Friday, Oct. 23, 1942
“Natural” Childbirth” didn’t mean in 1942 what it does today. With midwives, doulas, home births, water births, and other options, pregnant women now worry about doing it “right,” in particular forging pain relief. But for centuries women worried much more about survival for themselves and their offspring.
A pain-free birth was a breakthrough in 1853, when Dr. John Snow administered a small amount if choloform to Queen Victoria for her eighth delivery. More recently, “Call the Midwife” reminded us of the relief mobile anesthesia units brought women giving birth at home before hospital births became more common.
It’s worth considering why women in the 1940’s were so grateful for hospital deliveries. To understand, visit an old graveyard – a very old graveyard. You will see at least one headstone for a patriarch surrounded by smaller headstones for his several wives who died during or after childbirth. Left with children to raise, the man would usually marry a younger woman each time to look after his children and give birth to more. You will also see headstones for the children who died at birth, infancy, toddlerhood or even later.
Sure, anesthesia has its dangers. But my generation is no better or worse because our mothers missed out on “natural” deliveries. So let’s be kinder to each other and remember: a 1942 hospital birth gave women time to rest in a surrounding that was the closest they would ever get to a spa break: breakfast in bed for a week!
No letters today. Time to light the Sabbath candles.