Jane Beal

Jane Beal, PhD, is a writer, educator, and midwife. She holds a Certificate in Midwifery Mercy in Action College of Midwifery and a graduate Certificate in Narrative Medicine from Bay Path University. She has served with homebirth practices in the Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco metro areas and in birth centers in the US, Uganda, and the Philippine Islands. She is the author of Epiphany: Birth Poems and Transfiguration: A Midwife’s Birth Poems. She teaches at UC Davis and the University of La Verne in California. To learn more, please visit janebeal.wordpress.com and christianmidwife.wordpress.com.

To Induce or Not to Induce? That is the Question

Hannah was 39 weeks and a few days pregnant with her first child one summer when she went to her scheduled prenatal appointment with her obstetrician/gynecologist. As a part of her examination, a late ultrasound was performed, and she was diagnosed with “low amniotic fluid.”

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When Traditional Western Medicine Breaks Faith

At the beginning of the pandemic, a woman I know well—I’ll call her Jackie—became pregnant at age 30. Jackie has a mild intellectual disability, but she is high functioning, verbal, and able to make her own medical decisions—which was recognized legally by the court in her county when she was younger.

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Saw-Grass: A Traditional Intervention Used in Midwifery Practice in Northern Uganda

Our Range Rover ambulance arrived in the village of Okidi in Atiak, northern Uganda, with three midwives. We had received an urgent call that an Acholi woman was in labor there and wanted to be brought to our birth center, which is near the village of Parawaca, to have the assistance of midwives during her labor and delivery. When we arrived, the woman, wearing a lovely red dress, was dancing about in active labor near two other village women.

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Narrative Medicine and the Renewal of Midwifery Practice in the Twenty-first Century

On Christmas Day a few years ago, I was having dinner with my family but I was on-call for an expectant mama—and I got the call letting me know her labor had started. I hopped in my car and drove northeast from the San Francisco Bay Area toward Sacramento, taking the appropriate exits from I-80 to the backroads that led to a nice suburban house where the kind-hearted couple were waiting for me to arrive.

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“The Birth of St. John the Baptist”

Not long before the outbreak of the coronavirus and Governor Newsom’s order to Californians to shelter in place, I visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It is a small museum with an extraordinary collection, which includes a seventeenth-century oil painting by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo, entitled “The Birth of St. John the Baptist” (ca. 1655). The canvas, strikingly large at more than four foot by six foot (146.7 x 188.3 cm), caught my attention as a midwife.

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Bridget “Biddy” Mason: A Black Pioneer Midwife of Nineteenth-century Los Angeles

A midwife, a cattle-herder, a cross-country pioneer, a slave set free, a landowner in Los Angeles, a founder of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, and a wealthy woman and socially prominent philanthropist: Bridget “Biddy” Mason was all of these and much more.

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Resolving Shoulder Dystocia with the Gaskin Maneuver or McRoberts Maneuver

Looking out of the door of my hut in Acholiland, northern Uganda, I could see a tree spreading its branches out underneath a cloudy sky. The red earth was wet, everything was green and growing, and cheeping chicks were trailing around after mother hens as roosters crowed. It was the rainy season. Read more…. Resolving Shoulder Dystocia with the Gaskin Maneuver or McRoberts Maneuver

Voice of the Womb: A Woman’s Inner Strength

Voice of the Womb: A Woman’s Inner Strength – Poetry – Issue 136

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Mothers as Artists

When I was a little girl, I used to watch my mother. She was a calligrapher. My father made a light table for her where she laid down her pages and, bent attentively over the light, she wrote. The light table illuminated a lined page behind an unlined parchment page so that my mother could write a straight script across the parchment without marking lines on the parchment itself. She would write fancy scripts and make lovely flowers, gilded with silver or gold from her tiny paint pots, and create something beautiful: a wedding invitation, a birth announcement, a wall hanging, a bookmark. Her pens had special, pointed nibs that she dipped in black inkwells, from which flowed many precious words, often from scripture and sometimes from poetry. From my mother, I learned that mothers are artists.

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“Call the Midwife”: Jennifer Worth, a Twentieth Century British Midwife, and the Birth of Conchita Warren’s 24th Baby on TV vs. in Real Life

I started watching the BBC television series “Call the Midwife” after everyone and her mother had recommended it to me. In the first episode, set in 1957, Jenny Lee arrives at Nonnatus House, a nursing convent in London, as the new midwife on staff. I was intrigued.

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Scribonia Attica: A Second-century Roman Midwife

Midwifery Today, Issue 133, Spring 2020. Join Midwifery Today Online Membership Sometimes the history of midwifery is hidden in a tomb. This statement is not a metaphor for lost history; it’s reality. In the Isola Sacra necropolis in Ostia, a seaport of ancient Rome (originally situated at the mouth of the Tiber River but today located about four miles upstream) in Italy, lies the tomb of Scribonia Attica, a second-century Roman midwife. Her funeral monument is striking because it depicts the midwife herself, squatting on a low stool in front of a naked pregnant woman who is seated in a chair and supported by another woman from behind. The midwife looks out directly at the viewer of her memorial, while her right hand reaches between the laboring woman’s legs, perhaps to check the woman’s progress or to deliver her baby. The name of this midwife, Scribonia Attica, reveals a little bit about her. She shared her first name with the Scribonia family of ancient Rome as well as two famous women: the wife of Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus, who ruled during the first century CE (when Jesus was born); and the wife of Crassus, who was a first century CE Roman man of consular rank. The midwife’s first name was also the first name of her mother, Scribonia Callityche. The midwife’s surname, Attica, suggests that she was of Greek origin (Totelin 2019). Scribonia’s Greek origins are worth considering. The Roman Empire conquered the Greek Empire militarily (ca. 328–168 BCE), but in a sense, the Greeks subsequently conquered the Roman Empire culturally. Greek culture influenced Roman culture in terms of language, philosophy, religion, art, architecture, and medicine, among other things. Indeed, it appears that early first millennium, upper-class Roman families were often attended in childbirth by Greek midwives. Many ancient… Read more…. Scribonia Attica: A Second-century Roman Midwife

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Zebel and Salome, the Virgin Mary’s Midwives: Doubt, Faith, and the Miraculous in a Medieval Legend

Drawing from extra-Biblical texts, Jane Beal writes about the Virgin Mary’s midwives and other details regarding the birth of Jesus.

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