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.
Photo by Caroline Brown
When I was sixteen, I attended my first birth: the birth of my baby brother, David. After he was born, my mama delivered the placenta, which was placed in a bowl. My father brought me over to look at it, and he normalized the experience of third stage by observing to me how beautiful the placenta was: “Doesn’t it look like glazed clay?” It did look that way: purplish-red and shining. The future midwife in me was fascinated. Read more…. Wonders of Third Stage Labor: The Placenta
Photo by Carolyn Brown
Frequent contributor Jane Beal tells us about her path to and through midwifery and its spiritual aspects.
Read more…. The Spiritual Education of a Midwife
Photo by Samuele Bertoli
Michele Savonarola was a court physician who served the house of Este in the fifteenth-century city-state of Ferrara, Italy, and was a prolific writer of Latin and Italian texts. About 1460, he composed his vernacular Italian manual bearing the Latin title, De regimine praegnantium et noviter natorum usque ad septennium, or Guide for Pregnant Women and Newborns up to the Seventh Year, which has recently been translated into English (Zuccolin and Marafioti). The Guide allows today’s English readers to learn more about midwifery, maternity, medical practice, and the realities of the childbearing year, including the care of the newborn, in early modern Italy.
Read more…. Michele Savonarola: His Fifteenth-Century Guide to Pregnancy and Pediatrics for the Midwives and Mothers of Ferrara, Italy
Photo by Adele Morris
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.” Read more…. To Induce or Not to Induce? That is the Question
Photo by Vitor Monthay
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. Read more…. When Traditional Western Medicine Breaks Faith
Photo by Julie Ricard
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.
Read more…. Saw-Grass: A Traditional Intervention Used in Midwifery Practice in Northern Uganda
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.
Read more…. Narrative Medicine and the Renewal of Midwifery Practice in the Twenty-first Century
“The Birth of St. John the Baptist” (c. 1655) by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo
Photo credit: Jane Beal
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.
Read more…. “The Birth of St. John the Baptist”
Photo by Larry Costales
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.
Read more…. Bridget “Biddy” Mason: A Black Pioneer Midwife of Nineteenth-century Los Angeles
Photo by Julien Pouplard
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
Photo by Annemiek Smegen
Voice of the Womb: A Woman’s Inner Strength – Poetry – Issue 136
Read more…. Voice of the Womb: A Woman’s Inner Strength
Photo by Debby Hudson
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.
Read more…. Mothers as Artists