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.
The dictionary gives these definitions for patient: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain, steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity.
When Jesus was crucified certain women demonstrated steadfast devotion. I have been thinking about them.
There were also many women there, looking from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Matthew 27:55-56
The women watched as Jesus body was placed in the tomb.
And he [Joseph of Arimathea] rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:60b-61
These women persisted in their service to Jesus.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Matthew 28:1
The book of John gives this perspective.
Now in the place where he [Jesus] was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. John 19:41-20:1
Mary went to tell Peter and John. Then she went back to the tomb.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Having said this , she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means teacher). John 20:11-16
It is hard to be patient and faithful when we don’t understand events that are taking place. We can be inspired by the example of these women and the promises that Jesus has given us in the Bible.
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.
When I scanned the cover of the newly released book, The Third Daughter, I saw that it was the story of a Russian girl in the late 1800s. It is a period of time that I am studying.
If I had read further I would have realized that Talia Carner has written about a tragic period of Jewish history. While the pogroms were taking place in Russia, Jewish men were tricking families to give their young daughters in marriage to wealthy men who lived across the ocean.
But there were no marriages. The author brings to life the horror of sex trafficking. As Carner tells the story we travel with Batya (a fourteen year old girl) from a Russian shtetl across the ocean to Argentina where she is enslaved in a brothel.
Batya is a fictional character, but the brothels were real. They were legal in Argentina and protected by the government from the 1890s to 1939. The prostitutes were owned by their pimps.
Throughout the book there is a thread of hope, and a lingering love of family roots. Batya finds courage as she seeks to reunite with her family.
As I read the book I thought about girls that are trapped in poverty, on the margins of society. Laws that allow abortion without parental consent or provide funds for abortion on demand allow these girls to be sexually abused. Weak immigration laws that allow girls to be brought into this country by coyotes or pimps leaves the door open for the trafficking of girls. The sad truth is that sex trafficking is very much a current evil.
Yesterday I visited the Hull House museum with my husband. I am gathering insight into Chicago during the 1890s.
It is impressive to learn about the work that a group of young women undertook to assist the immigrant population during a period of tremendous influx. They had a vision for a settlement house.
The city was growing faster than it could accommodate the immigrants of many languages and cultures. The tenements around Hull House were overcrowded and unsanitary.
Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, Julia Lathrop and others were willing to settle in an unsavory neighborhood. Did they consider the risk to themselves? Or were they filled with a passion to help make a better world?
After a couple hours at the museum we went to the Chicago History Museum. This museum has a wonderful research library. I found pamphlets about the Chicago Bible Society which was founded around 1850.
The pamphlets detailed the work of the Bible Society, making Bibles available in many languages. The number of Bible Society Workers was also listed.
Young women were trained to make home visits and teach the Bible. I read a couple of accounts where women facing difficult circumstances were encouraged by the visit and looked forward to weekly visits.
It is inspiring to read the stories of women who had a positive impact in a city with many problems.
In the third chapter of Titus, Paul encourages believers to be devoted to good works. He is careful to say that the good works don’t save us. We are saved by grace through Jesus.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior . . . The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3: 3-6,8
At the beginning of the twentieth century my grandmother immigrated to a mining town in Upper Michigan, from Finland. She married a copper miner in the Copper Country. Long after my grandmother passed away I learned about the miner’s strike and a disaster that killed 73 people, most of them children, most of them Finnish.
The family story is that my grandmother was at the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan. A Christmas party was organized for the families—the children—of striking miners.
Over five months the tensions between striking mine workers and the mine company had risen to a feverish pitch. The mine company was supported by Citizen’s Alliance (local business owners). Some one shouted fire at the Christmas party, but there was no fire. Children and adults were killed when they ran to exit the building. Bodies fell over each other on a stairway.
My grandmother with her children exited the building a different way, maybe by the fire escape.
I never had a chance to ask my grandmother or grandfather about about this event. It happened before my mother was born and her knowledge was limited.
A friend passed along a newly released book, The Women of the Copper Country, by Mary D. Russell. The book is a novel but the author has done admirable research to bring the year leading up to the Italian Hall disaster to life. The main character is a historic figure.
Big Annie Clemenc was president of the Woman’s Auxillary of the Western Federation of Miners. The miner’s strike began at the end of July and continued into the following year. The Christmas party was organized by the Women’s Auxillary and took place on December 24, 1913.
The book showed me a period of time in my grandmother’s life. The author’s description of Calumet resonates with my knowledge. In a few places, I found the fiction stretching my imagination. But the author acknowledged the areas that might not be exactly right in her notes at the end of the book.
Over the years I have attended the March for Life in Palatine and in Chicago. I have paid attention to social media accounts of the March for Life in Washington D.C.
Despite the thousands of young adults and families who have turned out year after year, the coverage by the main stream media has been limited. With relief I can say that this year the coverage might be better.
For the first time ever, the President of the United States attended the March for Life and spoke to the tens of thousands of high school and college students, men and women. It was refreshing to hear the President say, “Mothers are heroes.”
When we hear the defense of a woman’s right to choose, the implication is that careers taken precedence over children. An actress at the Golden Globe Awards stated that if she had continued her pregnancy, she wouldn’t have been able to finish the movie she was in.
Some women choose to abort the life growing in them, but others don’t really have a choice. They are pressured to abort the baby by parents or boyfriends.
My daughter led a young life group. One of the girls became pregnant and called my daughter for support. She wanted to continue the pregnancy. But her parents threatened to take away all financial support, and she gave in to the pressure.
Another woman told me with tears in her eyes that she had forced her daughter to have an abortion.
Abortion is contrary to life and health. The procedure has risks and longterm consequences for women. We know that from conception the baby is developing as a unique individual.
The President said, “Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God.”
I am thankful for growing number of pregnancy centers that offer support to women that are in a difficult circumstances. I am grateful for groups that help women to heal after an abortion.
Our pastor has begun a series of messages from the book of Exodus and he pointed out the strong women mentioned in the first two chapters of this book.
When the Egyptian King decreed that the Hebrew midwives should kill all Hebrew male babies Shiprah and Puah did not obey the decree.
But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. Exodus 1:17
So they were called before Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and questioned.
The midwives explained that the male babies survived,“because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Exodus 1:19
Were the midwives lying? They were circumventing the king’s command. Their answer indicated that they had experience attending Egyptian and Hebrew women.
Women that are physically active—the Hebrew women worked hard as slaves— are in better physical condition, more likely to have a labor that progresses well—more likely to walk, squat and change position throughout labor. The Hebrew women may have given birth with the assistance of relatives that had learned basic skills from the midwives.
And then Pharaoh made a new decree. He asked the Egyptians to be on the alert and to throw any Hebrew male babies into the Nile.
One Hebrew woman (Jochebed) realized that her three month old baby boy was becoming increasingly hard to hide. So she made a little basket sea worthy, and asked Miriam (the baby boy’s sister) to place him in the river.
Jochebed instructed the Miriam to watch him.
Pharaoh’s daughter saw the unusual floating basket and asked her maid to bring it to her. The Princess realized that the baby was a Hebrew boy whom her father had ordered to be drowned. She ignored her father’s decree.
When Miriam saw the Princess holding her baby brother she offered to get a nurse from the Hebrew women to breastfeed the child. She offered to bring the baby’s mother, and Pharaoh’s daughter agreed.
The five women (midwives, Jochabed, Miriam, King’s daughter) were disobeying the King’s order. They were defending life! Despite the possibility that harm might come to themselves, they nurtured the baby boy who would one day be a leader of Israel.
Women have been entrusted by God with the gift of bearing and nurturing life. These five women offer examples of faith and courage as they persevered, defending the life of a baby. They were gutsy women.
In our own time nine men, Supreme Court Justices, decided that a woman has the right to abort (kill) her unborn baby based on a right to privacy. Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973. The law opened the opportunity for boyfriends and family members to urge a confused and panicked woman to end an unplanned pregnancy with abortion.
Exactly one year after the Roe v. Wade decision 20,000 people showed up in Washington D.C. for a March for Life. Nellie Gray, another gutsy woman, organized this first March for Life that took place on January 22, 1974. The protest of Roe v. Wade has taken place every January since then. Icy cold weather, snow and wind, have not deterred thousands of men, women and teens from participating in the March for Life.
The moms in California fighting for the health of their children are also gutsy women. Who are the strong women that you know?
The Lamaze method of birth has been known for breathing patterns that help a woman to relax and keep pace with labor contractions. I taught breathing patterns to my students. Some women reported that they used the technique during labor. Others said the hospital procedures interfered with their ability to maintain paced breathing.
When I made the transition from hospital to home birth I learned about the value of a calm supportive environment. The menu on my website has pages under the category of Healthy Birth Practices. On one page I wrote about the benefit of a calm, encouraging environment during labor.
After thirteen years as a labor/delivery nurse, three cesarean sections and 17 years of teaching Lamaze, I saw birth from a new and holistic perspective when I attended home births.
While present with women from early labor through birth I was able to observe the natural positions women assumed to assist the progress of labor. My knowledge of comfort measures increased, and I realized the value of adequate nourishment. I also became aware of the spiritual nature of labor and birth.
Sometimes the laboring woman’s husband prayed for her during labor. Sometimes I was asked to pray. It was a blessing to feel free to pray and ask for God’s help.
When I returned to the hospital setting, I found myself between two philosophies of birth. Women in labor need to be nourished and well hydrated. Recently a young woman came to the hospital with a birth plan. We provided the environment for her to walk and change position, as she desired. I monitored the baby intermittently.