As humans we have always been infatuated with cultures that are different. We are interested in people that are distinctive; this can be evidenced by the wild success of shows on television from “Sister Wives” (a reality show that follows polygamists) to “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” (a reality show that delves into the lives of American Roma Gypsies).
One enclave that is has just started to get some airtime is the study of the Amish—who are really hard to get to know because as a people, they are very private. There is not a whole lot of information out there on the Amish and what we can find it pulled from brief interviews of a few. But we have put together enough material to knock the socks of our readers with the resilient nature of the Amish, especially on how they deliver their babies.
The Amish a proud and sturdy people and just like most of us, have certain traditions that they hold dear. When it comes to childbirth, readers may be astounded to find out how hardcore Amish women are. It should be noted that although these are true of most Amish women, like any group of people, there are degrees of categorization.
15 Women Give Birth Into Their 40's
Obviously women can be fertile until menopause, which means that if you are not using some form of birth control, you are going to keep getting knocked up well into your forties. This is true for Amish women as well, who can devote literally decades to giving birth to their children. (I have devoted five years to having my own kids, and not to sound like a selfish jerk, but I am so ready to be done. These women are incredible—I could not keep doing it. I am so tired already.)
Interesting fact: Amish women have a higher incidence of twin births than the normal population, without using fertility treatments. The chance of twins is increased as a woman grows older, which may contribute to this phenomenon among the Amish.
14 There's No Such Thing As An Epidural
The Amish, as a people, generally don’t use many modern things that we are accustomed to. They don’t use telephones, electricity, indoor plumbing, modern farm equipment, or computers. So it makes sense that something like pain medication might not be something that they use on the daily. As previously stated, one cannot say that ALL AMISH WOMEN do anything, but as a population it is the norm to birth naturally at home.
But my God. I had a child au natural and it felt like there was a train barreling through my body, that was trying to make its escape out of may hoo-ha. I have nothing but the ultimate respect for women who can bear that sort of pain, over and over again. I still have nightmares of that “ring of fire”.
13 The Amish Birth In Silence
There is a stereotype to Amish women; that they are quiet and stoic. This trait of withholding emotions and keeping sentiments inside can extend to child birth.
Generally Amish women birth at home but it is important to note that like all people, Amish women do not all neatly fit into one box. Having said that, it is common for women to have home births, with their husbands and a midwife as the only people in attendance. But there are Amish women who chose to give birth in birthing centers, and others at hospitals. Like any mother, their biggest concern is the safety of their child so the high risk pregnancies do tend to deliver at mainstream birthing places like the hospital.
12 Special Clothes Are A Must During Labor
It may come as no surprise to you that because of their modesty, Amish women do not generally strip off all of their clothes and give birth in the nude. In fact, they actually have special dresses that are made for the occasion.
The dress is supposed to cover most of their body, while still leaving access to their lady parts for the baby to come out. The clothing usually has an opening for the mother’s belly, as well, so that the baby may be placed upon her stomach right after birth.
(On an interesting note: we tend to have openings up high in our hospital gowns for skin-to-skin, but also because we nurse right after delivery. This is not necessary for the Amish since they do not nurse right away.)
11 Due Dates? What Are Due Dates?
The Amish people have caught on to the fact that every baby comes at a different time, so the idea of having a due date is sort of ridiculous. (I know, people really love putting things on their calendar but the baby almost never comes when it is supposed to, so save your ink.)
Instead of having due dates, most Amish women let their babies choose their birthdays. Scheduled c-sections are rare, and their labors are usually fast because the baby has fully cooked and it is ready to make its entrance.
I like this natural way to look at childbirth, which assumes that the women’s body and the baby will let us know when it is time for birth. The Amish are not tied to a random date that someone has given them.
10 Inductions Rarely Happen
Amish women are rarely induced into labor. As previously discussed, the Amish do not hold themselves to the rigidity of a due date, therefore they do not freak out if a baby is a day past their due date like we do. They believe that a baby will make its entrance, and cause its mother to go into labor, when it is ready.
Therefore, there are very few instances of Amish women being induced. The only times that is occurs is when there is a pressing, medical need to do that puts the baby or the mother’s life at risk.
I like the idea of not worrying about the due date of the baby; it always felt to me like a test that I failed. My babies never came out on time—they were all late.
9 Breastfeeding Is Put On Hold
The Amish believe that their babies should not have breastmilk straight out of the womb. Unlike in modern communities, where we are taught to nurse our babes as soon as we deliver them, Amish women believe that the breastmilk should be withheld for hours after birth, sometimes extending until the next day. This is common practice among the women, and no one is taught otherwise.
There is very little information as to the “why” of this; is it a spiritual belief? Do they have a theory that supports this decision? Is it supposed to be good for the baby? Is it intended to let the mother recover? For the life of me I cannot come up with a good argument as to why this would be helpful to a new baby…
8 They Keep Their Pregnancies A Secret
One quality that the Amish take very seriously is modesty. To be modest, one does not brag about their good fortune and luck, so you can see how this can translate into being pregnant.
In my world, people announce their births with a flurry; they send out notices, social media posts, group texts, and cards with their due dates. We throw expecting mothers parties, where all gather together and touch her belly and give her presents.
But maybe there is something to this. While celebrating your own joy at being with child, it can do a lot of damage to other women out there who have recently had a miscarriage or are having trouble conceiving. Maybe reigning back in our pregnancy glory would not be the worst thing for us all.
7 Kids Are Not Exposed To Birth
The Amish beliefs, in general, tend to call back to those of yester-year; back in the days where parents did not discuss the birds and the bees with their children. Some people who are not Amish, still today, believe that talking about subjects like sex, child birth, birth control, etc. are inappropriate and uncivilized.
Pregnancy is not talked about in general, so it makes sense that older children would still know little about the goings on of childbirth. Some believe that this shields children from the dark truth of sexual pleasure and the goings on of adult business, but that seems super strange to me.
I watched as my baby sister was delivered, so I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea that kids have no idea where their siblings emerged from.
6 They Have No Health Insurance
The Amish communities have their own health care system. It is different within every Amish sect, but most fund their health care by auctions, deals with local hospitals, and aid from their church.
Jan Bergen who is a chief operating officer at Lancaster General Health says, "The way they come together to pay for health care is amazing. It's a tithing. Their sense of responsibility extends beyond themselves and to the community."
Historically, the Amish have exempted from Federal mandates, which is what allows them to bypass the Affordable Care Act’s stipulation that every American be insured. In the 1960’s, congress gave communities like the Amish the right to opt out of federal programs like Social Security and Medicaid.
As we have seen before, the Amish pride themselves on taking care of each other.
5 Birthing Women Have “Catchers”
The Amish communities are tight knit and generally keep to themselves. Depending on a given community, they may be more accepting of outsider’s help, like that of accepting a midwife into their midst when a woman is getting ready to deliver.
But some communities still believe that outsiders should not be allowed in, and in these populations the women who assist during births are deemed “catchers”. “Catchers” are sort of like midwives, but because the Amish are prohibited from getting educated past the 8th grade, these women know only what their family and friends have taught them. They have no medical school, do not usually carry any medications, and cannot treat many serious complications. They do, however, are very schooled on herbal medicines and have largely born witness to multiple births.
4 Birth Control Can Never Be Used
Children in the Amish community are seen as the ultimate blessing. Large families are encouraged and are valued within their society. Strict Amish tradition dictates that birth control never be used, and this can be seen by the numerous children that Amish women bear. Many families have children that exceed into the teens—16, 17, 18 children per family. (These women are so much stronger than me. My stomach muscle walls stripped apart and I still pee every time I jump. What are these women made of?)
There has been a slight drop in Amish family size, which is making some outsiders wonder if birth control has become a little bit more accepted within the community. It may be that some of the outsider trends have penetrated the Amish walls over the years.
3 No Fear Of Labor
It is common in our society to have a “fear” of labor; we are scared of losing our baby. We are scared of our baby coming out with 17 fingers or 45 toes. And most of us are really, really afraid of how much it is going to hurt.
As my mother once eloquently said, “It is the worst pain that you will ever feel.”
But the Amish have somehow cut out the fear part of the equation and instead the birth being something to dread, they embrace all parts of it. Pain brings a baby, sacrifice brings joy. I think that there is something really beautiful about not making the pain of labor of the highlight of the experience, but instead making it about the life that you are going to bring into the world.
2 They Stay Active
As we have discussed before, the idea of childbirth to the Amish is completely natural—it is something that happens to women but it is not a disruptor to the daily lives of anyone. Because of this, because they view pregnancy not as a medical condition but as a way to bear children, they are much less concerned with day-to-day activities while pregnant.
Most women that I know are encouraged to put their feet up, to rest, to relax while they are pregnant. We are ushered to eat a snack, and to not put any extra strain on our bodies. But in general, pregnant Amish women go about their daily activities, including chores, as they would on any given day. They keep going right up until the time that they give birth to their babies.
1 And Have Lots Of Support
Not only to Amish women have the guarantee of a husband for support (no divorce=husband forever), they also have a community at large who will step up and help them through the turmoil of new motherhood. Amish societies are close knit, and families tend to live within the same boundaries. While this might sound like a potential nightmare for some of us, this also means that a woman has a mother, mother-in-law, sisters, cousins, etc. that can all help her out after the birth of her child.
It is also common place that a new mother will hire a young Amish girl to come help her out doing household chores such as cleaning, cooking, watching other children, and laundry.
This part of the Amish lifestyle sounds really advantageous to me.
Sources: Amish America, HealthBeat, Amish Wisdom, NBC News, Mindful Mama