Monthly Archives: November 2008

Pilgrim Family Life

mayflowerWhen the Mayflower left England, three pregnant women were aboard. Two of these mothers were seven months pregnant, one of them just three months along. They bravely faced the unknown and left England’s safe haven behind for the New World. One mom gave birth aboard the Mayflower while en route. The second mother gave birth once the ship arrived and had docked in New England. The third mother gave birth a few months later but unfortuately lost her life during childbirth. Her infant son was also lost. Only one child/mother pair survived. The child born while en route was lost during the first harsh New England Winter.

Life was very difficult indeed. Strict rules abounded regarding family life and there were little if any resources available to mothers for support and carrying out household duties. More often than not during the first tumultuous years one did not know from day to day if they would have enough food to even survive to the following sunrise. Leaning on faith and God were about all they had. The Pilgrims learned from the local Indians and relied heavily upon the land to provide them with resources. They ate ground nuts, killed local fowl, fished, and began to learn to plant crops with the Indian’s help.

Mothers were expected to be meek and demure, quiet and obedient, faithful and pfamilyprayerure, to love their husbands as they loved Christ and their husbands were to be the Head of Household, to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and function as the religious and moral compass of the household. Children were strictly raised – even playing was seen as a sinful waste of time by the Puritans and children were even forbidden from playing on the Sabbath, perhaps an explanation of why children attended church sermons with their parents that often lasted six hours or more. Prayers were held twice daily, and the Bible was often the first book to which children were exposed. In fact, religion played such a large role in early American life that 80 percent of 17th century New Englanders had an Old or New Testament name. The name was often given at the baptism, something the Father of the family was responsible attending to when the child was two weeks old as “the mother at that time by reason of her travaile and delivery is weake and not in case to have her head troubled with much cares.” Nice to see they realized that mom needed a break even if it was from something as simple as baptizing her child.

Childbirth in early America was a difficult task as many children and mothers were lost during this time. Even in the healthiest of communities, 10 percent of children did not make it through their first year and three out of nine died before their 21st birthday. Yet families were large and a new child typically made an appearance every two to three years. Cotton Mather, a well known early preacher, saw eight out of his fifteen children pass away before the age of two. This loss came to be expected but still wrought the parents with grief. Puritan belief led that children were born into sin and were not innocent as is now believed therefore the loss of a child would seem to be that much harder – not being able to believe your child has gone to be with the Lord.

Wetnursinthewetnurseg was popular but did not fade immediately. Weaning was also done quite differently than it is today – maternal illness, pregnancy, acquisition of teeth (which as you nursing mamas know can be VERY painful!), or conflicting constraints on a mother’s time were all legitmate reasons to wean. Reasons sound familiar – method was very different. Weaning was not done slowly as it is today. It was done quickly. Either the child or the mother would visit a relative’s home until the weaning process was over. Once the child had given up nursing altogether, the family used the child’s name rather than the lovely endearing term of “it.”

The long robes and petticoats children were dressed in served to encourage children to walk rather than crawl like animals. Sometimes even wooden dowels were strapped to children’s backs to aid in achievement of proper posture. Neck Stays were even used to keep infant’s heads upright. (OUCH!)

Pilgrim families had it rough and there is no denying that when you have mounds and mounds of text telling you so. But they survived. They survived harsh winters not knowing how they were going to feed their families. They survived the loss of their children, their homeland, their loved ones, their traditions. But out of this struggle a bright light shone through and enabled them to grip to hope and form new traditions, new lives, new family structures. They adapted and developed new ways of handling whatever difficulties traveled their way. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here today. If you take nothing else away from this article, take away this. Life isn’t about what happens to you. It’s about how YOU happen to life. The next time something difficult happens? Take the Pilgrim way out – dig in, grit your teeth, put your head down, and plow right through it. Tomorrow is a new day and if they did it, SO CAN YOU!


Huck’s Raft by Steven Mintz

Domestical Duties by Willam Gouge, 1622

Wood’s New England Prospect by William Wood

Mayflower Families in Plymouth

A General History of New England by William Hubbard

Meet me at 10am EST for chat!

I’m the Guest Chatter over at Pampered Pregger and Beyond today at 10am EST. Come join us!

Here’s the low-down:

Event Info
Pampered Pregger and Beyond
Time and Place
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
10:00am – 11:00am
Contact Info

Baby’s here and yet I’m not doing cartwheels – instead I feel worthless, sad, weepy, and irritable and there’s no sign of these feelings going away! Learn how to recognize symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders and what to do when it’s more than the blues! We’ll go over how to prepare yourself, your family, and how to talk with your doctor if things aren’t getting better if your symptoms have gone on for more than a couple of weeks. Remember, you are not alone, you are not to blame, and you will be well!

Guest Chatter: Lauren Hale, founder of PACE & PSI Coordinator for Georgia

Sharing the Journey with Tiffani Lawton

Just last week a friend of mine invited me to be part of an absolutely amazing community, Pampered Pregger and Beyond. Tiffani Lawton, formerly of Buoy for Perinatal Blues, is the amazing woman behind this site which combines a little bit of everything you would ever need to know about well, Pregnancy and Beyond. In fact, I’m scheduled to do a guest chat on Postpartum Mood Disorders there next week! I just had to share this with you and send some major kudos out to Tiffani who works very hard at motherhood and supporting other women. Thank you, Tiffani, from the bottom of my heart. Your work is amazing!

Tell us a little bit about yourself – who IS Tiffani Lawton?

Personally, I am a mother to four boys, 17, 14, 3 and 2 and a wife to a very supportive husband, my best friend. Professionally, I am an 11 year veteran registered nurse with a background as a mental health nurse and recent practice as an antepartum & postpartum doula, lactation educator and placenta encapsulation specialist. I am the owner of Pampered Pregger & Beyond.

Share a bit of your professional experience as related to pregnancy and postpartum. What have you learned on your journey that defines your approach to women during these times in their lives?
No two women are exactly alike. Their needs are so highly individual. My approach to women during their pregnancy and postpartum period is ALL about them. How are they feeling? What are their needs? I have my Mary Poppins bag of resources available to meet their needs and support their feelings. I don’t use a cookie cutter approach.

You ran a blog, Buoy for Perinatal Blues. What led you to start the blog?

The lack of postpartum support in my area, southern NJ, which I soon realized extended far beyond my own borders. I wanted to help increase awareness about Perinatal mood disorders and offer a place for women and families to find educational support.

As a mom, you know that we stay very busy. What do you do to take care of yourself when you have the time to relax?

Read and write. I wish that I could say something very romantic, but I love to curl up in my bed, pull the covers up and read. I also love to write, so I really enjoy working on one of my blogs or books that are in the works.

What do you find the most challenging in motherhood?

For me, the challenge is juggling two entirely different worlds, teens and tots. They both have such very unique needs. The least? My love for them and the pride I feel in their littlest of accomplishments, the ones that define who they are.

Name at least three things that made you smile today.

1) my three year old trying to mimic his 14 year old brother’s past theatrical performance on video.

2) hearing the tots little angelic voices in the background while on the phone with my husband who was home with the tots and getting dinner started!

3) watching my 14 year old play Cruella Deville on the piano while my 2 year old sat next to him, pretending he was playing too.

You are a certified antepartum and postpartum doula. Would you share a bit about what a doula is and how a doula can help a woman and her family during pregnancy and the postpartum period?

An antepartum doula generally assists pregnant women who are classified as high risk, who may or may not be on bedrest, or with medical conditions necessitating the need for help. This assistance includes education and physical support such as bed rest assistance, sibling care, errands, meal preparation, home care, and emotional support.

A postpartum doula assists the new mother, baby, and the family within the first few weeks after the birth of the baby. I like to keep the offer of support open through their first 12 weeks and beyond if needed. Postpartum doulas are knowledgeable about newborn care and breastfeeding. The postpartum doula may offer the following: breastfeeding tips, baby care and advice, household help, sibling care, meal preparation and run errands.

Cesarean Support and Awareness is also very important to you. Would you share some of your experience with cesarean birth as well as any resources for moms and families to turn to for information and support?

I personally have had 4 cesareans because I had pre-eclampsia with all four pregnancies. I did labor for 52 hours with my first, which stalled and resulted in an emergency. I was not permitted to VBAC with my second and I was emotionally devastated. The third cesarean was at 37 weeks because my kidneys could not bear the load and the 4th was scheduled due to complications. The fourth nearly killed me. The incision became infected and then took 8 months to completely heal after multiple rounds of heavy duty IV antibiotics on a daily basis. Because of the delayed healing and decreased mobility, I developed a pulmonary embolism which is a blood clot in the lung. I am lucky they caught it in time or my children would have all been left with out a mother.

Moms and families seeking support can look for a local ICAN Chapter in their area. ICAN, International Cesarean Awareness Network, is a great resource and I learned so much from them. I started a chapter in my area, but have since changed it to Cesarean Society within Pampered Pregger & Beyond. Cesarean Society offers an online educational and supportive resource for mothers on their journey through recovery. The support group features monthly chats with guest chatters, ongoing forum discussions, online book club, and coming in 2009 will feature telesupport groups and talk radio.

Overall, Awareness, Support, and Education for women during the pregnancy and postpartum period has improved drastically over the past few years. In your opinion, what obstacles do we still face and what can the average mom do to improve her own experience during the these times in her life?

I agree, awareness, support and education has greatly improved, all of which empower women to be their own advocates. Knowledge is power. However, obstacles do remain. Midwifery needs to come to the forefront again and be the first professional that prenatal women seek. All pregnant women should watch The Business of Being Born. An insightful article, A Birthing Option To Be Mirrored, further explains how obstacles can be removed.

The Mother’s Act needs to get passed into law which will further increase awareness and professional education for doctors and nurses. If the professionals respond at all, all too often the OB or the GP will give out an anti-depressant to a new mother complaining of depression and it may not be the appropriate medication for her. They are not experts in mental health. I would love to see a mental health nurse practitioner be connected to every OB, so that when a mother expresses her concerns, the OB can refer that mother to the right person. The right person will help the new mother explore a variety of therapeutic options, not just medicinal.

Last but not least, you have an opportunity to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) one piece of advice. What would you say?

Postpartum planning! A postpartum plan is so very important and the plan will change with each new baby as the circumstances have changed. Informative article entitled, Are you Prepared ? is a great resource.

Self-Care is the most important care of all!

I know I’ve been slacking on the blog. Not posting as much as usual.

This is because I have been practicing what I preach.

I have been taking care of myself and my family – all other projects have been put on the shelf and are only worked on as I can get to them.

We’re all still a smidge under the weather and to top things off, we’ve now joined the ranks of millions of Americans in the unemployment realm. We understand cut-backs needed to be made. We’re not angry. In fact, we see this as a door opening rather than closing. Both of us have a wonderful sense of peace surrounding the entire situation.

That being said, my family and myself will always come first. So if you’re a regular and I don’t post for a few days, send a prayer or two our way and know that I will be back when I get a chance – haven’t forgotten about you – merely walkin’ the walk!