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My Alabama Shaw Family on My Father’s Side From 1861-2014

In this conversation, Mama birthed me, a Fourth Generation Shaw family member, with the help of a midwife, which was customary for Negro women, in the first part of the 20th century, when they birthed children

Posted Nov 28, 2016

Annie Shaw-Barnes, Ph.D.
Author and Speaker
Cultural Anthropologist
Family Specialist
Family Education Specialist
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Hi everyone,

In the fourth year (1932 of Adam’s marriage to Annie Bell, they waited for my birth, fourth generation Shaw family member.

At ten in the evening, Daddy sat in the dimly lit kitchen, listening to Mama, in their bedroom, grunt and groan in pain. She called, “Adam, the pains in my belly is hard!” Daddy rushed to Mama’s bedside, where he watched, helplessly, as she suffered. Aware that Mama had seen the first sign, blood, more than ten hours earlier, and that the pain had become progressively harder, he could no longer wait. Unwilling to watch, hee said, “Annie Bell, I’m going right now to get Old Lady Billups, we choosed to be your midwife.”

“Adam, hurry up and get her.”

Although Mittie Billups lived just a short distance up the dirt road and, as a seasoned veteran midwife, she understood the need for speed in these situations. She and Daddy kicked up dust along that old dirt road and were soon at Mama’s bedside.

Daddy sat anxiously in his chair in the kitchen, where he eagerly awaited news of my birth. In 1932, it was unheard of for a Negro man to watch or participate in the birth of his baby, and Daddy was no exception.

He listened as Miss Billups coaxed. “Annie Bell, push. A woman’s gotta open up and let her body calm down to have a baby,” she said firmly, but soothingly.

“Help me!” Mama cried out.

“Take deep breaths now, and blow ‘em out. Then, push,” the midwife encouraged.

Still groaning and sobbing, Mama obediently did as instructed by her trusted advisor.

Miss Billups coaxed more ardently. “Annie Bell, push harder, push harder.”

Mama screamed and pushed with all her strength, while Mittie watched with barely controlled glee in her warm, dark eyes.

“You’s doing it, Annie Bell! Keep pushing!”

To be continued next time.

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