The Time Line of Childbirth and Midwifery

Women have been giving birth to children since the start of time however the ways women do so have changed. What used to be a single person process, a women squatting down in the middle of a field or in a cave has changed to a married women event where most of the married women in town would come to watch and support another women giving birth, it then changed to Midwife and maybe another women there to help deliver the baby and provide support for the mother, and more recently giving birth went from an everyday home occurrence where giving birth in the hospital was saved for women with difficulty pregnancy to now most women do and only the rich have home births. Midwives where not just there to help deliver babies but also tend to the ill and provide care and information to others. This Time Line starts directly under this post from the earliest mentions to almost the 1980’s.

Final Version

Women have been giving birth to children since the start of time however the ways women do so, has changed. What used to be a single person process, a women squatting down in the middle of a field or in a cave has changed from an event, were other female members (In some communities, married women other communities it is unsure of the martial status of the women in attendance) would attend the birth were they would provide support and help with the actual birth in addition to the midwife. Over the years, the place and birthing practices have changes, from midwives and other family member or friends helping deliver the baby or babies at home to more recently (The beginning of the 19th century)  giving birth at hospitals, though, at the start this was more for the famous and Upper Class who could afford the cost, though women who had very difficult pregnancies where also admitted into the hospital, now however, 97% of women have their children in hospitals. Midwives where not just there to help deliver babies but they also where healers, tending to the ill and provide care and information to others, as well as, for a short while, preform ‘safe’ abortions for women who deiced that was what they wanted. This Time Line starts directly under this post “The Midwife Problem”  to ” The Nation; Abortion Foes Worry About Welfare Cutoffs”

 

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The Midwife Problem

From the earliest period of civilization the midwife has played an important part in the making of history. She has been associated with the birth of kings and emperors, as well as with the birth of the lowly, therefore to trace the history of her development is to trace the history of mankind

Women were thought to be only mothers and wives, a person who takes care of the children and the husband, so when someone became ill or it was time for the birth of a new life , that fell into the mother and wife role or the caregiver role. So when a women had reached full term and was ready to give birth, that was a ‘Women’s job’ this within 100 years would change.

Noyes, Clara D. “The Midwifery Problem.” The American Journal of Nursing 12, no. 6 (1912): 466-71. doi:10.2307/3404589.

Final Version

From the earliest period of civilization the midwife has played an important part in the making of history. She has been associated with the birth of kings and emperors, as well as with the birth of the lowly, therefore to trace the history of her development is to trace the history of mankind.

While others would say that women started ‘working’ during the [insert time period or date], that’s not true, women have been working since the start of time, “If you have to pay someone to do it, then its work”, it’s just most of the time, women work in their own spheres; they were separate from the working life of men in their community. Women were thought to be only mothers and wives, a person who takes care of the children and the husband, and when needed, she was someone to tend to the ill or to be there when it was time for the birth of a new life, that fell into the mother and wife roles or the caregiver role. So when a women had reached full term and was ready to give birth, that was a ‘Women’s job’ this within 100 years would change.

At the start of time, women where pushed together during birth, I am sure it was thought since women have the same “parts”. Midwifery like many professions of the time were learned, a women who had overseen many births before would inform others what to do, how to help the mother, what to feed the mother during birth (At one time, foods high in protein where given to women in labor as a way to keep up their strength).There was no formal training for midwives until 1765, this did not mean that starting in 1765, every midwife was trained, that was just when the first formal training program started, most midwives where trained by elder and more experienced members of their community. While most associated Midwifery with solely childbirth, there were other aspects to it, being a midwife was not an easy task, sadly there is not much written about midwife practices during the early years, however, later there would be a journal of a very talented and experienced midwife, Martha Ballard, that would show, not just historians but also doctors and midwives of the talent and dedication that was truly needed to be a midwives.

Noyes, Clara D. “The Midwifery Problem.” The American Journal of Nursing 12, no. 6 (1912): 466-71. doi:10.2307/3404589.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Wives Image and Relaity in Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750

Depositions in an Essex County case of 1657 reported a dozen women present at a Gloucester birth. A hundred years later Matthew Patten of Bedford, New Hampshire, recorded the names of seven women gathered in the middle of the night when his wife’s travail grew ‘smart’. An eight neighbor arrived in the morning. But Sarah Smith, the wife of the first minister of Portland, Maine, may have set the record for neighborly participation in birth. According to family tradition, all of the married women living in the tiny settlement on Falmouth Neck in June of 1931 were present when she gave birth to her second son.

Births where a gathering, married women from the town would join in. They were there for their knowledge and their support. Though, because this was a female only, it was rare that the inner working of the use for all of the extra women is written down anywhere. Only on very rare occasion when a man allowed into the room during birth it was either write things down to keep records or update any sort of medical books.

Ulrich, Laurel T. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1982.

 

Final Version

Depositions in an Essex County case of 1657 reported a dozen women present at a Gloucester birth. A hundred years later Matthew Patten of Bedford, New Hampshire, recorded the names of seven women gathered in the middle of the night when his wife’s travail grew ‘smart’. An eight neighbor arrived in the morning. But Sarah Smith, the wife of the first minister of Portland, Maine, may have set the record for neighborly participation in birth. According to family tradition, all of the married women living in the tiny settlement on Falmouth Neck in June of 1931 were present when she gave birth to her second son.

In Laurel T. Ulrich book, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New English 1650-1750, she writes about the daily lives of women in New England. In the almost 6,000 page book, she devotes a good deal to Midwifery and birthing practices, she even starts Chapter Seven ‘Travail’ with a quick description of ‘Childbed linen’ (Infants clothing). Ulrich then moves on to the quote above, Ulrich writes that she does not really know the reason why women would gather for the birth, she assumes, it’s for moral support or other expertise, or even to help the midwife well the delivery, such as holding the mother legs while she gives birth. Ulrich does say she does not know the rules of ‘gatherings’. There are records that tell who could attend, unmarried, married, women who had given birth, expected mothers, most likely it was woman whom were already married and or had children of their own. Though in the quote above, in the case of Smith, the towns tradition was to have married women attend the birth.

Ulrich does not only bring up the lack of rules on who could attend, but whom would receive and wash the newborn, how the tasks would be given out, who would help the mother into the birthing position, and how the modesty was still persevered. She also brings up the point that because it is predominantly in the ‘hands of women’, many accounts or records have been either lost or unrecorded, though there are exceptions, Martha Ballard journal, court depositions, medical advice books, and male dairies (When men were allowed into the room during birth, whether that is because he is there to observer for medical books, or he is truly needed)

Childbirth in early America was almost exclusively in the hands of women, which is another way of saying that its interior history has been lost.

Ulrich, Laurel T. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1982.

 

Mary Grove Nichols

Others inherit an apathetic state that does not impel them to any material union. Healthy and Loving women are destroyed by being made bond-women, having no spontaneity, and bearing children more rapidly than they ought, and in unhealthy conditions.

Women were producing babies as quickly as they could, each time they were pregnant they were putting their lives on the line. Dying in childbirth was almost an expected event. Men were not in the room during birth, like said before childbirth was in the hands of woman, as many different sources said, it was not document and if it was, most was lost, that is unitl men began to take on health profession.

Soruce: In class reading “Mary Gove Nichols ‘The Murders of Marriage’” (Week 8)

Final Version.

Others inherit an apathetic state that does not impel them to any material union. Healthy and loving women are destroyed by being made bond-women, having no spontaneity, and bearing children more rapidly than they ought, and in unhealthy condition.

Mary Grove Nichols wrote about the expectation of women, she wrote how it was unhealthy for women to wed. They would shortly there after be expected to become pregnant, she, as quoted above, wrote how dangerous it was for women to be pregnant and that they where expected to become pregnant over and over again. Women were producing babies as quickly as they could, each time they found themselves pregnant they were putting their lives on the line. Dying in childbirth was almost an expected event, finding out they were pregnant, was a bitter sweet, death was a common outcome of child birth. Men were not in the room during birth, like said before childbirth was in the hands of woman, as many different sources said, it was not document and if it was, most was lost, that is until men began to take on health profession. When a mother would die during child birth or shortly after, it was not just society that would push for women to get pregnant this would leave the father without a way to feed or care for the new born child.  Many fathers would turn to placing adds into the local papers requesting a wet nurse, here is an add from Maryland Gazette circa 1750.

WANTED, A NURSE with a good Breast of Milk, of a healthy Constitution, and good Character, that is willing to go into a Gentleman’s Family. Such a one may hear a very good Encouragement, by enquiring of the Printer hereof. [Maryland Gazette, April 4, 1750]

There are many ads that are very similar to this, requesting child care, wet nursing, and house work.

 

 

Martha Ballard- Delivering a Baby

I was Calld at 10 O Clock in ye morn in haste to Capt Jobe Springers wife in travil, who was safe X Delvd Soone after my arival there of a Dafter. Left ym Both Comfortable and X returnd Before night. the Birth at 2 O clock… I was Calld to Mrs Westons at 1 O/Clock in morn, Shee being in Labour; was Delivred of a Son at 7 in ye morn. I returnd home about one aftern. Left ym Comfortable. mr Hopkins & Stanley here. Polly Fletcher Came to nurs mrs Weston. mr Ballard Been with ye Courts Committee on the Roads from ye River to winthrop & west & to ye Country Road East ward, which they have Laid out.

The role of a midwife in the late and early 18th and 19th century was not just delivering and helping with the births of newborns but also tending to the sick, they were the all over caregivers and health providers, just take a look into Martha Ballard’s journal. She delivered over 800 babies, 816 to be exact, in her time as a midwife, apart from delivering babies, she also took care of the ill. Ballard’s happened to be on line where it was becoming more of a man’s job to heal the sick and deliver babies.

 

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(Need help with siting this one)

 

Final Version

I was Calld at 10 O Clock in ye morn in haste to Capt Jobe Springers wife in travil, who was safe X Delvd Soone after my arival there of a Dafter. Left ym Both Comfortable and X returnd Before night. the Birth at 2 O clock… I was Calld to Mrs Westons at 1 O/Clock in morn, Shee being in Labour; was Delivred of a Son at 7 in ye morn. I returnd home about one aftern. Left ym Comfortable. mr Hopkins & Stanley here. Polly Fletcher Came to nurs mrs Weston. mr Ballard Been with ye Courts Committee on the Roads from ye River to winthrop & west & to ye Country Road East ward, which they have Laid out.

The role of a midwife in the late and early 18th and 19th century was not just delivering and helping with the births of newborns but also tending to the sick, they were the all over caregivers and health providers, just take a look into Martha Ballard’s journal. Martha ‘Moore’ Ballard (1735-May 1812), a resident of Augusta, Maine, was a midwife and healer, she would travel Augusta and surrounding area helping heal the sick and deliver babies as well as tending to the mother and child after birth. She delivered over 800 babies, 816 to be exact, the last birth she attended was the 26 of April 1812. Ballard kept a journal of births she attended, everything illness and injury she tended too, the dates, and kind of payment for her time and care.

Her entries, like the one above, were dated, they would quickly cover the basics, who came for her, whom the patient was, and what the problem happened to be. She would then write the outcome and if she was paid, her payment, for example, in an entry on the 2 of September 1786, Ballard was given a pair of flat irons for tending to a man’s teenage daughter who had fallen ill. Some of her entries involved more personal comments, the last two lines of the entry above are about her husband, Ephraim. Sadly, there is no direct part that states how she is connected with her patients, I assume it is through word of mouth. Though when it comes to the relationship’s she forms with the men, women, and children seem to be deeply rooted. In one account, Ballard waded through a lake in the middle of winter help with a delivery of a baby.

Ballard was at the tail end of women being involved in the medical and childbirth field, the site, ‘Midwifery Today’ time line hints at the cause of the drop of midwives,  after the War of 1812,  Middle Class women began to switch from midwifes to doctors, all male, the Middle Class women switching over was not the only cause for the drop of midwives, social influences was another cause, being a midwife and caring for others then family members was considered out of the domestic role a women should be playing.  

Adria E. Feldhusen “The History of Midwifery and Childbirth in America: A Time Line” Midwifery Today, 2000. http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/timeline.asp

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Ballard Entry: Tending to the Ill

7 3 Clear. I was Calld to mrs Howards this morn for to See her Son, find him very low. Went from mrs Howards to See mrs Williams, find her very unwell. Hannah Cool is there. from thence to Joseph Fosters to see her Sick Children, find Saray & Daniel very ill. Came home, went to ye field & got Some Cold water root, then Calld to mr Kinydays to See Polly. very ill with the Canker, gave her Some of ye root & gargled her throat which gave her great Ease; returnd home after Dark. mr Ballard been to Cobesy, his throat is very Soar. he gargled it with my tinctr, finds relief & went to bed Comfortable.

Many of Ballard’s entry talk about caring for the ill, I would say there are more about the ill then about the babies she helped bring into the world. Ballard work with both sick men, women , and child of Maine is well documented thanks to her journals, with in the pages it talks about her wading through ice water to get to a birth, or being woken up in the very early morning to tend to a sick child.

Source Inside the class reading : “Martha Ballard Journal Entries “(Week 8)

Final Version

7 3 Clear. I was Calld to mrs Howards this morn for to See her Son, find him very low. Went from mrs Howards to See mrs Williams, find her very unwell. Hannah Cool is there. from thence to Joseph Fosters to see her Sick Children, find Saray & Daniel very ill. Came home, went to ye field & got Some Cold water root, then Calld to mr Kinydays to See Polly. very ill with the Canker, gave her Some of ye root & gargled her throat which gave her great Ease; returnd home after Dark. mr Ballard been to Cobesy, his throat is very Soar. he gargled it with my tinctr, finds relief & went to bed Comfortable.

Martha Ballard, the midwife and healer who wrote journal entries about her daily life delivering babies and caring for the sick, had many entries about her tending to ill members of her community. The last blog entry talked about Ballard and her delivering a baby, this one talks about her caring for sick women and children. Like mentioned above, Ballard would write about her day, giving the date (To most of her entries), sometimes the weather, whom she visited, what her husband was up too, what ailed her patient and how she treated their ailments and what she received in payment, though this post above does not include that. Most of the time the payment is added in at a later date.

Source Inside the class reading : “Martha Ballard Journal Entries “(Week 8)