Edith here, thinking about childbirth through the ages.
In my Quaker Midwife Mysteries, Rose Carroll is an independent midwife helping pregnant women
Uncomplicated pregnancies and births really have not changed for many thousands of years. And as long as women have been experiencing the journey of their infant as it travels through their bodies and emerges, likewise have other women been helping them through that process.
Sisters, mothers, and friends might not have understood anything of the science of birth, but that didn't stop them from providing comfort. A damp cloth to the forehead. Strong arms to hold on to while squatting. A loving grandmother to take the new baby and wipe her eyes and mouth clean, wrap her, and hand her back to her new mother. Someone to explain breastfeeding.
A midwife merely makes it her profession to do so. She brings some way to monitor the baby's heartbeat. Something clean and sharp with which to cut the umbilical cord. Knowledge of what normal labor and birth look like and what to do when something goes awry. Often a collection of medicinal herbs. Most of all an encyclopedia of prior births in her head.
Birth these days in first world countries can be complicated by modern drugs, by ultrasound monitoring, by the hospital setting, by surgeons who want to schedule deliveries. Lives are certainly saved by modern medicine. No doubt about it. But the straightforward pregnancy and delivery of a healthy well-informed woman might not differ at all from one in 1888.
Those experiences gave me the confidence to write about a working midwife in this series. I was grateful for input on the birth scenes in the book from modern-day midwife and mystery fan Risa Rispoli - and gratified when she didn't find anything that needed changing!
Readers: Do you have experience with midwives in any setting?