Male midwives-surgeons did not enter the birthroom regularly until the late seventeenth century. More on that in another post. Until then, a new mother was surrounded by women and, occasionally. her husband. In this illustration, that would be the anxious man who looks out directly toward us, the viewers. He is clearly wondering what he got himself into!
At the first signs of labor, a fire would be started in the fireplace to keep the birth room warm. The fire would also ensure that no evil spirits could enter the space and wreak havoc on the labor. The windows would also be shut tight for that very reason.
The midwife carried just a few tools and supplies: butter, scissors, needle, and thread. The butter would be used to grease the wheels, so to speak, as the child emerged. The remaining items were for cutting and tying off the umbilical cord.
Speaking of umbilical cords…the talent of the midwife in this area was crucial for the future fertility of the family. For a girl, it was important to tight the cord off very closely to the baby’s body. This would ensure that the girl’s womb–as an adult–would hold tight to her fetus and allow her to take a pregnancy to term. And for boys, a good amount of cord should be left to dangle. Yes, you guessed it, so that his “yard” would also be nice and long. In the past as is now, size matters, I suppose.