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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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

International Women’s Day

This post was originally posted in 2017.

As women in the United States we can give thanks for the progress that has been made in women’s rights and opportunities. My maternal grandmother and paternal great-grandmothers immigrated to Michigan from Finland. With great effort they raised families while managing subsistence farms. My paternal grandmother wanted to go to elementary school but was needed at home.

I am thankful for these women!

My opportunities are much greater than theirs were. I have benefited from their sacrifices.

I recently finished reading I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl*. Hilda Satt Polachek came to the United States from Poland as a child.   Within two years her of family’s arrival,  her father died. Hilda’s mother was faced with raising the family in a new country. Hilda went to work in a knitting factory at the age of thirteen to help support the family. She received help and encouragement from the Hull House women.

In the United States we have made great  progress, and  we need to      acknowledge this. Women have equal rights and opportunities.

Currently more young women are going to college than young men. Click here for the research.

I am thankful for God’s word and the assurance that He loves me, a woman. Jesus demonstrated his respect, his concern and his equal treatment of women.

I am thankful for my church and the freedom to worship that we have in the United States. Many women in the world do not have this freedom or the same opportunities.

Gratitude leads to a sense of joy.

Psalm 34 has some verses of praise and thanksgiving. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be continually in my mouth.  I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.    Psalm 34: 1,4 

What can you give thanks for?

*Hilda Satt Polacheck edited by Dena Polacheck Epstein, I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl, University of Illinois Press, 1989

UPDATE 3/7/2020: As I give thanks for God’s love and design for women, I realize that many women are abused. The reality of human trafficking became clear as I read The Third Daughter by Talia Career. How can this evil be stopped? 

UPDATE 3/8/21 As migrants seek to enter the U.S. southern border I wonder how many young women will be trafficked. It is a great evil. I pray that congress will fix our immigration laws for greater safety of both migrants and citizens of our country.

We have a new challenge with the White House executive order to allow biological males to compete in women’s sports. I pray that our government will acknowledge the science, the physiology of the human body. Men and women are physically different, but loved equally by God.

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.

Detroit, the Family and Reflections on Racism

My first job as a graduate nurse was in a hospital in downtown Detroit. I worked in a labor/delivery unit with a diverse group of patients. Some women had taken Lamaze classes and some were unwed teenagers. We had a pregnant woman, victim of a gunshot, who was partially paralyzed. The unit had on average 500 births per month at that time.

The head nurse on the dayshift was a black woman. The head nurse on the evening shift was a black woman. Many of the staff were black, and I had a big learning curve.

Most nurses on the unit were experienced, but I was in my first year of practice. I also found an ethnic difference between myself and the nurses that had grown up in a black community. Sometimes I misunderstood them, and sometimes they misunderstood me. But I don’t think this was racism.

I believe that we must listen to others and try to understand our differences. We need to have respect for all people. We can learn this in our families.

I am third generation Finnish. My family held onto Finnish traditions and language (I learned some basic phrases and listened to Finnish pastors as a translator spoke in English). We kept ties with the Finnish community in Upper Michigan where my grandfathers had worked in the copper mines.

 I grew up in a home where my parents instilled a love of learning, took us to libraries and encouraged us to read the Bible.

My family, like all families, has flaws. Yet the family is the design that God put in place for the flourishing of society. My family provided a foundation for me to withstand the challenges of life in a broken world.

The laws of our country need to support the nuclear family. A child’s best advocate is his mother and father. The family is the primary place for learning life skills. Welfare laws inadvertently discouraged the formation of nuclear families. Did this have a disproportionate effect on the black community? 

Planned Parenthood has placed its clinics in poor and black communities. By providing birth control and then subsequently abortions, did these clinics promote promiscuity in the black community? A negative effect on family formation?

It is important to look carefully at the policies that have disadvantaged the black community to understand institutional racism. In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (9/11/2020) Latasha Fields writes about her opposition to programs that increase dependency on the government. She states:

By subsidizing recklessness and the growing effects of immorality these programs have subverted, undermined and unraveled the tapestry of thriving and healthy families. Ultimately the successes and failures of the black community come from the choices we make. 

We are at a turbulent moment in our country. We need to understand the roots of the unrest and violence in order to find solutions. The police are dealing with complex issues: domestic violence, aggressive resistance to arrest when they are called to a scene, mental illness. Our society has a growing number of young men with autism. 

Please join me in praying for our country.

Are We Making Progress?

Perhaps you saw it in the news. Two people from the Students for Life organization were arrested last Saturday for writing with chalk on the side walk outside of a Planned Parenthood building in Washington D.C. What did they write? Preborn Black Lives Matter.

Remember that the Mayor authorized the painting of Black Lives Matter on the street in Washington D. C. Others painted Defund the Police. 

Students for Life received a permit to be on the side walk outside of Planned Parenthood and had requested permission to write on the sidewalk. They were told to use a temporary paint. When they got there the police told them that they couldn’t paint on the side walk. So they used chalk. Two of their group were arrested and taken to a jail cell. Why were their voices shut down? 

Are we making progress in the health and wellbeing of all women and children?

 “while Black women accounted for 38 percent of reported abortions, population estimates for 2016 (like 2015) show that African Americans made up just 12 percent of the population. This news comes on the heels of deliberate efforts by the abortion lobby to market abortions among women of color as a positive.”

Planned Parenthood was started by Margaret Sanger who had ties to eugenicists. I read her biography and wrote a post comparing the passion of Margaret Sanger with the passion of Lilias Trotter.

Recently I saw an article about Dr. Mildred Jefferson who was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard in 1951. She was also the co-founder of the Right to Life organization. She made these assertions:

I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all of the years of slavery and lynchings.

There are now more abortions than live births in Washington DC, and the same is true for New York City,” 

It seems to me we should review the steps government policy has taken to “help” women in need. What are the longterm consequences? Have we made progress in the health of black lives? 

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing group.

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

The Women at the Garden Tomb

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.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: PATIENT Also Linking up with Anita’s Inspire Me Monday .

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 .

Book Review: The Third Daughter

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.