This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This the mother frequently knows herself, but she may sometimes be deceived by what are spurious pains. If she is in labor, she will have what is called "come and go" pains, which at first are moderate and wide apart, but which finally become more intense and succeed each other at shorter intervals. She will describe those as bearing down pains, and frequently they are so severe as to cause cries and gestures, the former being of a mourning or complaining character, the other twisting and writhing. She will also have a mucous discharge from the vagina, which is called a "show." She will probably wish to void her urine often, and to relieve her bowels, which should be encouraged. During this stage, the mouth of the womb is dilating. Now it will be well for you to pass your finger well up into the vagina, and you will most probably find that the mouth of the womb is dilated, and in extent it depends upon the time at which you may make the examination. When the pains become "thick and fast," you may again make an examination, and you will probably find a fluctuating tumor, which is the bag of waters. If this does not burst itself, you may rupture it with your finger, but do not allow yourself to be frightened at the forcible rush of the waters. If you have withdrawn your hand, you may again insert it, and you will most likely find the head about descending into the vagina. If it is the head or breech it will be a natural labor (which I hope it may always be, for I do not believe I could teach you how to proceed in what is called a preternatural labor). If the head is there, all right. You may give the soon-to-be-mother your hand, or you may tie a sheet to the bed-post and let her pull at that, or if her husband is present, or if you are he himself, let her press him around the neck whenever an expulsive pain occurs. This will greatly aid her, and you do not know how thankful a woman is in such a case, when she observes apparent assistance on your part. After a few good pains, the head of the child will be born, and then the worst is over, for usually one pain more will cause the birth of the whole child.
As soon as it is born, you will probably hear the child gasp and cry, which is caused by pain ensuing upon sudden expansion of its lungs. If it does not do this, take the child and shake it gently, give it a few slaps on the buttocks, and empty its mouth of any secretions that may be found there. By doing this, the child may soon cry--when it is all right. If, however, it should not be so easily resuscitated, sprinkle a little water on its face, and if it looks blue in the face, cut the cord, and let it bleed a little; then put your mouth to that of the baby, and while holding its nose shut, blow your own breath into it and fill its lungs, and then press gently on its chest, in imitation of expiration. Do this as long as there is any hope, and your efforts may often be crowned with success. We will suppose, however, that the baby is a struggling, crying, healthy darling. Then, as soon as you do no longer feel the cord pulsate, you can separate it from the mother. To do this take a few strands of thread and tie it round the cord, not so tight as to cut through, about two inches away from the navel. Then take a pair of scissors and cut the cord through about half an inch away from the ligature, not on the side, however, towards the navel; you can put two ligatures on the cord, if you like, and cut between them. Then take the baby away, but be careful how you do it, or else an accident may befall you, and hand it to the proper person to be washed and dressed. The baby is very slippery, so take it up in this way: put its neck between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, and put the palm of the right under its buttocks; you then have it secure, but do not be too anxious about its safety, or you might choke it.