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Old 11-30-2008, 07:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Greetings,
I am part of a midwifery team that will be taking over for the local Amish midwife so she can attend to family matters. My partner and I have no experience working with the Amish. I would love to have a little more information from those of you with experience because it is my understanding that things are very different. Please feel free to PM me. I appreciate all the help and resources that I can get. We have moms due very soon.

Much Love,
Gini
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Old 11-30-2008, 08:26 PM
 
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Ask the women you will be serving. They know what they want and don't want. Or ask the midwife you will be covering for. Good luck.
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Old 11-30-2008, 09:12 PM
 
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:16 AM
 
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I think you need to learn about their cultural practices. I do find there to be some big differences and some things to really understand. for example, many of our women do not tell their children and sometimes other family members they are pregnant. So for those women, we wouldn't be asking about their new baby, or telling them what the doppler is, or anything else to imply babies.

Most of the husbands make the financial decisions, and so for the most part, we give the invoices to the husbands after the birth.

They always pay us, but would be offended if we discounted due to financial needs, so if we are going to do that, we need to barter or something else, they won't take charity.

they receive no government assistance, so they won't go on WIC or other programs.

Many times the woman won't make a decision without consulting her husband and many times other family members, so expect to sometimes have to have her call you back about something.

If the dad calls during labor, SPEED!

they generally don't make much if any noise and can be very misleading how dilated they are, they don't like to wake you during the night, so they tend to wait until the early morning when they should have called earlier.

Make sure that first time parents know if they are milking, they will need help for a few days, the dads seem very surprised sometimes that they won't feel like going out and milking when the baby is born.

there are big differences in different communities, so you need to get to know yours before you tell them things. You have to be careful, because they will be following their ordnung and you don't want to offend the bishop. If you tick off the elders, you won't be allowed to the midwife, even if the women love you!

I think that's it off the top of my head, but I do think there are some big differences, sometimes I feel like I have two practices going at the same time.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:30 AM
 
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(I'm sorry, but I lol'ed when I read the title, because I thought you were trying to ask a question to midwives who were Amish...they probably wouldn't be part of an internet community! )

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Old 12-02-2008, 01:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Maggi315 View Post
I think you need to learn about their cultural practices. I do find there to be some big differences and some things to really understand. for example, many of our women do not tell their children and sometimes other family members they are pregnant. So for those women, we wouldn't be asking about their new baby, or telling them what the doppler is, or anything else to imply babies.

I will intersperse. I agree when I was apprenticing in a PA Amish community it was huge faux pax to mention another members pregnancy or that you had just seen her neighbor for a prenatal.


Most of the husbands make the financial decisions, and so for the most part, we give the invoices to the husbands after the birth.

True.

They always pay us, but would be offended if we discounted due to financial needs, so if we are going to do that, we need to barter or something else, they won't take charity.

Where I worked it was in the paperwork the father received that if he needed a reduced rate he needed to make arrangements before the birth with the midwife. Most did not, but occasionally someone did. Sometimes that was barter, sometimes it was just a reduction in fees.

they receive no government assistance, so they won't go on WIC or other programs.

Yeah, no point in mentioning those and really no need. Amish take care of their own. I was just talking to my dairy supplier Amish gentleman about that the other night when he called me from the phone shed about my order.

Many times the woman won't make a decision without consulting her husband and many times other family members, so expect to sometimes have to have her call you back about something.

Do NOT recommend something you know the husband has stated he is opposed to.


If the dad calls during labor, SPEED!

Yes, the Amish don't want you sitting up in their house and drawing attention to their farm ( by your vehicles - often we had to pull into a barn or around out of sight at their request so their neighbors wouldn't see the midwife's truck) and often call very late. Had quite a few walk-in-at-crowning births.

they generally don't make much if any noise and can be very misleading how dilated they are, they don't like to wake you during the night, so they tend to wait until the early morning when they should have called earlier.

SOOOOO true, a deep sigh or maybe a oh, my and we are grabbing the bowl (that we kept the birth supplies in) and jumping to the ready. They generally don't take childbirth classes so be very clear with what signs you want them to call for if its a first timer.

Make sure that first time parents know if they are milking, they will need help for a few days, the dads seem very surprised sometimes that they won't feel like going out and milking when the baby is born.

And expect that one of the grandmas will be coming around to do the washing and helping with baby. Dad will usually make that communication but occasionally they asked us to stop at a grandparent's place and let them know.

there are big differences in different communities, so you need to get to know yours before you tell them things. You have to be careful, because they will be following their ordnung and you don't want to offend the bishop. If you tick off the elders, you won't be allowed to the midwife, even if the women love you!

So true! Also dress modestly. You don't need to wear a skirt (although we did where I apprenticed), but it should be fully covered, no cleavage. They don't really like tattoos, and more than eair type piercings and I had to sign and apprentice agreement not to have any of those showing at visits and births. They don't really talk much or want to. You will know you are doing well when the women start talking and telling you about their life. The men generally won't talk more than they have to.

This is kind of hard to phrase, but don't put the father in a position to having to tell the mother to do something - unless you have to. Like saying you think she needs more protein. Well he would feel compelled tell her that she needs to eat more protein and then if she did not she would have fallen into sin for not being properly submissive to him. The men don't like to put her in a position where she would sin. This was how my preceptor put it to me.

I think that's it off the top of my head, but I do think there are some big differences, sometimes I feel like I have two practices going at the same time.

I always felt that way too. We were very different in our manner with Amish than with "English".
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Old 12-02-2008, 02:10 AM
 
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I have a related, but slightly off topic question... How are medical emergencies handled with Amish communities. Say their birth turns into something that needs the assistance of a hospital (rare, I know), are they open to it? How does that decision get made? I am just curious.

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Old 12-03-2008, 02:32 PM
 
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For the most part the Amish I work with, are very willing to go to the hospital, get bloodwork, ultrasounds, take the baby to the specialist if I tell them I think it's necessary.

I think some of that is the trust relationship you develop. The amish know that we wouldn't recommend lots of tests or a transport unless we truly thought it necessary.

but I also let them know that if I think a transport is necessary, then I really expect them to be ready to transport, that I don't want to risk mom or baby and sometimes we are pretty far out in the boondocks.

Other communities don't want to transport I have heard, so i would make sure to make your expectations clear and get an idea what their thoughts are BEFORE late pregnancy so you are all on the same page.
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Old 12-04-2008, 11:09 PM
 
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I grew up amish-mennonite, so I know something about the culture, though I've never been at a birth.

They do not use titles, they call everyone by their first names and would be most comfortable if you use their first names.

Do not make remarks about how beautiful or handsome their children are. Only compliment behaviour such as hard-working, obedient etc.

Do not discuss birth or anything sexual in front of any of the children.

Do not expect much chit-chat from the men. They will likely ignore you unless they have something to say. It is normal and expected to ignore strangers and anyone of the opposite sex.

Do not gush or go on and on about things. A calm and fairly quiet manner will be appreciated.

Above all, do not give the husbands a hug, ever. The most you can do is a handshake.

If you see the women with their hair down, it may be rather shocking as it is uncut and sometimes hangs to the floor. They would prefer you to ignore it.

Do not be surprised if they give birth in a dress and headcovering. Do not offer to remove the headcovering. If they are wearing one, they want have it on.

I honestly can't imagine an amish man asking for help with milking just because his wife had/is having a baby. I think they would do the milking unless it was physically impossible. I know my Dad did all of his own chores after all three of Mom's homebirths.

The Amish I know would go to the hospital in an emergency but would much prefer to give birth at home.

Hope that helps!
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Old 12-05-2008, 12:44 AM
 
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Just curious - as far as jewelry, is a wedding band acceptable? Or would a midwife take that off before entering an Amish home? Do the Amish wear wedding bands?

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Old 12-06-2008, 01:56 AM
 
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Just curious - as far as jewelry, is a wedding band acceptable? Or would a midwife take that off before entering an Amish home? Do the Amish wear wedding bands?
The Amish I have met (in 4 different counties and communities) would not care. They do not expect us to look or dress Amish- they know we are not! However, we try not to be covered in a large amount of jewelry and tatts or extra piercings are removed/covered. I don't remove my wedding band. I try to make sure I'm not wearing one of my shirts that shows cleavage when I bend over.

The Amish here generally make very little noise and if you are expecting them to stop and breathe through contractions you'll be surprised when they stop cleaning their windows, grunt and run to sit on the birth stool where baby may be crowning 30 seconds later. A contraction is noted by a slight tightening of the lips or some other vague sign. The last Amish birth I was at, she was acting like an 'english' woman at 3cm... when checked she was 9cm and had the baby shortly thereafter.

They do tend to want to get labor moving faster if it's slow too.

And they don't tend to need much 'mothering' or hands-on stuff... they really want the midwife there for the clinical stuff, to catch the baby and weigh/measure the newborn.
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Old 12-06-2008, 03:29 AM
 
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This is so cool/interesting!

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Old 12-06-2008, 03:42 AM
 
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I love reading about birth in other cultures!
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Old 12-06-2008, 10:37 AM
 
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Just want to point out that there can be quite a lot of variance from community to community of Amish. While I pretty much agree with all that has been said here, I have found that when meeting a new (to me) Amish community, I try to remain open to seeing/feeling what they are like.

The first Amish comm I worked for, I have to say the people were generally not just 'sober' but rather dour, vaguely resentful and unpleasant...not much fun to be around! Not to mention that they seemed ever-ready to cheat me out of pay--well, that is a strong word, but many of the families were only too willing to use various tactics to get the 'better end of the deal' (and my fee was already pretty low). I had the feeling that it went beyond Amish thriftiness and amounted to a sort of community-wide sense that it's ok to screw the English. Altogether, it left me with a bad taste for them and I did not continue working for that comm after about a year.

Later I was contacted by a different community, and went to meet the first family there with some trepidation--I just wasn't sure I wanted to work for the Amish again! But the differences were so marked, my concerns were immediately dispelled. This group was generally much friendlier and more cheerful in general, their homes were brighter (energetically), etc. Since then I've worked with a variety of communities--and have noted differences in the general tone of each. I'm happy to report that that first community was by far at one extreme that I've never seen again!

Of course, there are cultural differences and it's good to get a sense of that in each community. But the Amish are people like any other--some are more serious, some more jokey, some are smart, some not-so, some more friendly, others shy....etc, etc. It's not that a mw must throw out all she knows about women on the mental/emo level in order to work with them, only that you have to 'learn their language' in a way. Learn their way of conveying things, the way their beliefs shape their decisions, etc. Let them know you want to learn about them as much as they will share, so that you will help them as they want to be helped and won't accidentally offend.

And yeah, if they like you, you will know it! Except for that first community, the Amish (and Mennonite) families I've worked with have been loyal, generous, caring, welcoming, humorous, respectful. No, generally not huggy so much--but you will know whether or not they like you. While it's good to practice modesty in dress (but no, skirts aren't necessary) and demeanor (watch your language, even a 'darn it' is frowned upon!), they do know we are English and don't expect us to try to imitate them. They are well able to recognize your caring and competence through your 'English disguise' and will reward you for it in various ways beyond paying your fee.
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Old 12-06-2008, 06:02 PM
 
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I too work within the Amish community and agree mostly with what prairiechild said.

One thing we do for our Amish moms is to put two garbage bags in the birth kits. When the birth is over, we take all the clothing, blankets, towels, etc that have any trace of blood on them, home with us. Since the Amish don't discuss sex/pregnancy/birth with each other, it's easier if we just take the stuff to the birth center and wash it ourselves. (Small children tend to ask less questions if they don't see it.) Then on their 1st or 3rd postpartum appt, we bring the clothing and blankets back clean and folded. I love working with the Old Order Amish. They are very hard working and honest people in my experience.



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Old 12-06-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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Since the Amish don't discuss sex/pregnancy/birth with each other,
That is one thing I have noticed true of all the Amish clients I have met, whatever order they are. The kids are never present at births and just come home to another sibling. I can't help but wonder what the siblings are thinking. One Amish child asked the midwife to take the baby back... so I think some of the kids think the midwife drives up in the middle of the night to drop off a baby.
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Old 12-08-2008, 06:40 PM
 
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I agree with what has been posted, I see that in my practice...I have to smile at some things.... MsBlack-I work for a community like the first one you described! It is a challenge!!
I work with 2 different 'orders' of Amish, one is old order and the other is more 'modern'...
There are differences like everyone else has already said, so just know the group you will be working with...
They know we are not Amish, but I wear modest clothing (do anyway) and usually do not wear jewelry, but I never do to births anyway, as I do not want to loose or bump my stones in my ring (have lost some in the past- so do not want to again)
I have had some Amish women give me hugs, I have even had some Amish men give me a 'partial' hug after a birth ...yet other, will barely talk.
Some will read handouts I give out, and others will not even accept them.
Mostly remember that most all of the different groups, they will not tell their children they are expecting a baby. The midwife is usually known as the baby lady, and some young children even try to peak in my bags-I think they are looking for the baby...
So do not say words like baby, pregnancy stuff like that, try to word things different. Most young children do not speak English until they go to school, but they do pick up on words...so just use caution.
Some of the ladies allow me to do the B/P and any questions at the 'table' then we go to the bedroom for the actual rest of the app. Others want everything with the appointment done in the bed-room. That varies from woman to woman, so just ask them. Some will not make eye contact, yet others will.
They usually require a cover/ blanket over their lower bodies, before they will pull up the dress so you can check the 'bellie'. Stuff like that.
good luck with your work there!

Midwife, Wife, Mother of 5 (6) and "Ga-Ma" to 5 adorable grand children...
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Old 12-09-2008, 04:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all. You have all been so very helpful. Can you please tell me more of the general differences in practice at your prenatals and labors/birth? I'm a very touchy-feely huggy open lady and am curious how open the amish community is to advice from the english midwife also. I really want to have an open line of communication but don't want to push things. I certainly do not want to offend.

Much Love,
Gini
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Old 12-09-2008, 11:22 PM
 
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Well even though the one of the two groups I work with do hug me, at first I did not hug... now I give a hug after the birth, before I go home...they always accept it then...but not at first. If you are a huggy person, I would begin with doing that -most of them and most all groups of Amish will not hug. The reason I do hug is I have been working with the one group since 1991....so many of them know me well-first from child birth classes, to hospital as a nurse and now as a homebirth midwife....so that is the difference with the group I work with.

As for advice, I do give advice. Part of our ongoing job is continued teaching. But they usually have a limited vocab in english, so some words they may not understand. They would not say that for the most part. Some would let you know if they do not understand, but others would just continue to listen and never question you. I use very easy to understand words, very low reading level in the one group-around 3-4th grade level. the other group has a higher reading level...so I give out hands outs, and stuff for education. It is welcomed in that group. The older order amish group, only the younger first time moms have wanted the educational material...the 'older' moms do not. They are also willing to listen to advice, and willing to learn new things. It will be different for you from woman to woman at times.
I always ask to 'touch' at prenatals,I just tell them what I am going to do... but I do that with all my moms.
With births, at the older amish area, you can tell by watching them, even though most are very quiet-if they are having a back ache, and stuff like that. I will say "can I rub your back?" and then I say, if it hurts or does not feel ok, let me know and I will stop...they usually love this offer-but would not ask for it.
The 'newer' order amish I work with, will actually ask me to rub their back...So again big differences...
Hope this helps some....
Rule of thumb: lean to caution and limited touch and easy to understand words. You are wanting to work with them in a proper way and so that alone will help you to be careful...a willing heart...
I think that The best to do, like everyone else has already said, it to really get to know them....can the midwife you are helping cover for give you some info on this group? She would know them better...again each group is so alike and so different from other groups!!
Best of luck to you!
Blessings!

Midwife, Wife, Mother of 5 (6) and "Ga-Ma" to 5 adorable grand children...
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Old 12-12-2008, 01:10 AM
 
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Thank you all for contributing to this thread, I find it completely fascinating!

tree-huggin', outdoor lovin' paleo-eatin', crossfittin', homebirthin', placenta eatin', doula, wife and mom to 2 girls (06 & 08)

 

 

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Old 10-31-2013, 01:36 PM
 
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Hello, 

My name is Treska. I am a student at Bard College. I am currently writing an Ethnography for my Anthropology class regarding the differences in birthing practice between the Amish and the English. Would you be at all interested in a brief phone interview? I am mainly collecting birth stories that demonstrate this difference, with a few specific questions. 

 

I would be so grateful for a response! 

Thank you, Treska Stein

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Old 10-31-2013, 01:38 PM
 
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Hello, 

My name is Treska. I am a student at Bard College. I am currently writing an Ethnography for my Anthropology class regarding the differences in birthing practice between the Amish and the English. Would you be at all interested in a brief phone interview? I am mainly collecting birth stories that demonstrate this difference, with a few specific questions. 

 

I would be so grateful for a response! 

Thank you, Treska Stein

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