Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Midwifery in Eastern Kentucky

One of my foremothers was a midwife.

Elizabeth Emma Bailey Roe, who was married to John Jack Roe, was a midwife in eastern Kentucky during the mid to later 1800's.  Her signature appears on many of the birth records from that time period.

Perhaps she learned this trade from her own mother, for I have seen her name on some of the birth records, too.

I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be one of the chief persons that expectant mothers would turn to.  She experienced probably every joy and every pain imaginable as she aided the many women looking to her for guidance and assurance.  Her skills would have been valuable, her reputation known widely.

Having at least twelve known children of her own, she was not inexperienced in this field.  She knew pain.  She knew suffering.

One of the births notes that there were triplets born at 7 months.  They lived a short time before passing - two boys and a girl.  How the young mother must have struggled as the midwife guided her along, perhaps saying a prayer under her breath.

Each of my four children were born under tender and clean care in a hospital setting.  I also had four miscarriages, again using the medical professionals and the knowledge and skills they possessed after years of training.  Every need I had was attended to.  Every pain I felt could be dealt with with medicine unheard in this grandmother's time.  I feel extremely fortunate.

Elizabeth Roe, you are a heroine to the people of Carter County, Kentucky!

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