Sacagawea's Long, Hard Labor


Sacagawea had a long hard labor. She used a very modern solution to her ills according to what we know about the birth she had on the train with those now legendary explorers. On February 11, 1805 when Lewis and Clark saw their young interpreter 16 year old Sacagawea was greatly troubled, they knew she needed relief. She was a Shoshoni woman captured by the Hidata Indians in the Dakotas prior to her service to them.

She was married to the French fur trapper interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau and what most people familiar with her story didn't know she also was pregnant! And prior to labor she had certainly exercised, she had traipsed across a good part of their journey when she began to suffer violent labor pains and prolonged labor. Captain Lewis was looking for a solution, they had no physician with them.

Another French trapper said that a small portion of the rattle of the rattlesnake helps. So this trapper, Jessom, crumbled off a small piece of one of the rings from Lewis’ specimen collection, mixed it with water, and her healthy boy was delivered in minutes. As a little side note the feminists know that Sacagawea’s Liberty US $1 coin shows baby Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in a baby carrier on his mother’s back, he’s the only child to ever be pictured on a US coin.

Rene Jassume, an interpreter with a Mandan Indian wife and children knew of this remedy. Shoshone recognized that labor was painful. But not having availability of epidurals they also used techniques such as suffocation to produce a degree of unconsciousness and thus relax the woman.

So what should we do for our labor patients, sprinkle the rattlesnake powder? Did it speed labor or relax, in southern Appalachia it has been used, in various combination as an inducing treatment for labor. Exactly what the active incgrediant is in rattlesnake powder, I can say I don't exactly know and haven't really used it. Many women will actually ask if they need to suffer labor pains, as in, are labor pains important to the mom or the baby.

Is labor pain good or bad? Physiological response to labor induces respiratory alkalosis secondary to hyperventilation and this then reduces blood flow to the placenta. The outpouring of catecholamine is reversed by epidural anesthesia. Unrelieved labor pain is a factor in inducing post partum depression, so think about what options might work for you.

Some suggest endorphins (those happy brain hormones in our head) ameliorate the labor pains. Some women describe labor pains as empowering, fulfilling and exhilarating. Not so sure, we all can feel exhilarated by that great work out, but forced to do it several times in a row, now that’s where my endorphins might plummet. So again, judgment by your gyno is important. 

So take a clue from those that have struggled before us. The pains of labor need to be both prepared for and dealt with realistically, depending upon your health and the objects you have for your own successful birthing!


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