The Amish Visits On Tuesdays and Thursday Carole Nelson gets into her car. It is loaded with birth supplies that totally populate not only the trunk, but the back seat and are creeping into the front seat. They have already taken over the space between the front seats (Hibiclens). Just like all of us who put our nutrition second, her car is full of half empty water bottles and half eaten PB & Js.
She is one of the Farm midwives in whom the local Amish community has placed its trust. The local Amish community has midwives of its own, but many choose Carole. She is “English” with long hair and wears pants, she is an elder midwife. She understands her client base, their culture, mores, language issues, health concerns, and those social customs that are unique to this Amish community.
This Amish community has new arrivals from Amish communities in Ohio. Farmland, rows of strawberries, squash, cabbage and new broccoli; horses, stair-step children, buggies, and hard working families. Carole reminds me that the women and men do not marry until they are at least 21 years old. They go to their own schools (where they learn to read and write German and English) and the girls go until they are about 14 years old and complete the 8th grade. The school year revolves around crop seasons. We discuss health issues that are common among this community: phlebitis, high blood pressure, and other conditions caused by a diet with processed flour and sugar and animal fat. But this community is accepting of herbal and homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic. In particular, we discuss the huge varicosities in the thighs, legs and feet that many Amish girl-children and women have- these are caused by the tight and heavy stockings they wear, held up by rubber bands.
She has told some of the women we will be seeing that a midwife student from another state who will be visiting for a few weeks will be coming on their visits. She reminds me of various dos and don’ts. I am dressed in my long wrap skirt and long sleeve top. But my skin is not white and my hair is very short and the children will stare at me.
I will be shadowing Carole, which means to be quiet unless your input is requested or you are spoken to. Of course that also means to be sociable, introduce yourself and carry on a brief friendly sentence or two. I comply until the second day when I catch myself explaining infant massage for a colicky baby to a mother and using myself as an example. Teas and herbs are discussed.
Every woman was kind and accepting of my presence and Carol’s introduction was all I needed to be welcomed.
After each visit Carole is willing to answer any of my questions and further explain her treatment strategies, especially for yeast, GBS, high blood pressure and pre-term labor. We are teacher and student; question and answer and explanation—just what I need.
On the ride back to The Farm we pass buggies parked on the side of the highways with boys and men selling beautiful strawberries the Amish grow. Unable to say no to a good strawberry, we buy another gallon (we have bought several gallons each day and frozen them) we buy more and take them to Carole’s home to enjoy.
The Farm Clinic
Wednesday’s prenatal office visits at The Farm clinic are similar to those in other home birth midwifery practices. The Farm clinic has a homey waiting room with lots of books and toys for the children and printed material for expectant mothers. There are 2 exam rooms and 2 offices. There is a huge bathroom and kitchen (also used by the students who staying in the dorm).
The clients who have appointments this day are those who are not locals, but families who have come to The Farm to have their babies here. They rent small houses on The Farm and move here a few weeks before their EDD and remain for about a week after the baby is born. They come from all over the US. Today about half are first time expectant mothers; most are not “Hippie” looking folks but regular folks you would meet at a “Holistic Parents” meeting.
The obstetrical portion of the visit is just like with other midwives; but the talking portion of the visit can go on for 45 minutes. These women have left their homes and friends behind to journey to Tennessee to have their babies and the midwives give them the extra attention so that they do not feel lonely or unsupported. Also, because there will be 2 midwives at your birth, each midwife wants as much of an opportunity to get to know you as possible. The midwives have been known to do ‘‘drop in” visits on the moms who are long way from home.
I am hoping the Full Moon next week will bring a baby and I can attend the birth.
But— I will be doing the “Baby Don’t’ Get Born Until I Get Back” dance for my clients in DC.
On Thursday evening the Nashville weather bureau issued a series of severe storm warnings; several bands of rain and wind were predicted to pass through the area during the night and early morning.
At 1:00 AM Friday morning the telephone rang and an Amish expectant mother was ready to have Carole come. Carole reviews the protocol for me—be quiet and invisible. She also informs me that normally when an Amish woman wants the midwife to come she is ready to have her baby. We arrive at 1:30 and in a few minutes the mother is ready to push (I think she waited for us); the Amish midwife is also on her way. The father actively participates in every stage of labor—he rubs her back, squeezes her hips and holds her hand; he holds the flashlight as his child is emerging.
By soft kerosene lamp light at about 2:00 AM a beautiful boy is born. The Amish midwife bathes him by lamp light on the door of the wood stove and puts him in Amish attire. She lets me hold him.