The birth of a child, is at once the most wonderful, and sublime act of existence. Existence itself assumes a mightier import to the mother as she gazes on the little being, whose pure eyes are turned to her's, whose form, clasped to her bosom, thrills through all her being, and unseals the fountains of a deathless love. Springing from herself, a part of herself, for two hundred and seventy days nourished in her womb, commencing from an almost imperceptible germ. and growing on day by day, drawing life itself from her, until at length a miniature human being, it is folded in her arms, with a body, a part of herself, and a soul a part of God, deathless, eternal. Another ripple is started in the great ocean of life, whose widening circles are lost from mortal gaze in the ocean of eternity.
Parturition is a crisis in a woman's existence. It is no disease, no chance of life, but the healthy action of nature, and one great end of her being. Safely carried through this crisis, the equilibrium of the system becomes more perfect, and the health more firmly established. It is one of the strange things of nature that this crisis so complete, producing such a tremendous revolution in the whole system, should, in such a vast majority of cases, terminate favorably. The danger in the majority of cases, is in proportion to the previous health of the mother, and her obedience of the laws of nature Those who daily violate nature's laws, who forget the mighty responsibility which rests upon them, and the fearful crisis through which they are about to pass, need not wonder at being the victims of a train of evils, which may end in death.
To one class the period of gestation seems like a dark and thorny path; others, less sensitive, or more philosophical, or enthusiastic in their nature, forget the present, in the bright anticipations for the future, or look upon it as something over which they can have no control, and therefore give way to indolence, or freely indulge in all the luxuries and extravagances a morbid appetite can induce.
The mother should never forget that her own health, and thoughts, and feelings, during the period of gestation must produce a marked influence on the child.* Her condition, mental as well physical, when carrying the child is all important to its future welfare. Cases are by no means rare, where the excessive anxiety or sadness of the mother during the period of gestation is shown in the after life of her child. It has been observed that in a large proportion of cases, where children are born out of wedlock, the delivery is premature, or if the mother reaches her full time, she gives birth to a still-born child. The agony of the mother, the thought of the brand of shame which will ever after cling to her, the withering of life's brightest flowers, the hissing tongue of the world's scorn, marking her out as an object fit only to be trampled in the dust, all this is enough not only to destroy the child, but the mother also.
There is no period of life when a woman stands in such need of sympathy as at this time. It is now, when sensitive in the extreme, she needs the watchful and soothing care of affection. Let her at other times contend, and wrestle, if it must be so, with the stern, harsh and cruel exactions of a cold and selfish world, and there are times when a woman's spirit and nerve are stronger than man's, but now surround her with an atmosphere where the tumultuous heavings of the world, with its passions and troubles, are as little felt as possible. Make the path as smooth and easy as unwearied kindness, patience and affection can accomplish.
The extreme sensitiveness at these times, often renders the utmost tact and forbearance on the part of friends, absolutely essential. She should be surrounded with every comfort, and every means taken to secure cheerfulness and an easy, happy mind. To secure this it is not necessary she should be surrounded by useless luxuries, and every ridiculous whim, the result of a morbid imagination gratified. This would produce the thing you wish to avoid.
I have alluded to this subject in the chapter on the causes of disease.
Gloomy and harrassing thoughts and impressions should be guarded against, and every means taken to preserve a healthy and vigorous tone to the mind and body. The mother should by no means yield to indolence or indulge in dissipation. Cheerful conservation, pleasant friends, agreeable books, and the soothing charm of music, as well as daily out-door exercise and household duties, all should contribute their share to promote comfort and enjoyment. The cases are very rare, where it is essential for the mother to give up her household duties entirely. She will be much happier by continuing to be mistress of her own household. Large ventilated rooms, and pure air are of the utmost importance.
Great cleanliness should also be strictly practiced. It is essential that the pores in the skin should be kept constantly open, a healthy and even circulation induced, and an equilibrium kept up as much as possible throughout the system. The body should be washed from head to foot once every day in moderately cold water, taking particular pains afterwards to rub it quite dry, or a tepid bath can be taken every two or three days.
Another important point which should by no means be overlooked is dress. We occasionally see mothers who attempt to conceal the rotundity of their form either from shame or some other reason, with tight dresses and corsets tightly laced. For a married woman in this situation, to be ashamed of her form, bespeaks a weakness of which I trust but very few of my country-women are guilty. What situation in life is there more holy, and in the name of heaven, what is there in her situation for which a pure and virtuous woman should be ashamed. The dress should be made perfectly easy, either warm or cool as the weather may indicate. fitting lightly to the body. The slightest compression of the abdomen and chest should be avoided, so that the utmost freedom may be given to the organs and muscles of respiration. Dr. Eberle in speaking of this subject, makes use of the following excellent remarks. "The custom of wearing tightly laced corsets during gestation cannot be too severely censured. It must be evident to the plainest understanding, that serious injury to the health of both mother and child must often result from a continual and forcible compression of the abdomen, whilst nature is at work in gradually enlarging it for the accommodation and development of the foetus. By this unnatural practice, the circulation of the blood throughout the abdomen is impeded, a circumstance which, together with the mechanical compression of the abdominal organs, is peculiarly calculated to give rise to functional disorders of the stomach and liver, as well as to haemorrhoids, uterine haemorrhage, and abortion. The regular nourishment of the foetus also is generally impeded in this way; a fact which is frequently verified in the remarkably delicate and emaciated conditions of infants born of mothers who have practiced this fashionable folly during gestation. It may be observed, that since the custom of wearing tightly laced corsets has become general among females, certain forms of uterine disease are much more frequent than they were sixteen or eighteen years ago."
Lycurgus, whose laws were sometimes a little arbitrary, although generally characterized by sterling sense, ordained a law, that pregnant women should wear wide, loose clothing, and a similar law prevailed among the Romans. By attending particularly to dress, mothers would not only escape much of the pain of child-birth, but find themselves after the crisis had passed, more quickly convalescent, and without those lingering and prostrating complaints, which do so much to undermine the constitution.