We Need to Talk About the Baby Blues, by Stacy Hersher

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I have a confession to make: the first couple of weeks after my baby was born, I was unhappy. Sure, I had moments of pure joy, and I never wavered in my love for my daughter. But I was exhausted, in pain, and had no control of my emotions. I had the “baby blues” — and it was scary.

Between feeding my daughter, sleeping, and eating, I felt like I was reduced to a milk-producing machine. I wasn’t going outside, I couldn’t exercise, and it felt like there was no time to do anything but sleep, feed, and eat in order for us both to survive. Was this my life now? Had motherhood completely replaced everything else that I was? In low moments, I thought about how much easier life was before. I wondered if this parenting thing would ever get easier, and the weight of my new life was heavy.

The emotional roller coaster wasn’t just negative. I also felt an overwhelming love for my baby, my husband, my family, and my friends. I cried any time I thought or talked about the sacrifices my parents had made for me, or how wonderful a dad my husband already was, or how thankful I was for the friends who came by to cook, clean, or hold my baby.

Good and bad, the reality is I was crying upwards of 10 times a day. As someone who prides myself on being pretty level-headed, I wasn’t sure how to navigate these emotions and felt pretty lost and alone. I was hyperaware of my emotions but unable to explain them. And as much as my husband tried to help, there wasn’t much he could do. My heightened emotions were just a wave I needed to ride. Thankfully, because of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law Jessie, I wasn’t totally surprised that this was happening.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below)…

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/What-Baby-Blues-43143736?utm_source=com_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=com_newsletter_v3_02152017&em_recid=180811001&utm_content=placement_7_desc

Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village, by Isa Down

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Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’spersonal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

parent.co/wireless-motherhood-when-social-media-is-the-new-village/

A Mum Suffering From Postnatal Depression Writes Thank You Note To Person Who Brightened Her Day

A great story via “Kindness Blog” about how kindness made a difference to a Mum with Post Natal Depression.

Kindness Blog

A mother suffering from postnatal depression has written a thank you note to a café owner whose kind gesture made a difference to her a day.

The new mother from Australia, appealed to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) to share her note so she could get it seen but asked to remain anonymous.

The woman was staying in a mother-baby care unit for treatment for her depression when she had an encounter in a café that reminded her that..

…”the smallest kindness can make a difference”.

The full letter is below;

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The letter, which was uploaded on PANDA, has prompted other mothers suffering from postnatal depression to share their own stories.

“Cafés were my saviour when I had PND, a reason to get out and feel part of life and not just invisible at home,” wrote one mum.

“It was therapy to me and I now take my five-year-old…

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21 things I want you to know about a down syndrome diagnosis, by Ange Longbottom

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Has your baby just been diagnosed with Down syndrome? First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy or the birth of your beautiful baby. I’m also a parent of a child with Down syndrome, and here are 21 things I would like you to know:

1. You may be feeling shocked, scared and alone. It’s OK, so did we. It will pass. What you may be feeling now is transient. Your life has changed for the better, you just don’t know it yet.

2. Your baby may be more like you than different.

3. There is no “one size fits all” with Down syndrome. Your baby will be unique, beautiful and very much their own person, just like you.

4. Your doctor may present a negative view about Down syndrome and paint a bleak picture. I promise you that life with a child with Down syndrome is not bleak. Far from it. It’s bright. Very, very bright.

5. You might think the other children in your family will be impacted in a negative way, but they will love and accept their sibling and may be changed in ways that will make you burst at the seams with pride.

(Read more at the following link…)
http://themighty.com/2015/08/21-things-i-want-you-to-know-about-a-down-syndrome-diagnosis

 

“Babywearing”: Through History and Today, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

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Babywearing is the act of carrying your baby hands free using a fabric carrier. Dr William Sears coined the phrase in the 80’s when his wife started carrying one of their eight children in a sling she’d made out of a bed sheet. She commented that she really enjoyed ‘wearing’ him, hence came the term ‘babywearing’.

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“Baby in a basket”: a traditional Chinese baby carrier.

It’s a growing trend here in New Zealand and many other Western countries, but for many of the world’s people babywearing is what they have always done and continue to do. On arrival in New Zealand the British observed Māori carrying their babies on their backs, “…an old man (if not a chief) might be seen toiling all day at his work with his little grandchild strapped on his back.” (Tregear, E. 1904). Carriers were made from muka of the harakeke (flax). It would have taken weeks to make enough muka strong enough for a baby carrier. When the old army issue blankets became readily available to Māori they mostly used these as baby carriers. From the 50’s the practice of babywearing was rare in Māori society. Dr Fredrick Truby King’s Mothercare book and nurses who worked for the newly formed Plunket society discouraged the practice of even holding your baby more than necessary for fear of spoiling them or passing on germs that might cause sickness or death.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that babywearing started to reappear in New Zealand and La Leche League played at integral part in the resurgence. LLL has always been a strong supporter of holding your baby close. With your baby secured against you in a carrier you are hands free to continue with jobs while still being able respond to your baby’s needs in the present moment, particularly that of breastfeeding.

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The Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle: a mother wearing her baby.

A pattern for the traditional Chinese Mei tai carrier was published in a NZ, LLL magazine in the 70’s. Along with the increased ease and decreasing cost of international travel, LLL being an international organization, provided information about how other cultures managed and treated their babies. Jean Leidloff’s book ‘The Continuum Concept’ was first published in 1975. After living with the Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle for two years she questioned the way in which our Western culture was treating it’s newest members. She developed the idea of the ‘in-arms’ phase of a baby’s life. A time from birth to 9 months or more, when the ‘rightful’ place of a baby is in the arms of another human being. She believed a baby has an innate biological expectation to be held, “…just as our waterproof skin has the expectation of rain.” (Leidloff, J. 1975). Leidloff’s controversial book, still read by many expectant parents today, contributed to the return of babywearing in the West.

The practicality of babywearing for parents is just one of many benefits. A study of Canadian mothers and their infants showed that babies who were carried more, (4.4 hours per day compared to 2.7 hours per day), cried for a significantly shorter amount of time “- a 43 percent difference.” (Barr, R.G. 1991). The frequency of crying was similar but the duration far less at the peak crying age of 8 weeks. A follow on study looked at whether increased carrying for babies labeled colicky at 8 weeks of age decreased the amount of crying for these babies.It was found that it did not. It might be concluded that increased carrying from birth may have a preventative effect when it comes to crying or colic.

A recent study by Ken Blaiklock of Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland showed that there is minimal interaction between a baby and parent when they are placed in a forward facing pushchair. Interaction and vocalizing increased slightly when the baby was orientated towards the parent but not many of these prams were observed. The conclusion was that interaction between parent and baby was at its highest when the baby was facing and at a similar height to the parent, notably when in a supermarket trolley. Although Blaiklock observed babies being carried there was no discussion of the levels of interaction occurring. Suzanne Zeedyk published similarfindings from her 2008 research in the UK. She stressed the importance of being able to see your baby to respond to their needs and to facilitate verbal interaction essential for language acquisition.

Source for this photo: "Yummy Mummy".

Source for this photo: “Yummy Mummy”.

Like everything you do or use with your baby there are some safety considerations you must know. The FITS acronym covers the main points. Your baby must be Firm against you, particularly through the upper spine with the base of the newborn or sleeping baby’s head supported by the carrier. This ensures the chin is lifted off the chest allowing for an unrestricted airway. Your baby needs to be In sight, sound or feel. The carrier or clothing should not cover your baby’s face. The Top of your baby’s head needs to be up at your neck height. This allows for easy monitoring and a more ergonomic carrying position for you. You must ensure your baby’s hips and spine are well Supported by the carrier. You can read more about this last point below.

Wearing your baby helps them to regulate their heart rate, tempperature and breathing and decreases their stress hormones. This is why skin-to-skin contact during Kangaroo Care is so beneficial for a premature baby. With all this regulation done for them by their parent their immature little bodies can put energy into growing and healing. The same is true for the full term baby. The security that babywearing provides decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels of a baby increase during parent-child separation and intense crying. Contrary to historic belief, when a baby’s need to be ‘clingy’ is met they become more confident and independent in time. The bond and trust that is built up between parent and baby when a baby’s physical and emotional needs are met in the present moment helps the baby to validate themselves as an individual and gives them confidence that they are worthy. Babywearing allows the infant to be close to their parent who can continue with everyday chores. As baby grows babywearing allows them direct and active experience of the world from their parent’s perspective.

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A father wearing his baby

Fathers find babywearing an empowering parenting tool. They have the ability to provide closeness, comfort and security from the time their child is born as well as having a way to give their partner a break and get their baby to sleep. Babywearing is a powerful bonding tool for fathers and their babies.

Carrying your baby in an upright position provides support to the immature digestive system. Gravity helps food move in the right direction. The upright position in a baby carrier is similar to the position a baby is in during biological nurturing; the main difference being that your baby is higher on your body in a carrier. In the Spring, 2012 edition of Midwifery Today, Suzanne Colson discusses Biological Nurturing, “..the approach in itself encourages mothers to keep the baby in the right place, what Nils Bergman (2008) calls the “mammalian habitat”.

It is therefore not surprising that many mothers say BN helps them get to know their baby sooner.” In a baby carrier baby’s chest is against yours, with as much skin-to-skin as you choose, knees are tucked up above the height of their hips and slightly spread. The ideal baby carrier will firmly and securely support a newborn baby in this position known as the straddle squat or M position.

Another benefit of this position is that it supports the correct development of the baby’s hips and spine. A baby’s spine is in a C shape when born. The upper spine develops its curve around 3 months when baby learns to control his head. The spine continues to develop as baby learns to crawl with the lower spine developing its curveas baby becomes a competent walker. A good baby carrier and carrying style supports the spine in the natural C shape, not forcing it straight, which may contribute to incorrect development.

In the straddle squat position the head of the baby’s femur (thigh bone) fits correctly into the socket of the hip joint. In the opposite position with the baby’s legs pushed straight together or hanging straight down the head of the femur is being pressured outwards which may cause damage to the outer lip of the hip socket. Baby’s are checked for signs of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH) by midwives and Well Child nurses in order to pick up on this condition and correct it before it causes long term damage and effects physical development. The treatment is a harness that lifts the knee to hip height and out to the side (the straddle squat position). A baby diagnosed with DDH may have to wear the harness for 3-4 months and in severe cases may need surgery.

The upright position also takes the pressure of the baby’s soft skull. A baby who is always lying in the same position in ababywearingFTW car seat or bassinet is at risk of developing flat spots on his or her skull. As most babies sleep lying down at night having day sleeps and daytime upright in a carrier provides a break from pressure on the skull as well as providing cuddles, closeness and bonding for baby and parent.

In establishing breastfeeding babywearing provides the ideal situation of babyy being close and ideally in as much skin-to-skin contact as possible with mum. Initially it is best to remove your baby from your carrier when she wants to feed to ensure correct breastfeeding technique is established. When you are confident that you and your baby have breastfeeding sorted there are many ways you can feed your baby without removing them from the carrier.

Babywearing provides so many benefits for both parent and baby. There are now a multitude of carrier types available on the market at varying prices. This can be overwhelming for new parents. Wearing Your Baby DVD and Download is a resource created to inspire parents to wear their babies.  It has information on the safety aspectsof babywearing and includes step-by-step instructions on how to use the six most common carrier types in New Zealand. It also includes sections on wearing two babies and on improvising your own carrier, making babywearing affordable for all.

Anna Hughes

Co-director Wearing Your Baby

www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz

Past LLL member, babywearing, co-sleeping, ‘nappy free’ and breastfeeding mother of two boys.

References:

Barr, RG., Hunziker, UA. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. May 1986. 77(5):641-8.

Blaiklock, K. (2013). Talking With Children When Using Prams While Shopping. In NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol. 16. Pp. 15-28.

Colson, S. (2012). Biological Nurturing: The Laid-back Breastfeeding Revolution. Midwifery Today. Spring edition.

Leidloff, J. (1975). The Continuum Concept.

Tregear, E. (1904). The Māori Race.

 

My Personal Experience of Babywearing, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

 

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My babywearing journey started in my early 20’s, many years before I had my first child. I met a woman in a market place who had her new baby wrapped to her chest. I was struck by the feeling of how ‘right’ it seemed to me. I thought this is totally where a baby would want to be and where I’d want my baby. The woman gave some verbal instructions on how to make and use the wrap and I went ahead and made one for a friend who was about to have a baby. I continued to make these very basic carriers for friends and 7 years on I made one for my own baby. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the cotton lycra I was using doesn’t cut it for an 8lb baby.
Knowing it wasn’t right for baby to end up down by my belly button I had a few attempts at making the same wrap around sling with different types of material. Then my Mum bought me a woven wrap! Wahooo.
I found babywearing sooo helpful. My son had milk injected down his throat during most feeds and hated lying down with a

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Anna and baby… early days

full, uncomfortable tummy. Over-supply has its issues too. ‘Wearing’ him in an upright position really helped him to keep breastmilk down. Well, some of it! He wasn’t a great sleeper and I’ll never forget one of Brylin’s (LLL Leader for Dunedin West) first comments to me when I was reading a sleep book and commented to my Mum that Eli didn’t sleep anywhere as much as what this book said he was meant to. She said ‘It’s ok dear your baby hasn’t read that book!’ So true Brylin! I felt better knowing that I wore him a lot during the day, giving him the opportunity to rest and sleep whenever he felt like it. The sling was his mobile bed. My husband and I partied til midnight on New Years Eve with our 6 month old happily asleep in the sling.

Another moment of ‘thank goodness for the sling’ was in the middle of the supermarket when Eli 6 weeks started head butting my chest in demand of a feed. Rather than leave the half full trolley to go back to the car I loosen the sling, wiggled him down and latched him on. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the shop. Babywearing win!
At 6 months old Eli was the youngest delegate at the NZ Association for Environmental Education Conference for 3 days. I can’t say I got to hear every presentation from start to finish, but I did get a lot out of it. For years I had people say, ‘Oh yes I remember you. You had the baby attached the whole time and he was so happy.’ He loved being in the sling. He could see things from an adult perspective yet tuck himself away when he’d had enough. Being a big boy I quickly learnt to wear him on my back where he could look over my shoulder. It was an even better view from there.
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Anna “wearing” her second son.

Babywearing was invaluable with our second child, Niwha. Life is so much busier with two. Feeding on the go as well as being able to help the older child without making the baby wait was important to me. As we know babies don’t do ‘waiting’ well.

There were very few babywearers in Dunedin at the time we had Eli. I really wanted more people to experience how helpful, fun and snuggly babywearing is. So I found someone to run a workshop on babywearing and raising a nappy free baby. I got some funding from the Council to run the workshop and out of this created a parenting group focused on supporting parents in practicing these techniques. By the time I had Niwha there were babywearers in town that I didn’tknow!
I was still surprised at how few parents were babywearing, outside of my little bubble. I decided it was time for more action. I formed a Babywearing specific group, including a carrier library started with second hand donated carriers. I was itching to challenge my brain alongside the challenge of raising two boys and decided that I’d write a book on Babywearing. A chapter into it I realised that it made far more sense to utilise my husband’s skills as a media producer, allong with my background as an educator and outdoor instructor to create an instructional DVD/Download.
We questioned our sanity a number of times over the years it took to produce Wearing Your Baby. They’re not kidding when they say never work with babies and animals.
I was determined to create something to inspire and educate parents, educators and health professionals to support the practice of babywearing. Babywearing may not be for everyone but I’m certain that secured to Mum or Dad’s chest is where most newborn babies want to be.
I could write many more pages on the benefits, reasons and ways you can wear your baby. In fact I’ve started and you can

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old blanket (to show that baby wearing needn't be expensive either).

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old sheet (to show that baby wearing needn’t be expensive either).

read them at www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. Wearing Your Baby is presented by 4 babywearing families, covering 6 different types of carriers; Mei tai and Podaegi, wraparound slings, pouch and ring slings and soft structured carriers. It also shows a few ways you can wear two babies of the same or different ages, breastfeed while babywearing and my favourite section shows ways you can improvise a carrier, often based on how different cultures carry their babies.

La Leche League New Zealand has ‘highly recommended’ the DVD for their group libraries so if you would like a copy ask your LLL Leader to get one, purchase yourself or gift it to a pregnant friend and inspire more babywearing parents. It’s now available through the LLL catalogue.
Happy babywearing 🙂
Anna whanau

Anna Hughes and family.

 

About Anna…

Anna Hughes is the Co-director of Wearing Your Baby http://www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. She is a former LLL member, mother of two boys who experienced bedsharing, being raised nappy free, breastfeeding and of course babywearing. She says she is also a wanna be writer!  (“The Forever Years” thinks she writes very well).

Bonding With Your Adopted Child

Adoption CollageOriginally published in WTE (What to Expect), Pregnancy and Parenting Every Step of the Way.  Author’s name not present.

It’s perfectly normal for adoptive parents to look at their new child and wonder if he’ll ever fit into the family, if you’ll ever truly love him, and if he’ll ever return that love. Just remember that adoptive parents bond with their babies as successfully as biological families!

To make the journey go smoothly, here are some strategy suggestions for bonding with your adopted child.

Don’t rush it. If you adopted a baby, how quickly he adapts depends on how old he is. If he’s younger than six months, he may fuss more than usual, refuse to feed sometimes, and snooze for too many hours (or too few). These behaviors have nothing to do with your parenting skills, and they’ll most likely pass in a few weeks. In the meantime, cuddle your baby as often as you can, give him gentle rubdowns before bedtime, and wear him in a sling or front carrier instead of putting him in his stroller or bouncy seat. Music can be soothing, too — if you can, find lullabies in your child’s native language if you adopted internationally.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

http://www.whattoexpect.com/family/bonding-with-your-adopted-child.aspx

‘The Mother and Child Project’ – A Review of a Recently Released Title

Article by Sarah Wilson

The Mother & Child Project

Imagine having to give birth unassisted, on the dirt floor next to a rubbish dump. It’s unfathomable really. I’ve always been aware of the pitfalls in our maternity system here in New Zealand. It isn’t a perfect system. Even the Health and Disability Commissioner argues this.  In fact, before I had my children I didn’t really trust our maternity system. However I am grateful to have received excellent care while having my three children, but there are heartbreaking cases of when birth goes horribly wrong, right here in our own backyard. There are the cases of babies who didn’t make it, and babies who sustained birth injuries caused by multiple system errors. Errors that were preventable. Sadly it does happen. But most births in the West go well, and with our obstetricians, anesthetists, pediatricians and tertiary hospitals available if we need them when we give birth, we western folk tend…

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‘Provocative’ theory links inner ear damage to SIDS deaths, by Susan Donaldson James

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Darci and Robert Torres still have difficulty talking about the 2007 death of their 3-month-old daughter, Alia. They fed her, put her down to sleep, and a half hour later, she was unresponsive in her bassinet.

“It’s hard to go back there — it’s so painful,” said Darci, a 42-year old mother of four from Stockton, California. “How does a perfectly healthy baby fall asleep and not wake up?”

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Photo Courtesy of the Torres family.  Alia Torres died of SIDS at 3 months old.

The Torreses were experienced parents and educated about sudden infant death syndrome: Alia slept on her back, the crib was free from blankets that might obstruct her breathing, and neither smoked.

But now, one scientist has a bold, new theory for why an estimated 3,500 babies a year succumb to SIDS, a mysterious and traumatic event that haunts parents for decades — inner ear dysfunction.

Dr. Daniel Rubens, an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, had a hunch: If the part of the ear that controls balance is damaged, babies may be unable to reposition themselves when their breathing is compromised.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

http://www.today.com/health/provocative-theory-links-inner-ear-damage-sids-deaths-t17451?cid=eml_tpn_20150427

Born In Auschwitz: How One Woman Delivered 3,000 Babies During The Holocaust, by Abby Norman

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When Stanislawa Leszczyńska first became a midwife, she never could have imagined that she would one day be whisked away from her home in Poland, where she routinely walked miles to deliver babies, and into the real-life nightmare of Auschwitz. After the murder of her husband in Poland and the forced removal of her son to another work camp, Stanislawa and her daughter entered Auschwitz with only one hope: that they would survive.

Soon after she arrived, however, Stanislawa began to realize that her particular set of skills as a midwife might be her saving grace. The women’s barracks at Auschwitz weren’t set up even for basic medical care — let alone caring for pregnant women and their babies. Stanislawa was pragmatic and resourceful, assuring that the beds closest to the barrack’s stove, which were apt to be the warmest, were reserved for the “maternity ward.”

Many women were brought into Auschwitz pregnant, some perhaps hadn’t even realized it, and for Stanislawa assuring the health of the mother and her baby often meant making sacrifices. She also was forced to instruct the women to make sacrifices of their own: a few weeks before the woman would deliver, the midwife would tell them to forgo their bread ration in order to barter for sheets, which would be used for diapers and swaddling for the baby. If sheets weren’t obtained in time, the babies were often wrapped in dirty paper.

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Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. (Source: Google Images).

Despite the horrors surrounding her, Stanislawa’s only concern when a woman went into labor was making her feel safe and comfortable — just as she had in Poland aiding laboring women in their homes. Women who were in the barracks with Stanislawa remembered her staying up through the night with woman after woman — hardly ever resting. She was a calm, composed and steady presence for all women there, and pretty soon everyone was calling her Mother.

In addition to her exhaustion and malnourishment, the barracks at Auschwitz had nothing by way of antiseptics, dressings or tools. This meant that Stanislawa had nothing to give women for the pain of childbirth, and all her practices were carefully monitored by Nazi physicians. There were many other Auschwitz medical professionals besides Stanislawa, and they cared for the sick and injured under Nazi guidance. These doctors were instructed to give progress updates on patients, and when a person was not apt to recover, they were immediately taken to the gas chamber.

Many who were in Auschwitz contracted Typhus, and though there was a fairly good chance they wouldn’t recover, the doctors often lied to the Nazis in order to buy them enough time to heal. If they succumbed to Typhus, at least they hadn’t been sent to the incinerator. Likewise, Stanislawa was immediately told to drown all the surviving infants she delivered.

The Nazis assumed that the babies would never survive to term–let alone labor and delivery, but when they acquired Stanislawa’s progress reports they realized that she had not lost a single baby — or mother — since she had begun practicing midwifery in the camp. They were immediately incredulous, and instructed her to drown the newborns in a barrel in the barracks. She refused, and risked her life by doing so. Instead, the task was given to an imprisoned German midwife who had been convicted of infanticide.

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Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. (Source: http://www.theholocaustexplained.org/ks3/the-camps/how-were-the-camps-run/uniform-and-clothing/#.VS8xItyUeE4).

As Stanislawa continued to successfully bring thousands of babies into the world despite the camp’s treacherous conditions, the Nazis began to take any children born with Aryan features, sending them to orphanages to be adopted by German families. The mothers were devastated, and together with Stanislawa they found a way to surreptitiously tattoo the tiny babies in a subtle manner, with the hope that one day mother and child would be reunited.

Though she was able to help over 3,000 babies enter the world while imprisoned at Auschwitz, Stanislawa rarely spoke publicly of her time there. One story that she did regale to her children — who have subsequently told it on her behalf— involved a young mother whom she had assisted during labor. Within a few hours, the young mother’s number was called to go to the chamber. The woman bundled her up and wrapped the baby in damp paper fluttering around the barracks. Knowing that she was about to die, the woman clutched her newborn to breast and walked out of the barracks.

Obviously, the women at the camp understood Stanislawa’s incredible presence–as did those responsible for placing her there in the first place. Dr. Menegle visited the “maternity ward” in the women’s barracks and was furious that the midwife was allowing the babies to survive. She orchestrated wet-nurses within the barracks who would suckle the babies whose mothers were so malnourished their milk never came in, and thus, babies who were born close to the camp’s liberation survived.

Even though Menegle was clearly opposed to Stanislawa’s saving of Jewish infants and their mothers, he did remark to the other Nazi physicians that not only was she an exceptionally skilled midwife, but that she was the personification of hope prisoners clung to that they may, eventually, escape the camp.

AuschwitzChildren

Infants and small children coming out of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp after it was liberated by Soviet troops. (Source: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauBabies.html)

Released when the camp was liberated, Stanislawa was reunited with her children, both of whom went on to become doctors. Until her retirement in the 1950s, Stanislawa never really spoke of her time in Auschwitz. What she did share, and what others who had been in the camp with her shared, went on to be documented as justification for her beatification by the Catholic Church as a saint, a process that began in 2010.

Stanislawa died in 1974, but her story is perhaps the most miraculous account from the Holocaust’s history. As she spoke about her time at Auschwitz upon her retirement, she concluded her story by saying that even though many of the 3,000 babies born in the camp perished at the hands of the Nazis, either directly through murder or indirectly through malnourishment, she was proud to say that every single one of them had been born alive and into her waiting, loving hands.