1. A Quilling Story in Obstetrics 1908

It was an interesting and instructive night in January, 1908. Dr. Moore, an old friend of mine and the oldest practitoner in Brandon at the time, sent me out to a maternity case between Nesbitt and Wawanesa, Manitoba. The driver took me out as I was new in Brandon.

As I entered the small, isolated farmhouse, I was immediately aware of an old midwife sitting on a chair, with her feet on the hearth of the stove, looking into the fire (the door of the stove was open), smoking a clay pipe. She seemed absorbed in her thoughts and not excited at all when I came in. She scarcely looked up. She was quite elderly and as I entered, I said, "How long have the pains been on?" "started yesterday morning, Doc, and she is not getting anywhere." I got my fur coat off and got warmed up. I asked her if the pains were coming very often, and she said, "No, they are not. I think we will have to quill her." I did not know what "quilling" was; I had never heard of it before or since. I did not want to show my ignorance to her personally, so I said, "Well, we will wait awhile, I hope we can get along without quilling."

I took my time, and examinations of the patient showed almost a full dilation with pains not severe, coming on every six or ten minutes. I gave her half a grain of codeine hypodermically to relax the cervix, the midwife remained sitting watching the fire.

I had given no anaesthetic, the labor was not progressing and two or three times she looked up and said, "Doc, I think we will have to quill her." I would go in and feel the uterus; it was fairly hard. There was certainly not much progress being made. I think also I was inquisitive as to what this "quilling process" was, so I said, "Perhaps you're right, we might as well quill her." I said, "You go ahead and do it and I'll get cleaned up."

She immediately got up from her chair and pulled down the wing of a goose which was hanging on a nail behind the stove. She got a nice long goose quill ( a wavie one it was) and cleaned the inside of the quill cutting off both ends. She went to the cupboard and dipped one end of the quill into a small package of cayenne pepper. I wondered what the devil was coming next, so I followed her into the bedroom. She took the quill and inserted it into the nostril of the patient, then gave it one big blow, and away went the cayenne pepper into the poor womans nadal cavity. I knew what was liable to happen. She began to sneeze immediately. With the sneezing the midwife said, "Doc, you'd better get ready."

By the time I had taken a look at things, the perinem was bulging and with another few sneezes, the baby was born.

The midwife made only this remark, "I knew, Doc, that this would make her let go her 'holt'." I have never forgotten this way of conducting a quick labor.