TLC has found a sweet spot in reality TV in which their documentary-style shows reveal glimpses into lives and communities we would never otherwise experience. From Little People to Counting On to 90 Day Fiancé, it’s clear that the American public is (dare I say) obsessed with learning about lives that are different from our own. TLC’s Breaking Amish found a way to highlight the lives of the Amish communities. Because the Amish tend to stay away from publicity and media, this show is that much more alluring; it is a glimpse into a community that typically is not ever exposed to the rest of the world.
It’s clear from the ratings and the expansion to Breaking Amish: LA that the public cannot get enough of the Amish communities and all of their differences. But the Breaking series focuses on those that are breaking away from the norm so the true Amish experience isn’t necessarily documented.
It’s easy, then, to wonder what a true Amish life is like. Particularly, what is pregnancy and childbirth like for a woman living in a community without electricity or modern medical interventions? Is it scary? Or do the simplistic roots make pregnancy an easier ride? After researching various midwives, it’s clear that pregnancy seems almost easier (at the very least, less stressful) for the women in the Amish community. Amish and pregnant? Here are 15 things they do differently.
15 No Ultrasounds
Although ultrasounds are technically a medical test, they are probably the most anticipated medical test. After all, what mom-to-be can resist a sneak peek at her little jelly bean? And I say jelly bean, because have you seen a first trimester ultrasound? Baby is a jelly bean.
Even more exciting is the anatomy scan aka the “is it a boy or girl” ultrasound. Once mom gets confirmation at the anatomy scan, it’s the green light for planning the gender reveal. Of course, don’t forget that the 20 week scan is also incredibly helpful at identifying any potential issues that may need to be addressed at birth.
But there’s one group of people who don’t get to bask in the excitement of watching that little heart beat flutter on a black and white screen: the Amish. Because traditional Amish people do not use medical interventions, an expectant Amish mother will take a pass on all ultrasounds. As a result, every single Amish mama is Team Green.
14 They Go Quick
Each time I have been pregnant, I knew exactly how many days I had left until my due date. Like many women, I use that as a method to help cope with overwhelming excitement. Waiting to meet your bundle of joy seems to take forever, but it’s at least a little better with a countdown, right? Well, the downside is that once you pass your due date, the days drag on even worse.
If you were Amish, however, you would not worship your due date. An Amish mother knows that due dates are not set in stone; she views it more like a window of time rather than one specific time and date. Because of this, Amish babies are not induced to meet a specific date, and the babies come when they are ready. When babies are ready, they tend to come more quickly. A midwife who works with the Amish community revealed that most Amish mothers “go quick” because of this mindset. They keep busy until the baby is literally coming. This might be a more peaceful mindset to have, but it sure does require a lot of patience.
13 Pregnancy Pros
In 1976, most American families had an average of four children; today, the average has dropped to 2.4 kids per family. What does that mean? It means that there are a lot of pregnant mamas who either are never pregnant again or give it only one more go around.
In the Amish communities, however, it is not uncommon for a woman to have upwards of ten children during her fertile years. That’s a far cry from the 2.4 average of “English” moms (the Amish refer to non-Amish Americans as English). This stat means that most pregnant mamas are pros who have been there, done that.
If you’re wondering why the vast difference in pregnancy numbers for Amish women, the answer is three-fold. Amish don’t use medical interventions, remember? And birth control would fall under that category. They also don’t believe in birth control for religious reasons. And third, farm chores are a lot of work and many hands make light work.
12 No Hassling With Insurance
Who hasn’t heard the phrase “babies are expensive?" Sure, diapers, clothes, strollers (especially those $600+ designer strollers!!), and other baby gear can take a toll on your bank account. But often times, the biggest expense is actually having the baby. How can something so natural cost fortunes? Depending on your insurance, the cost of having a baby ranges from state to state. A California study highlighted that a routine vaginal birth in California can range from $3,296 to $37,227. Seriously? And that’s with insurance.
Which brings me to my next point: the Amish community does not have insurance – at least not like you and I have. Essentially, the Amish insure themselves. If they can’t pay a hospital bill, the Amish church pays it on their behalf. When it comes to pregnancy, Amish mothers see a midwife, and those costs are all pre-planned: no surprise bills. If a true emergency arises and the mother goes to the hospital, the Amish community gathers around and their tithing system acts as insurance. In a way, I like this idea: neighbor looking out for neighbor.
11 Pregnancy Isn’t The Time To Put Your Feet Up
Near the end of pregnancy, it becomes more and more tempting to abandon all household chores and just lounge on the couch. The expectant Amish mothers, however, do not indulge any third trimester laziness. I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to work on a farm, but I do know that it is hard labor, and expectant Amish mothers are not excused from their duties.
During their pregnancies, Amish mothers continue their regular chores and tasks. An Amish midwife mentioned that many Amish mothers continue their chores even if they are in labor. They continue their chores until they physically can no longer work. I can definitely appreciate the fact that if no one milks the cow, the family won’t have any milk (or butter or cheese) but this is hardcore. I’m not sure if I could mend clothes, sweep the floor, and churn butter while laboring, but it does seem like a good way to distract yourself from the pains.
10 Thanks But No Thanks
Remember how earlier I mentioned that an Amish mama-to-be doesn’t even acknowledge her pregnancy to anyone but her husband and midwife? Well, that lack of announcement/acknowledging also means that Amish communities do not host baby showers. While babies are definitely considered one of the highest blessings a couple can have, they do not focus on the material aspect of bringing a baby into the world. Hosting a baby shower is taboo because, in their eyes, it is drawing too much attention on oneself and asking for presents. They also nix babymoons and push presents.
What can baby expect? Almost every new babe is greeted with a brand new, handmade quilt sewn just for baby. How sweet is that?
9 Need A Little Help From My Friends
While a pregnant Amish mother does not use her pregnancy as an excuse to slack on chores, that mindset changes immediately after birth. After birth, mama is expected to recover, bond with baby, and nurse. But how does all that farm work get done? Many new Amish mothers have a “hired girl” come help for about a month after the new baby is born.
The “hired girl,” who is usually a young woman not yet married, can expect to earn about $15 per week (yikes!) while she performs the mother’s chores including canning, mending clothes, laundry, cooking, and watching any other children in the family. What I love about this is that there is no expectation for mama to bounce back immediately and do everything for everyone in her family. Although, that sure is a lot of work for $15!
8 No Place Like Home
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Elle Lindquist[/caption]
Going along with the notion of rejecting medical intervention, it should be a no-brainer that pregnant Amish women do not labor at the hospital. All Amish births (unless an emergency occurs) are home births. Home births were commonplace until about the 1920’s when more and more women were starting to go to hospitals, but the Amish have never budged from their home birth position.
A midwife blogger who works exclusively with Amish communities detailed what it is like to attend a home birth on an Amish farm. Because Amish homes do not have telephones or electricity, this midwife explained that water must be boiled on the wooden stove top and extra lanterns must be provided in the case of a night birth. Although modern home births are making a comeback (with the inflatable birth pool), Amish mothers give birth on their beds in a white nightgown. No nudie birth photography here!
7 No Happy Announcements
Announcing a pregnancy has sort of become an art. Between the cute photos of the youngest child wearing a “Promoted to Big Brother” shirt or the Pinterest-worthy images of daddy, mommy and baby shoes lined up in a sunset-lit sky, there’s no shortage of ideas when you’re announcing your bun in the oven.
An expectant Amish mother, on the other hand, won’t be participating in the Big Brother shirts or the baby shoes lined up in a field: most Amish couples don’t announce the pregnancy to anyone but the midwife. And by “announce," I also mean “acknowledge.” An anonymous woman (who was not Amish) shared this about her pregnant Amish friend, “I would go over there and she was clearly about to give birth any day, but she never even hinted at her pregnancy. Many times, I don’t even know my friends are pregnant until I see them with a brand new baby a few weeks later.”
6 All Aboard The Holistic Train
One of the biggest battles in the Mommy Wars is the great vaccine debate. More and more holistic families are opting out of routine vaccinations. Many of those families also decline the vitamin K injection, eye ointment, and circumcision.
The Amish community is firmly rooted on the “not ever gonna happen” side of this debate. During pregnancy, Amish moms-to-be do not receive any vaccines including the flu vaccine or the whooping cough vaccine. Like their holistically-minded friends, the Amish also decline all vaccines and interventions after birth. But don’t be so quick to judge: despite their lack of vaxxing, the Amish statistically are healthier than mainstream America with hardly any cases of cancer or autism. Even their pregnancies are much less complicated and women birth children (generally without complications) well into their 40’s. No matter which side of the vaccines debate you are on, this should at least make you think.
5 Quiet On The Set!
When I arrived at the hospital about to give birth to my first, I remember settling into the bed, wondering how things were going to progress. I was nervous but so far, so good. Until I heard a woman moaning in agony walking through the hall. That sound was enough to make me pack up, head home, and keep my baby inside forever. Of course, I couldn’t do that, but I sure wanted to.
Flash forward to my second birth, and I was the crazy lady yelling in the hospital. Yelling, screaming, moaning, crying your eyes out, or making some sort of noise is totally normal. Unless you’re Amish. The Amish mamas labor and birth in silence. I know some mamas can find an inner zen and believe the silence to be sacred but that must take will power of steel. More power to ya!
4 An Audience Of Two
It’s not unusual for the average American birth to be a spectacle. Between a few nurses, the doctor, and assistants prepping a tray of tools for the doctor, a delivery room can get crowded fast. Add to that mix the mothers of the parents-to-be, friends, sisters and it’s a miracle anyone can find a place to stand.
Pregnant Amish mamas do not have to worry about birthing in front a live studio audience: their births are usually only witnessed by the husband, the midwife, and sometimes a “birthing mother.” A birthing mother is an experienced mother from the Amish community who acts like a doula to help coach a first time mother. Not every expectant mother relies on a birthing mother, but they are particularly helpful for a woman’s first labor. I think this limited audience helps to contribute to the peacefulness and intimacy of the Amish birth experience.
3 Pass The Juice
Between the yellow-hued skin and yellow eyes, jaundice in a newborn can look a bit startling at first. Despite that, jaundice in newborns is very common, especially in breastfed babies. About 3 out of every 5 babies experience some degree of jaundice. For mild cases, doctors just recommend lots of nursing and, weather permitting, a bit of sunlight. More serious cases can benefit from a little light therapy.
Amish mothers have their methods of handling newborn jaundice, and it does not involve medical lights. According to a woman who works with Amish communities, many Amish moms rely on watermelon seed tea to help babies fight jaundice until the mother’s milk comes in. Apparently, watermelon seed tea is commonly used for kidney and liver detoxes so I see the logic here. (But safety first: don’t feed your newborn tea without talking to a professional first.)
2 Less Interventions, Less C-Sections
C-sections save lives. I repeat, this is a life-saving surgery, but (here comes the but) they are wildly overdone in America. While the World Health Organization estimates that a rate of 10% would adequately address the emergent cases, the current American average of 32.7% is out of control. Some doctors are quick to jump to C-sections to fit a schedule (which is obviously not right) or to avoid trying a VBAC.
The pregnant Amish community knows that C-sections are reserved for only the truest of true emergencies. In fact, the C-section rate for the Amish community is about 2%! I feel confident saying that a large reason that percentage is so low is tied to the lack of due dates. If an American woman passes her due date, doctors are quick to induce; but inductions lead to interventions and that increases the risk of C-sections. If inductions are removed from the equation (in the case of the Amish), then inductions and thus intervention-related C-sections also decline.
1 It’s All In The Wording
Knocked up. Bun in the oven. In the Family Way. Pea in the Pod. Preggers. Preggo. There are many ways to refer to pregnancy, and some phrases are much nicer than others. The actual meaning behind each phrase is the same, but the connotation varies from phrase to phrase. For instance, knocked up usually refers to instances in which the mother did not plan on becoming pregnant.
And the Amish community has a strict adherence to saying things in only the most respectful manner. We already went over that an Amish mother does not reveal her pregnancy nor discuss to anyone but her husband and midwife, but if she does mention it to either of them, she never says “I’m pregnant.” In fact, the Amish community in general does not talk about pregnancy; the act of carrying a child in the womb is always referred to as so-in-so being “with child.”
Source: Pewsocialtrends.org, ucsf.edu/news, marchofdimes.org, mindfulmamma.co.uk