Every culture has a unique spin on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and motherhood. Within each culture lives a diverse set of practices, beliefs, and customs held dear to the women of the group.
The Amish community, a private, religious collection of people scattered throughout the rural countrysides of America, approach parenthood in a way that drastically differs from the way mainstream America does. The events leading up to conception, the things that they do (and don't do) in the nine months of gestation and the way they bring their babies into the world belong to them and only them.
The Amish people are some of the most fiercely private people that you can come across. They live in tightly-knit communities, choosing to only associate, marry and have children within their community of people. When it comes to pregnancy, these women aren't throwing a gender reveal parties nor are the documenting their baby bumps every month for the entire internet to gawk at. They keep their ways and their pregnancies close to their hearts and as covert as possible.
Here are twenty things that pregnant Amish women do differently than the majority of expectant mamas. When it comes to pregnancy, there is no one right way to do things.
20 They Work until they drop
For many of us, pregnancy is a time to lie around and relax before our bodies have to endure the hard work of labor and delivery. Often you hear seasoned mothers tell newbies, "rest now because once the baby comes, you won't have time to lie down." For the Amish women, rest during pregnancy is a foreign concept. They continue their chores right up until they start their labors. For them, work is a way of life, and there is no reason to change up their values just because they are expecting.
19 They don't Discuss their delicate condition
Good luck finding an Amish woman who has come up with an innovative and adorable way to announce to the world that she is carrying a precious bun in the over. That indeed would be a rare event. Amish ladies keep their condition private and quiet. They don't discuss the fact that they are pregnant and aren't keen on publicly acknowledging it. The world around them learns that a baby is in fact in its way only be the telling sign that a bump is growing. Even after physical conformation, the pregnancy isn't discussed and verbally celebrated. There is no rubbing of bellies for these people.
18 They use a "hired girl" to act as a maid for mothers recovering from childbirth
While many mainstream folks question the ways of the Amish, one thing that this culture got right was the creation of the role of "hired girl." The title isn't all that flattering, but the role itself is so important to new mothers and to the community itself. A hired girl is often a young and unmarried woman who essentially becomes a nanny and maid to the family recovering from childbirth. She allows for the new mother to heal without the added stress of household and childcare duties. Show me one new mom out there who would not have minded a hired girl hanging around for a month or two post delivery.
17 They are Pros at raising babies before they even become mothers
Being maternal is engrained into an Amish women's entire makeup from a very young age. These girls don't go off to high school and college like many young ladies that we all know do. They are raised to become wives and mothers, and that training begins at a very early age. Girls help their moms with the housework, learning to cook, clean and sew long before they court and marry themselves. They assist their mothers with young babies who are born into their families, not only becoming siblings but caregivers to their brothers and sisters who arrive after them. Learning the art of Amish womanhood is something that starts from the very get-go.
16 They Only Ever Have Home Births
The Amish community isn't exactly against going to a hospital to deliver a baby, especially if the mother is having a complicated pregnancy or one that is riddled with strife. For the vast majority of Amish mommies-to-be, home births are the way to go. These women practice labor and delivery most purely and simplistically possible. There is no electricity to light the experience, and the women and midwives rely on boiling water and providing clean sheets and cloth to the mother and baby. Babies come into the world in the darkness and stillness that the mother creates. Some people find this to be serene, others see it as unnecessary and archaic.
15 Contraception is frowned upon
Once a couple is joined in matrimony, the baby making gets underway. Lots of couples in mainstream communities might put the family planning on hold for years as they work on building up other aspects of life, traveling the world and focusing on the marriage before babies. One way to ensure babies don't come before their time is to take a form of contraception. The Amish couples would NEVER be okay with this thwarting of nature. They are big believers in the whole 'go forth and multiply' principle of life. You won't catch them popping birth control pills or unwrapping plastic barriers before mommy and daddy time.
14 They Have Initial doctor appointments only, and then they stop going to the doctor
The Amish aren't anti-doctors per se, but they are more apt to visit a midwife throughout their pregnancy rather than hike it over to a doctor's office. Amish women might visit a doctor early on in their pregnancy journey to get the a-okay or the all-clear from a professional, or they might wait until much later in their pregnancy to see a doctor.
They probably aren't going to visit one every month or every other week like many of us mainstream mommies find ourselves doing, however. These women also make fewer doctors visits because of the high cost associated with constant monitoring and care. It's far cheaper to visit an elder or midwife in the community.
13 Babies are often named after their fathers (middle initials)
Amish children don't usually have middle names like many of our children do. The children in Amish communities are commonly gifted with a biblical name or possibly a family name as a first name and take the last name of their parents. As for the in-between, a straightforward initial is given to the baby, and that initial is almost always the first letter of the father's name. If a child is called John, son of Jacob, he is known in the community as John J. Rarely, many babies have the same first and last name, and in that case, the mother's middle initial might come into the mix. So John. J. might become John. J. A., if he is born to Jacob and Anna.
12 Birthing happens in a white nightgown
Another Amish tradition that the women having babies partake in is the labor and delivery position happening in an all-white gown. When the pregnancy is up, and it's bay time, mamas dress in a simple, cotton gown all of all white and get into their family bed. This is the scene that takes place in countless Amish homes when babies are brought into the world. For many of us, non-Amish, this tradition seems messy. White doesn't exactly go with the natural colors of birth, but for the Amish, it is a long-standing practice that they hold firm to.
11 they spend many years pregnant
We often think of the childbearing years as those few years in adulthood where we pop out two kids in the span of four years and then we quickly close up shop and enjoy our small families. Having a couple of kids, spaced out by a few years, is common practice in most parts of the states. In the Amish community, the childbearing years stretch our far longer. Women start their families young, and they often don't stop bearing children until nature says time is up. This means that they might have children for decades, producing offspring into their forties. They believe that they are done having babies with nature says so.
10 Big families are ordinary
I have four children, and people gasp when they discover that I have a "large" family. For many of us, anything over two kids is considered significant. For the Amish community, three or four kids is nothing. These people have BIG families. Many Amish couples start young and produce children late into life as well as bypass birth control. These combined practices are sure to contribute to large families. They also rely on their children for extra hands around the house and on the farm. In their world, the more, the better. After all, every Amish child is a gift from the heavens above.
9 They Pass on ultrasounds
For most of us pregnant ladies, the fetal ultrasound is a significant event. The ultrasound day is the time in pregnancy where mommies and daddies get a sneak peek at their little bundle of joy. They might catch small arms waving, tiny legs wiggling and even learn if they are delivering a bouncing baby boy or carrying a sweet infant girl. Doctors who are performing the ultrasound check the boxes off regarding the baby's health, making sure all of the pertinent parts are present and functioning. In general, Amish women don't do the whole ultrasound thing. Considering they are very anti-pictures, the "shunning of the sound" is no surprise.
8 They Skip the baby shower
In the Amish community, having a baby is a joyous occasion. The community as a whole rejoices in the impending arrival of a new little person. Amish couples with-child don't celebrate new life in the same way that most mainstream couples do. The parents-to-be won't be hosting a baby shower for their latest family member. The Amish culture is heavily based around hard-work and lack of vanity. Surrounding yourselves with frivolous gifts while lying around as people shower you with love and attention is pretty much as anti-Amish as one can get. A baby shower conflicts with the core Amish values.
7 They Forego insurance
Giving birth is hard work, and often its also expensive work. A typical delivery can cost a couple of thousands of dollars, and that's considered to be on the lower side of cost. If surgery or extended hospital stay is necessary, then the birth can set parents back far more. Because of the pricey business of babies, most couples in the U.S.A. rely on insurance. The Amish however, bypass insurance and rely on the community to help cover any medical costs that they accrue. If home births are not possible, and a mother must have her baby in the hospital, the community or the church will step up and cover all costs. The Amish are a group that genuinely provides for its people.
6 They go the holistic route
When it comes to pregnancy, delivery and the Amish, the more natural, the better, seems to be the main mantra. Holistic approaches to the motherhood journey are becoming more and more popularized in mainstream communities nowadays, but in the Amish sector, the natural practice has been the way since the very beginning of time. They aim for little intervention, timeless cures, and cocktails that have been passed down for generations and put the experience in the hands of seasoned mothers and their God. For these people, if it's not from the Earth, it's not the first line of defense.
5 Silence is golden
Ask any of those women out there who have undergone the birthing experience just how primal it felt and they will tell you straight up: no other experience in the world can compare to childbirth. There is yelling, crying, grunting, groaning, begging and maybe some praying taking place. The labor and delivery room isn't exactly known for its silence and serenity. In the Amish culture, however, silence is golden. Women who are in the throes of labor are expected to bear down and take the pain in complete silence. Most of us can not even fathom such a thing.
4 birth is an experience only for the couple
Some laboring ladies gather an entire entourage into their delivery rooms and have all of their closest family and friends by their side as they welcome their babies into the world. The Amish community would never take part in such a custom. Imagine Jacob and Anna calling up the couple at the neighboring farm to come and witness the birth of their baby?! In the Amish culture, the birth of a baby is something that is reserved for the mother, the father and possibly the midwife who is called to help with the delivery. Amish parents reserve the special day for only themselves and God.
3 they wait a full day before beginning breastfeeding
Amish mothers are believers in "breast is best." When it comes to feeding their newborns, the Amish will feed their babies from their bodies overfeeding them with formula from a bottle. Nursing is excellent nutrition for little ones and far cheaper than buying formula. While Amish mamas prefer mother's milk, these women do wait an entire day before they get to work nourishing their young. As for why the Amish mothers consciously decide not to nurse for a day, the reason is a bit of a mystery. All we know is that it is a standard part of their custom in regards to mothering newborns.
2 They give very special baby gifts
The Amish might not be huge party throwers and baby shower planners, but they still give specific baby gifts to the new infants that are born into their community. The traditional Amish quilt might be gifted to a new child. Quilting is a longstanding component of the Amish culture, and the complexity and intricacy of these quilts is nothing if not outstanding. These are not your average baby blankets from a local department store. A beautiful cedar chest is another common gift that infants might receive for their birth as are a small collection of hand-crafted wooden toys to play with later on in life. These gifts are ones they receive early on in life and are treasured and kept for all times.
1 No baby baptisms
In the Christian faith, baptisms are a common occurrence during the infancy stage of life. Parents arrange for their young to become a part of their religion's church very early on. In the Amish faith, the opposite is true. The induction into the teachings of the Amish faith is not one that is made by adults of children, but of the children themselves as they grow old enough to understand what it all means and how devoted they must be.
It's a very conscious choice for the Amish people and is a lifelong commitment that these people take extremely seriously. The average age for an Amish person to be baptized into the faith is around ages 18 to 22.
Sources: amishamerica.com, amishcultureandsexuality.weebly.com, midwifekathi.wordpress.com, amishquilter.com, jamardaresources.com