Wednesday, June 10, 2009

a midwife's window

If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that my great grandmother was a midwife in the 30's and had a birth house in Ladner BC. I'm not sure what it is beyond the obvious that is compelling me to dig deeper into her life, but for whatever reason, I am consumed by her story.

So, this past weekend I went to Vancouver and my mum and I went to her home. It is still standing and is now a health food store. Through my mother's stories and my knowledge of midwifery at that time, we both began to put some of the pieces of my great grandmother's life together. There is so much to tell that I can't do it all in one post. So, as I unearth more and more of her life, I'm going to share her story, one post at a time. I have photos of her on my desk here that I will scan in so you can see what the face of a woman looks like in 1912 as she is about to immigrate to Canada with six children all on her own. I have photos of her pregnant standing outside of the log home that she helped to build in the Crows Nest Pass and more photos of her later in life as she stands outside her birth house smelling her roses that are still growing today.

But for now, this is a photo that I took of her home, of the window in the front room where women came on their own or under the advice their doctor to give birth in my great grandmother's house. There was no universal health care at that time and no tunnel to Vancouver. It was a long journey for women to get to the hospital, even if they could afford it. So my great grandmother, along with three other women in the community had birth houses where they would not only have their babies, but also stay on for the next 7-10 days in their early postpartum time. Breastfeeding was still the norm (although it began to change for privileged women later in the 1930's) and women like my great grandmother, after having 8 children of her own, would have been an expert in the subject.

Our stories as women are a part of history, a part of how we have shaped our world. Unfortunately those stories often get lost or forgotten and our children, our grandchildren never learn about how important we were to the fabric of the community of women and families. My great grandmother's stories are a part of who I am, they are a part of the lives of so many. And as I stood in her house, I knew that my work was just beginning as I looked through the window of a birth house.

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