A Book Review
While on vacation in northern Wisconsin I discovered an amazing woman. The odd thing is that I have been going to this area since I was a toddler and I never came across her before now. Her life story was published in 1956 – the year she died. I found it fascinating.
Born in the late 1800’s Dr Kate Pelham Newcomb started out life by loosing her mother and a sibling during the siblings birth birth. Her story is an inspiration as she had many tragedies to over come. Her father did not want her to become a doctor as he believed it was not a profession for a woman. A family friend encouraged her and finally her father agreed to pay for her training. There were many wonderful stories fromabout her life in the book.
She specialized in obstetrics and pediatrics. As part of her training, she attended many home births in New York city slums by herself. In the early 1900’s while, she was practicing in Detroit, she and met the love of her life. He worked in the early industrial settings and due to toxin exposure became very ill. Medicine had nothing to offer him. They noticed that he felt better when he was in the country in the fresh air. He was from northern Wisconsin so they decided to move there. Living in the country, her husband got well and lived a long life.
Ultimately, she gave up her career to take care of her husband. Their first child died due to the “twilight sleep” that a doctor gave her at home during the birth. The tragedy left her bitter toward medicine and it was a very long time before she began to practice again. But practice she did, often going through deep snow on snowshoes to get to her patient’s homes. The nearest hospital was at least an hour away and there was no such thing as insurance at that time.
There were many wonderful stories about her life including the birth of a second child, adoption of a daughter and the idea to build a hospital in the area. She practiced with two other doctors and they were all stretched for resources. They only asked for what people could afford for payment. They sometimes went to a home and stayed with a patient to see them through an illness that may have lasted for days. They were able to do so much with so little. She attended many home births and never lost a mother. She taught the Grantly Dick-Read method for natural childbirth!
Childbirth Without Fear
Grantly Dick-Read (January 26, 1890 – June 11, 1959) was a British obstetrician who is regarded by many as the father of natural childbirth movement. He dedicated his life to educating expectant parents about the benefits of giving birth naturally, with as little intervention from obstetricians and health professionals as possible. Much of the pain in childbirth, he argued, came from society’s attitude towards childbirth, which often emphasized the pain.
His most famous book is the classic Childbirth Without Fear.