately 9% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum.

Emotional support and encouragement are vital during labor and birth. Prayer provides spiritual support. Here are some ways that an expectant mom can plan for good support.

  1. Consider having a midwife for birth attendant. Do some research on home birth, freestanding birth centers, and midwifery practices.
  2. Choose a doula to attend the labor and birth, in addition to the doctor or midwife. Doulas are trained in comfort measures for labor and     positioning techniques to assist the progress of labor. Some doulas will attend hospital births.
  3. Have a close family member go to prenatal classes with you, being prepared to give support during labor. While Lamaze classes have typically expected the husband to be the support person, sometimes another woman is more able.
  4. Develop a practice of prayer and trust in the Lord.

My daughters’ husbands were with them throughout labor. I was the extra support. Assisting my daughters and praying with them has been a wonderful experience.

If you have a daughter or friend who is pregnant, perhaps you will have the opportunity to pray with her and encourage her.

 

Birthday Candles 2_edited-1

Linking with Tuesdays with a Twist,  Friendship Friday,   Wedded Wednesday,   the Ladies Collective Link-up,  A Little R & R  and WholeHearted Home

Successful Breastfeeding

As a mom I breastfed my babies–learning more with each child. As nurse and grandma I have had experience in helping new moms to establish breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has many health benefits, but sometimes there are hurdles to get over. I have collected some articles that address problems and best practices.

Have you heard of the breast crawl? Research has shown that if newborn infant is placed on its tummy, skin to skin with mother following birth, the infant is has built in reflexes that help him seek and suckle the breast. This should take place within 90 minutes of a healthy birth.

photo credit: T. Adriaenssen
photo credit: T. Adriaenssen

This finding has led to a new understanding of best positions for breastfeeding. In an article in Mothering, Nancy Mohrbacher writes:

Every brand-new baby comes into the world with a whole repertoire of responses that are custom designed by Mother Nature to make baby an active breastfeeding partner. Baby is born with what’s needed so that–when conditions are right–breastfeeding and bonding happen easily and naturally. These responses work best when baby lies tummy down on mother with gravity anchoring baby there.  Read more here.

It is also important over the next 48 hours, to observe the infant for cues that show an interest in breastfeeding. The baby should breastfeed on demand–8 to 12 feedings in 24 hours.  Sometimes problems occur in the first month.  I have been aware of moms that gave up. They were breastfeeding frequently but the baby wasn’t satisfied.

It could be an incorrect latch at the breast. The baby might be restricted in achieving a good suck because tongue is tied more closely to the gums. Heather at Mommypotamus.com has written a post with detailed explanation of tongue and lip ties. She includes photos and advice from an expert doctor. Click here to read her post.

After persevering through the early weeks and then months of breastfeeding, a mom can be surprised when the baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. This could be a nursing strike. To understand this phenomena read Nancy Mohrbacher’s article. Click here.

Many moms have to return to work. The breast pump offers a way to continue. One mom worked out a schedule for maintaining breastfeeding by successfully pumping. She shares her story here.

It is true. Breastfeeding requires patience, commitment and support from the family. Sometimes expert help is needed. During times of difficulty it is good to remember the health benefits for mom and baby.

A Swedish study demonstrated that women who breastfeed their     babies have a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Click here.

A Canadian study explained the role of healthy bacteria in the gut.    Infants that are breastfed develop healthy microbes in the gut and are less likely to develop allergies. Click here.

Whether a mom breastfeeds or bottle-feeds her infant, she needs the support and encouragement of family and friends. Mothering a newborn is both wonderful and very demanding.

Linking with Ladies Collective Link-upWholeHearted Wednesday,  Titus 2sday,  the Art of Homemaking,  MYHSM