We've Come A Long Way, Baby...on having one.
Had I lived during that time, my son and I would surely have died. Although my first son, close to 10 pounds, was a normal delivery, my second son turned sideways and lodged his hand in the birth canal. The resulting emergency c-section saved us. In those days, we just wouldn't have survived, period. On a side-note, his position was a predictor of things to come. He's had his hand out ever since. *smile*
Imagine giving birth in the back of a Conestoga wagon, often while the wheels bumped over a rutted trail in the middle of nowhere. It took something major to halt the wagon train before day's end, and something as commonplace as birthing wasn't a reason.
What I can't understand because I'm such a wimp is why women today want to suffer through childbirth without drugs. I respect their right to feel every cramp and consuming pain, but having a child is when "just say no to drugs," doesn't make sense to me.*smile* Had I survived, I might have parented one child, but that would have been my limit.
Pregnancy wasn't reason enough for pioneer women to take it easy. They still met the responsibilities of their households; some even plowing fields and sowing seeds for the very crops on which their futures depended. I doubt that a complaint of swollen ankles went very far to shirk their duties.
Usually in the women's lodge, a long narrow trough was dug in the dirt floor and a pole sunk deep into the earth. The laboring mother squatted over the indention, grasped the pole, and pushed until the baby was delivered. The afterbirth was caught in the trough, while the baby was swaddled in soft pelts and dried with moss. The child's umbilical cord was kept in a specially beaded pouch. Lakota Sioux tribe used two pouches; one to hold the real cord and the other to fool the evil spirits. The one containing the cord was hidden in the baby's cradleboard until he/she was old enough to wear clothing and then hidden within their attire. This was done to protect the little one from harm.
Given a choice, would you choose squatting over a trough or giving birth in a nice, clean hospital room? That should be a no brainer. :)