Pregnancy Through the Ages

pregnant_fieldSome people want to believe that pregnancy and birth are “natural” and that women have been doing it for “centuries.” That in our daisy-scented days of yore, women let their bodies’ wisdom dictate the rhythms of childbirth; that babies somehow managed to be brought into the world without their mothers relying on modern inventions like ultrasounds, glucose tolerance screenings, or George Lucas’s cleverly programmed but menacing “health robots.”

Then there are others who see birth before epidurals as one long blood-curdling scream. For them, the only sane response to a full-term pregnancy is a sterile environment, a sharp scalpel, an arsenal of narcotics, and a climate-controlled bassinet.

Will we ever find a middle ground between these two conjoined yet invalid extremes?

A wise man once said, “Those who forget the past are condemned to reap its rewards.” And so let us take a dispassionate look at how different societies have faced the challenge of pregnancy and birth through the ages.

1,000,000 B.C.
Sexy cavewomen invent fur bikinis, resulting in the first baby boom, as depicted in Ringo Starr’s documentary “Cave Man.”

5,000 B.C. Egyptians use special “birth bricks” to support women’s feet while they’re squatting to give birth, resulting in several generations of children burdened with an irresistible compulsion to worship masonry.

3,500 B.C. Sumerians revere the birth goddess, Ninti, who enables pregnant women to make their babies’ bones out of their own ribs. Jealously, the Minoans invent their own birth goddess, Minti, who bestows fresh breath upon women who forget to brush their teeth.

50 B.C. Julius Caesar is allegedly born by his-own-section; his mother, Aurelia, survives the crude operation while simultaneously inventing a salad.

1 A.D.
An alleged virgin gives birth, claiming that the father is “God.” Zeus and the Holy Ghost have a good chuckle over the futility of paternity suits filed against supernatural entities.

300 A.D. In Rome, infertility is grounds for divorce, though Romans haven’t quite figured out how women actually get pregnant. Brides from the age of 11 on initiate the practice of strapping pillows to their midsections, later “giving birth” to enormous gourds and ornately carved effigies of Sappho. Many a husband is fooled into willing his fortune to a particularly beloved oversize walnut.

700 A.D.
Midwives are routinely burned at the stake for being witches. Real witches are insulted, set each other on fire just to get attention.

1769 A.D. A middle-class Englishwoman born 200 years before The Pill can expect to have between 17 and 25 pregnancies during her lifetime. Two centuries later an Englishwoman will have an average of 2.16 pregnancies in her lifetime, giving her ample time to vote, wear trousers, hold public office, and watch “Antiques Roadshow.”

1806 A.D. Doctors begin to think about washing their hands before attending to birthing women. It’s not so much to kill so-called “germs” as to drown the “infection fairies” and “puerperal fever pixies” in basins full of tainted well water.

1920 A.D. Western women begin to give birth in hospitals in droves, declaring that giving birth at home “is for pigs and sheep. And poor people. And backward women who would rather give birth in a hayloft than in a modern medical environment with thirty other modern, screaming women.”

1950 A.D.
Hoping to experience blessed relief from all that pain and unsightly sweating, childbirthing women consent to being drugged into unconsciousness. They are brought out of sedation only when their pregnancy weight is fully off and their children are weaned and have learned to French inhale.

1970 A.D. The women’s liberation movement makes home birthing a positive political choice. Candidates run for local and national elections as representatives of The Hairy Legs Party, The Bras Are a Symbol of Our Oppression Party, and the Party of Women Whose Idea of a Good Time is Braiding Umbilical Cords.

2009 A.D.
Infertility rates rise as American women spend way too much time resting cell phones on their ovaries and blogging with their laptops directly over their wombs.

Things that will nauseate you...

...during your first trimester:


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