AMISH WOMEN AND CHILDBIRTH
reference: Dr. Frau, A Woman Doctor Among the Amish
Grace H. Kaiser
(and personal observations)
The Amish do not discuss sex, pregnancy or birthing with their children, even when the baby is born at home.
From Dr.Frau, a Woman Doctor Among the Amish, by Grace H. Kaiser
Excerpts from chapter 5, Naomi's birthing.
Quotes from the book are in " ". All else is my view from the reading.
So when Dr. Frau was pregnant and still treating her women patients, the fact of her pregnancy had to be kept a secret because the men would not approve.
"The July heat was intensified by Naomi's black long-sleeved dress, black cape, and apron." (Some Amish wear under dresses of other colors such as purple, deep blue, brown, dark rose.)
Air conditioning is not used by the Amish except in rare cases and only for medical reasons.
"Amish women do not sew special maternity dresses." p49
They make their dresses and aprons generous enough to keep letting the waistline's straight pins out as they expand. You see, in this male dominated society, the women actually must use straight pins to attach their clothing. They are very clever at it and the pins can't be seen but it makes getting dressed at 4 or 4:30 in the morning with only a gas lamp for light a bit difficult.
NURSING A BABY
It is common practice to nurse a baby unless a woman can't because of illness, or no milk. "When an Amish mother nurses her baby she removes the straight pins from her dress, sticks them into her cape where they will not scratch the baby, and separates the dress beneath her cape, exposing her breast to the baby. It is a maneuver so discreet that few people in a busy room notice the feeding." p50
The Amish do not have phones in their homes. Some may have a shared phone in a booth outside their home used for business. Generally in an emergency an Amish man will use a neighbor's phone if the doctor should be called. Amish babies can be born at home or in a hospital. It is up to the mother with her husband's permission.
"It is common policy for a mother, aunt, or any older married women act as "granny" during a delivery." p54
The older women gather linens, dress the baby and stay after the birth until a self-trained, unmarried Amish nurse arrives to help. These nurses earn their living traveling from one new mother to another acting as both a nurse and a surrogate parent to the other children in the household.
The woman delivers in her own bed. Today she might have Lamaze or other breathing exercises to ease her during the delivery, but at home there is no pain medication. Most, especially if this isn't their first baby, do not need sutures. If they do, the doctor might administer some pain medication.
Due to the fact there is a shrinking gene pool for the Amish, the incidences of mental retardation and Down's sydrone is higher than in other non Amish communities. Some families have more than one retarded child, but even these children are kept at home and taught to be useful.
p55 The genetics department of Johns Hopkins University has found the Amish, with their closed society and accurate family records, to make excellent genetic studies. The Universityhas helped the Amish community by establishing a system of reporting and recording congenital problems."
LANCASTER, TOURIST HAVEN
Why do so many tourists flock to Lancaster County to look at the Amish? That's what the hard working Amish would like to know. They are called the Plain People and wonder at the interest in them.
p99 "Enterprising business people had made Lancaster County one of the top tourist attractions in the nation. The Amish folk with their unusual dress, horse-drawn wagons, and neat farms were the core of their ventures."
"Glossy buses slid over narrow country roads. Their passengers clicked cameras at trim-rowed cemeteries, covered bridges, and gray carriages of Amish who hid their faces."
"The Amish are well aware of outsiders' interest in their homes and culture. Some kitchens are modern and convenient. " Some are old fashioned. Calendars are used to decorate walls with scenic pictures. Pictures of people are not allowed, nor are photographs.
The Amish have been using gas refrigerators for years.
For lighting they use coleman lanterns, kerosene and special gas powered lamps.
Heating is space heaters.
The windows are covered in green window shades, usually with no curtains.
The Amish may ride in a car, bus, or train. They may not own a car. They use horse drawn carriages which are built for transportation, not comfort. An Amish person who travels by air plane can be shunned or excommunicated.
"Crop rotation is an important factor in Lancaster County's agricultural success.They rotate alfalfa, wheat, or potatoes. " Many also grow corn but mainly to feed their cows. Tobacco is the cash crop. The two main agricultural businesses of the Amish in Lancaster are dairy farming, and tobacco growing. There is no need for irrigation in Lancaster due to the soil consistency which holds a layer of water under the earth.
AMISH FAMILY NAMES
There are thousands of Amish in Lancaster County. However, there are only about 16 family names and a limited number of given names which are repeated over and oveer. Almost every family has a John, Sam, Mary or Susie. to sort out names they refer to THE FISHER BOOK of genealogy.
AMISH AND MENNONITES
Afterward in the book.
"The Mennonites and Amish are much like an extended family. With many branches, each with its own particularities, the groups are still more alike than different.
The Amish and Mennonites have common faith rooting. Their beginning can be tranced to the Protestant Reformation in the 16the century Europe. In 1525, a group of believers parted company with the established state church for a variety of reasons. Among them was the conviction that one must voluntarily become a follower of Christ, and that deliberate decision will be reflected in all of one's life. Therefore, baptism must symbolize that choice. the movement was nicknamed "Anabaptism," meaning re-baptism, since the believers wanted to be baptized against as adults.
Eventually these people were called Mennonites after Menno Simons, one of their leaders who had formerly been a Roman Catholic priest. Over the years they grew into a strong faith community, concerned with the nurture and discipline of each other.
Basic to their beliefs was a conviction that if one was a faithful follower of Christ's, one's behavior would clearly distinquish one from the larger world. These people saw themselves as "separated unto God" because of their values of love, forgiveness, and peace. Because they were mis-understood and because they appeared to be a threat to the established church and government, the people were often persecuted and many became refugees."
In 1693, a charismatic young Mennonite leader, Jacob Amman, believed that the church was losing some of its purity and that is was beginning to compromise with the world. And so he and a group who agreed with him left the Mennonites and formed a separate fellowship. They were called Amish, after their leader. Today the Amish identify themselves as the most conservative group of Mennonites."
These two groups have split even more over the years. They have few doctrinal differences, but they differ in specific practices. The Amish are more separate from the world. "The Old Order Amish do not own or drive cars, they live without eletricity, have prescribed dress patterns, operate their own schools, and speak Pennsylvania Dutch among themselves, a language which further defines their group. They are also cautious about doing missions."
The total North American membership of all groups in this Anabaptist faith is over 400,000. About 62,000 are Old Order Amish and live in 21 states and one Canadian province. The second largest of these communities is in Lancaster Country in eastern Pennsylvania.
Amish page one: The first page of my Amish research
The Amish of Lancaster, PA: Personal and book research on the Amish of Lancaster, PA
More Amish of Lancaster: Continuation of my personal and book research on the Amish of Lancaster
Bea's Poetry: Poetry and gateway to other areas of interest
From Brooklyn with Love: Excerpts from my creative nonfiction book about growing up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
The Artist Way for writers: Essays on how The Artist Way helped me in my writing career, and can help you.
Thanksgiving is not an Amish holiday. It is a public holiday but not a religious day. For the Amish Thanksgiving is just another day.
Easter is a big holiday because of the religious message. So Amish will observe Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The sound of iron-rimmed wheels and the clop of horse hoofs can be heard as families travel near and far to be together for Easter. The bunny and Easter eggs are no where to be seen. Thos symbols take away from the true meaning of Easter which is the Risen Christ.
The Amish believe in foot washing. There will be a foot washing going on in any of the communities. Men will wash men's feet and women will wash women's feet in an act of humility, love, and for forgiveness of any transgression which might have transpired over the year.
The food served on Easter depends on the family, but often Ham is the main meal with a wide variety of side dishes. This could include homemade bread, dried corn, mashed potatoes, chow-chow, and other canned vegetables. The desserts will include the favorite shofly pie and probably apple. Apple because these can be stored and served year round. There might also be lemon cake and other sweets. The Amish are known for their of sweets.
Services for the Amish are very long. Men and women sit in separate areas. The women have the care of the children who are often kept quiet with healthy treats such as cheerios. By long, I mean two, three, even four hours. And then the meal would be served. Since there might be two hundred men, women and children at the church service, all hungry, other women in the community also help with the food preparation.
The elders eat first, served by the women and the young girls. This is a male dominated society.
WANT TO JOIN THE AMISH?
Many people have emailed me asking me how to join the Amish. They see the style of living with horse drawn carriages, modest clothing, and neat farms and think they want part of that life. But Amish living is not easy especially for women.
Women are not free in Amish society. They are controlled by their husbands, their fathers, their elders and the rules of the Ordnung which guide the community.
There are no TVs, no radios (even battery operated), no computers, no typewriters, no dish washers. Women are not supposed to waste money on magazines unless it has something important to teach them about housework or family. Even their books are censored. They are to read the Bible, in German. They are to help their children with their lessons. They can obtain books from the local library, but the library is a small, one room building with a limited supply of books.
Even newspapers are restricted. The Amish man has a newspaper I believe either the Standard or the Banner which he can read to find out about auctions, births and deaths.
The Amish man has a lot more freedom. He might work in town and run his farm with the help of his wife and children or relatives. He might read the newspaper or even listen to a non Amishman's radio, especially for the baseball scores. They LOVE baseball. However, Amish baseball is played for fun and not competition.
An Amish woman is tied to home and family. Yes, some go to the Farmer's Market where they sell their handcrafts, canned goods, or fresh produce, but this is only a few days a week and is to suppliment the family income. While at the Farmer's Market they must retain their customary dress and decorum. Their children will be with them.
Another reason NOT to join the Amish is that German is the main language. One must be fluent in it to participate in the church services and other special activities.
I think most people who think they want to join the AMISH are misguided. They really want what they think is a laid back lifestyle, not the religious trappings. But the religion is the basics of the Amish life.
So if you are tempted try to live like the Amish for a season. Get up at 5 in the morning to tend to your home and garden. Shut down your electricity. Grow or make your own food. Wear antiquated clothing and see how you feel when people stare at you or laugh at you. As an Amish person your world narrows to your community and your family. You won't be able to take a vacation.
I think if you love the Amish lifestyle, buy a farm somewhere and live the country life. Love God and your family, but join a more modern church which allows you more freedom in your everyday life.
Once an Amish person, you risk being shunned or excommunicated if you violate the tenents of the faith. And that is no little thing to worry about. You'd be living on a farm in Amish country and NO ONE from the community would talk to you, have dinner with you, work with you or worship with you.
Enjoy the Amish for what they are. God's children, but follow your own conscience when it comes to choosing a church and lifestyle.
This is a religious holiday and is not celebrated with all the pomp
as most of us. There would be a long church service often with a foot
followed by a big dinner with the community.
Some of the groups allow a tree to be
brought in and simple handmade decorations.
No lights though! Remember no electricity.
Most do not have a tree. They may have a wreath and a few
decorations, and simple
gifts. Christmas is a time for the
families to get together. There may be singing
in the evening, but not the familiar Christmas carols we know, except
for a few religious