In 1979, at the ripe old age of 41, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at home with my midwife Mary, surrounded by a friend, my (first) husband and my two children. It was an incredible experience, especially when compared with my miscarriage and two births in a hospital setting, all of which were difficult and scary.
When I decided to have this third baby, my family and friends thought I was a little bit crazy (and maybe I was!). I had two teenagers, a family business to co-run, and I was over 40. Then when I told them I was having the baby at home, they were convinced I was crazy!
But it was a wonderful experience, because Mary was a wonderfully calm and supportive presence throughout the whole nine months and the birthing process. At one point, when I was in great pain, I asked her, “How much longer, Mary?” She answered honestly, “I don’t know. And I replied, “Lie to me! Lie to me!” What an intense time, but what a glorious experience.
Over the years, I have kept in touch with Mary, who obviously continues because this is her “calling.” Last summer, my (second) husband and I took a ride from State College to her birthing center about one hour north of that college town. The house was lovely and Mary showed us the entire facility. We also met two young Amish mothers who had just given birth that morning. Their husbands were there to take them home, where they would receive excellent follow-up care from their families.
Once, Mary explained to me that the Amish families all pitch in and help with laundry, cleaning, cooking, and caring for the other children in the family for quite some time to allow the new mother to rest and recuperate from the birth. Sounds like “modern mothers” are missing out on something good.
Recently, I sent Mary a list of questions about her decades as a midwife. (I have put her answers in paragraph form below.)
Mary is a Licensed Practical Nurse and was a midwife apprentice. Since 1960, when she started to deliver babies, she has delivered more than 4500 babies. (now with the help of a daughter and two granddaughters). Some of these new babies are actually woman who were babies she delivered two decades ago. So she is in her second generation of babies, or as she says, “My babies are having babies.” When I asked the question if she planned to retire, she wrote NO. (I believe Mary is in her mid 60s now. ES)
From 1960-1989, Mary went into homes. Then she delivered part-time in homes until 2001 (The rest of the time I believe the women came to her own home for the birthing and then she outgrew that space. ES) Now the babies are born in her lovely birthing home/center next to her house. The birthing center has an apartment in the basement for one of her helpers, granddaughter Jessica, and upstairs there are three birthing rooms and four beds (hospital beds donated by the local hospital), plus a kitchen, living room and sun room, all of which are lightly and brightly decorated.
Mary also travels to other states to teach more women about midwifery. She is still going strong and still delivering babies!
In her own words:
On the other side of the questionnaire, Mary wrote her own comments, which are quoted below in italics. (My notes are in regular type.)
I really did not want to be a full-time midwife, but more and more people needed assistance at their births. Finally I heeded the call of God to serve those who came to me. Whomever may come I want to serve with Love and caring.
Our Amish and Mennonite people like the fact that we are of like faith and speak their dialect. Also, they don’t have insurance. (Mary’s fees are well below hospital costs and she can be flexible. ES)
Others feel very comfortable here in the presence of our love and peaceful atmosphere. What joy and happiness we have at a birth. (I can attest to that! No only because of my birthing experience with Mary, but also my experience of helping Mary with another home birth after my daughter was born. ES) and so many couples and babies to love.
As to retiring, what is that? Of course I get tired and tired again. Well, I’m happy to be taking care of my people until God says enough and calls me home or I’m disabled. Of course, I could use a wheel chair if needed. (Then she wrote a smiley face! ES)
Love, Peace, and Joy,
Mary Ann Hostettler
Purple flowers on the flower-strewn walkway and lawn at Longwood Gardens.