“The Crowned One” by Jane Beal

MidwiferyToday130 (Summer2019)

My poem,“The Crowned One,” now appears in Midwifery Today 130 (Summer 2019), 4.

THE CROWNED ONE 

Sometimes the bough breaks.

The finger of God
reaching toward Adam
does not touch him.

The desert at sunset is dry.

The pool of water
does not take away the pain,
and the baby-girl does not turn inside.

We wait too long.

On the third day,
her mother is cut open
to bring forth her baby.

But that is not enough for life.

She breathes muddy water
into her fragile lungs
and lies still.

She’s waiting to heal.

II.

A woman
breathes the breath of life
into the baby.

The newborn baby-girl awakens!

After two minutes,
once again her heart is beating
like a little bird’s.

For four days, she sleeps without a name.

Then, an angel-like-a-girl-child
comes down from heaven
into her mother’s dream:

her name is Stefania,
and she will live!

jb

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“Galanthis, Alcmene’s Midwife: A Childbirth Myth of Ancient Greece and Rome” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 9.34.14 AM

My essay, “Galanthis, Alcmene’s Midwife: A Childbirth Myth of Ancient Greece and Rome,” now appears in Midwifery Today 129 (Spring 2019): 46-47.

EXCERPT:

“Almost everyone has heard of Hercules, famous for his strength, who performed twelve great labors and many other feats – including holding up the sky for Atlas and bringing Alcestis back from Hades (death) to her husband (life). Once there is a Disney animated feature film about a hero, like “Hercules” (Disney, 1997), the hero’s name becomes familiar to many children and their parents world-wide. But few people know the name of Hercules’ mother, Alcmene, and even fewer know about Alcmene’s friend and midwife, Galanthis, who used her wits to defeat the goddess who was holding back the birth of Hercules.”

 

“Jane Hawkins: A Colonial American Midwife and a Complicated Birth” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.53.52 PMMy essay, “Jane Hawkins: A Colonial American Midwife and a Complicated Birth,” appears in Midwifery Today 128 (Winter 2018), 28-29.

EXCERPT: 

“Jane Hawkins came from St. Ives, Cornwall, to America with other Puritan Christians in 1635. She settled in Boston with her husband, Richard Hawkins, where she served as a midwife. She was an older woman at this time, a Christian, but not a member of a Puritan church (McGregor 1996, 186). She shared the practice of midwifery with Anne Hutchinson, another colonial midwife who served the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was under the leadership of Governor John Winthrop. During a period of great religious upheaval in the community, she attended a complicated birth, which led to suspicions of her involvement with witchcraft, though she was not formally charged (Hall 1991, 19). She was subsequently forbidden to practice midwifery and banished from her home. As a result, she moved to Rhode Island with her family. The extraordinary circumstances that affected the life of the midwife Jane Hawkins deserve close attention … “

New Essays in Midwifery Today

MT126(Summer2018)-CVR

My essays, “Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors in Childbirth” and “Mary Hobry: A Midwife and a Murder Mystery in 17th C. London,” now appear in Midwifery Today 126 (Summer 2018), 24-24-25 and 48-50.

EXCERPT #1: 

“Not every woman can or will experience a birth that helps to facilitate the healing of past abuse. But as midwives, we can do our best to listen to women’s stories, respect their free will, and share the wisdom we have. Healing can come from the care we provide even when things do not go the way that women hoped. It takes a lot of love and patience in the process, and the work can be exhausting. But if the women are not giving up, then neither should we.”

EXCERPT #2:

“L’Estrange titled his short book, A Hellish Murder Committed by a French Midwife on the Body of her Husband, Jan. 27, 1688, for which she was arraigned at the Old Bailey, Feb. 22, 1687, and pleaded GUILTY, and the Day Following Received Sentence to be BURNT.It became the basis of other writings about Mary Hobry, including one poem by E. Settle and another by an anonymous poet. The latter poem versified all the details from the case in rhyming couplets; it was called “A Warning-Piece to All Married Men and Women, Being the Full Confession of Mary Hobry, the French Midwife, Who Murdered her Husband on the 17thof January, 1688 (as also the Cause Thereof).” The poem treats the tragedy as a moral parable, beginning with the lines:

All you that married men and women be
Give ear unto this woeful tragedy,
That now befell a Frenchman and his wife,
Who lived together in continual strife (lines 1-4).

The poem ends: “She now is burned, and begs of all mankind / And women too, Wisdom by her to find” (lines 164-65).”

 

“‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and Its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy” by Jane Beal

MidwiferyToday125My essay “‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy,” now appears in Midwifery Today 125 (Spring 2018): 26-28.

ABSTRACT: 

In this essay, I describe the practical and decorative use of the desco da parto or birth tray in Renaissance Italy. After the Black Death, birth trays were used from 1370 to the third quarter of the sixteenth century to serve the mother’s first postpartum meal: They commemorated the life of mother and baby kept safe in childbirth. The deschi featured both secular and sacred scenes, painted in tempera, with gilded borders. They could be round, twelve-sided or sixteen-sided. After serving their primary purpose, they could later be hung upon walls in family homes and passed from one generation to the next.

IMAGES OF DESCHI

UNI205s1

Triumph of Chastity

birth tray presented to Lucrezia di Giovanni Tornbuoni,
mother of Lorenzo de’Medici, “the Magnificent”

Other biblical, allegorical or mythological desci images:

 

 

“Judith Wilks: The Queen’s Trusty Midwife” by Jane Beal

MT123My biographical essay on Judith Wilks, royal midwife to Queen Mary of Modena, now appears in Midwifery Today 123 (Fall 2017), 48-51.

EXCERPT:

“When the Catholic Queen Mary of Modena, wife of King James II of England, gave birth on June 10, 1688 to a son, James Francis Edward, the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive to the throne, a vicious rumor sped throughout predominantly Protestant England: that Queen Mary’s own child was stillborn and that the boy presented to the public was a spurious changeling child who had been brought to the birthing room in a warming pan (Haile 190; cf. Corp 184, 190, 200).

This accusation outraged the Queen’s midwife, Judith Wilks, who had delivered the prince. She wrote a letter to her cousin, Mrs. Winifred Wilks, which was later published, that provides a historical document attesting to the legitimate birth and the midwife’s own strong feelings of loyalty to the queen, love for the newborn baby, and fury at the wide-spread slander (Wilks 1-2).

To better understand this letter, it is important first to understand the life of the queen whom Judith Wilks served as a midwife and the historical tensions between Catholics and Protestants that were so exacerbated in England in the seventeenth century.”

“‘The Sainted Ann Hutchinson’: Midwife of Grace (1591-1643)” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 5.03.09 PMMy biographical essay, “‘The Sainted Ann Hutchinson’: Midwife of Grace (1591-1643)” now appears in Midwifery Today 122 (Summer 2017): 29-31.

EXCERPT: 

” … After the banishment, the Hutchinson family moved to Rhode Island. While there, Anne Hutchinson gave birth for the fifteenth time not long after the trial—which suggests she had been pregnant during the trial itself (Schutte 85ff). Extant descriptions—one written by her doctor, John Clark—suggest that Hutchinson birthed a hydatidiform mole, which looked like a handful of transparent grapes (Battis). Some of Hutchinson’s detractors saw her pregnancy loss as proof of God’s punishment or of the midwife’s league with Lucifer (Schutte). This sort of thinking had already been evident during the controversy over the relationship between grace and works, when it had been discovered that the midwife, years before, had attended a Quaker woman, Mary Dyer, who had given birth to a deformed baby. At the recommendation of the minister, John Cotton, the family had buried the stillborn quietly, for no one wished the birth to be interpreted as a sign of God’s displeasure.

Nevertheless, the story of the birth became known during the controversy, and it was taken as a sign against Anne Hutchinson. To those for whom good works were directly connected with God’s blessing, and all kinds of human suffering was the result of God’s wrath, it was difficult to imagine that God’s grace might work through an accident in nature. But they had forgotten the lessons of Job.”

“Managing GBS” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 5.03.09 PMMy essay, “Managing GBS,” now appears in Midwifery Today 122 (Summer 2017): 50-52.

FROM THE INTRODUCTION:

“The goal of managing Group B streptococcus (GBS) is prevention of maternal chorioamnionitis and neonatal infection (such as respiratory disease, general sepsis or meningitis). Careful management helps to protect life and health. There are various ways to manage GBS, which we can consider and apply appropriately in midwifery practice.”

“Joana Torrellas and the Spanish Inquisition”

MT121-Mothering-Spring2017My essay, “Joana Torrellas and the Spanish Inquisition,” now appears in Midwifery Today 121 (Spring 2017), 42-43.

EXCERPT:

Joana Torrellas was not a witch. She was a Catholic midwife from Valencia, Spain, who lived during the fifteenth century. She married and had five children, three sons and two daughters. After being widowed, she moved to Teruel to live with her daughter, who was married to the town jailer, Joan Gil.

As part of her normal practice of midwifery, Joana recited prayers, such as the Prayer of St. Cyprian, which were contained in a small book that had been given to her by her mother-in-law (who was also a midwife). Joana usually placed nómina (literally, “the names”), a necklace with a pendant on it or in which were written the names of Christ, around the necks of laboring mothers, and she asked for the blessing of the Virgin Mary during the birth. When a woman was about to birth the placenta, she would place a book with a crucifix in it under the woman’s feet in order to help facilitate delivery.

This kind of “spiritual midwifery” was apparently welcome in Valencia, where Joana was from, for it occasioned no scandal. But in Teruel, where Joana was an outsider, her normal practice might have been unusual …”

 

“Martha Mears: Nature’s Midwife” by Jane Beal

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-12-43-30-amMy essay on Martha Mears — a nature-loving, bird-watching, poetry-quoting, 18th c. English midwife — now appears in Midwifery Today (Fall 2016).

Excerpt:

“Mears places a high value on cultivating the emotional well-being of women during pregnancy. In her third essay, devoted entirely to this subject, she writes that the prayer of the wise is ‘the enjoyment of a sound mind in a sound body’ (26). She observes the connection between a woman’s emotional health and the first learning experiences of her unborn child. Drawing on the author Strabo, quoted in Chavalier Ramsay, she specifically adds the authority of the ancients to her argument:

‘In some of those valuable remains of eastern antiquities, which even the withering hand of time has delighted to spare, we are told that the Magi began, in some sort, the education of their children before their birth. While their wives were pregnant, they took care to keep them in tranquility and perpetual chearfulness, by sweet and innocent amusements, to the end, that, from the mother’s womb, the fruit might receive no impressions but what were pleasing, mild, and agreeable to order. The justness of the principle on which they proceeded is fully confirmed by the history of the whole human race, and certainly deserves the serious attention of parents …’ (26-27, italics in the original).

Mears goes on to attack the problem of ‘one of first and most prevailing passions in the breasts of pregnant women’ (27): fear. She observes that ‘the happiness of becoming mothers is sourly checked by preposterous ideas of danger. They take alarm at the change, at the novelty of their feelings, and the few instances they may have known of miscarriage, or of death, outweigh in the quivering scale of fancy the numbers not to be counted of persons in the like condition, who enjoy both then and afterwards a greater degree of health than they ever before experienced’ (27). Mears is all for rooting out fear by knowledge and hope, which she calls ‘the balm and life-blood of the soul’ (28), and with the help of a husband’s love. These are her answers to fear and melancholy.”