Women Establishing Order in a War Zone

In 1917 eighteen Smith College graduates went to France to provide relief measures and establish order in war torn villages. Lauren Willig has written a novel based on the reports about this group. The author read a memoir by one of the members of the Smith College Relief Unit and letters written by the young women. It is an amazing story.

The book mentioned letters being censored and the difficulty in getting accurate information. The women often did not know what was going to happen next. Makes me think of the censoring of information today. Are we in a war?

From a writer’s point of view the story is well written. Conflict, dialogue and inner dialogue are well balanced and keep the story moving forward. It is a good read.

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Strong Women: Midwives and Nurses

As we look back through history, we come across women who demonstrated faith and courage. Their actions were based on convictions. Some are midwives, and some are nurses.

The first book of Exodus records the confrontation between Pharoah and two midwives. Shiprah and Puah did not carry out the Pharoah’s orders. They saved the lives of Hebrew babies. I wrote about these two midwives in a 2019 blog post (click here).

Raquel Levy served as a midwife for Jewish survivors of WWII that were refused entry into Palestine. She went to the refugee camps to attend the Holocaust survivors. You can read my review of her biography here.

Florence Nightingale supervised a hospital for soldiers during the Crimean War. She made sanitary conditions and nutrition a priority. She led the way for health care standards in hospitals.

Edith Cavell was a director of a nursing school. During WWI she treated soldiers on both sides of the conflict in Brussels. She held fast to her faith, even as she was escorted to her execution. You can read more about these two nurses here.

Each of these strong women is an inspiration. 

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

Immigrant Women and Midwives

A couple of books have stirred my thoughts and emotions. I read a lot—sometimes three books in a week.  I don’t review many. These two books have touched me.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin is historical fiction based on a real event. In 1888 a blizzard came on suddenly in Nebraska and took the lives of children returning home from school.

The families affected were Swedish immigrants establishing farms. A main character in the story is a wife that resents being isolated on a farm. She was far from sisters, friends and relatives. When she first immigrated, she lived in the city of Minneapolis.

The story brought to mind my grandmother. When she first immigrated at the age of nineteen, she lived in the town of Calumet, close to her brothers. Perhaps 10 years after her marriage my grandfather bought a farm, miles from town. She managed (developed) the farm and took care of the children while my grandfather worked in the mines to pay for the mortgage. My mother was born on the farm. She talked about her mother’s deep depression, due to the hard work and isolation.

My mother and her siblings were affected by the family dynamics. Yet, I am here because of my grandmother’s perseverance through a very difficult time. I have a deep debt of gratitude.

The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham is a historical novel that pursues speculation that Eva Braun, companion and finally wife of Adolf Hitler, gave birth. The story begins in a work camp, Ravensbruck, where a midwife is caring for pregnant women. 

Eventually she is ordered to be the companion/midwife for a pregnant woman in high standing in the Reich. She is taken to Adolf Hitler’s compound high in the mountains.

The author is a midwife and gives an accurate account of typical midwife care that is given to healthy women, giving birth in a home setting. It brought to mind the home births that I have attended. I share the belief that environment and emotional support have an impact on the progress of labor. I did a little research about Ravensbruck—was it really as bad as the story alludes? Click here for an article about the camp.

Linking this post with Tuesdays with a Twist .

Return to Me

In the middle of the week, I have a women’s Bible study. During the week each of us spends time reading a couple chapters and looking up cross references. On Wednesday morning we meet and discuss what we have learned.

Currently we are studying the book of Amos, having already gone through Obadiah and Joel. These books gave a warning to Israel. The prophets were warning that God’s judgement was coming, because they were no longer obeying God’s commands, they were no longer honoring God with their lives.

Judgement would come in the form of famine, natural disasters, pestilence and attacks by other nations. In the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy, God promised to bless Israel if they followed his ways and to judge them if they disobeyed. He had chosen them to be an example of life lived in relationship with Him.

The phrase, yet you did not return to me, is repeated throughout chapter 4 of Amos.

Amos was giving voice to God’s purpose in judgement. God was hoping that his people would return to Him. 

God’s steadfast desire is that we return to Him, live obediently and honor Him. 

For we are the temple of the living God, as God has said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. 2 Corinthians 6:16 

5/16 I am adding a note in consideration of the events taking place in Israel. Throughout the book of Amos, God also judged the nations that attacked Israel. Some nations were utterly destroyed, but God always preserved a remnant in Israel. God has kept his covenant with Israel throughout the ages. In this time of unrest and the barrage of rockets, pray for Israel. Pray for the people, for the salvation of Jews, Arabs and Palestinians. Pray for God’s name to be exalted.

This post in linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community and Heart Encouragement

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? 

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