For the past few days, I’ve been reading, Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. Throughout the first two parts of the book, I’ve learned a great deal of new information that has stuck with me. Before I go more in depth about what I’ve learned, I would like to say that I am quite amazed at how far we’ve come along when it comes to childbirth. This book has allowed me to understand what many individuals had to suffer a great deal of pain to get the advantages that many individuals have now. Without, Betsy, Anarcha, Lucy and those other seven slave girls that were frequently tested on, many individuals might have suffered from vaginal fistulas for a longer time period.
In general, this book has allowed me to feel more appreciative of the many resources we have nowadays. For example, in the 19th century, women were only given morphine and scopolamine. These drugs caused them to feel less pain and in most cases go to sleep. Overall, we now have many resources like the epidural, spinal block, and great medical assistance which ensures us a safe and trouble-free delivery. With this being said, I believe that all these incredible innovations are here with us today thanks to the individuals who endured such harsh pain and those who were curious to make a change.
“From 1845 to 1849, Sims operated on Betsy, Anarcha and Lucy, plus about seven other girls, over and over again.. He sewed Anarcha upward of 30 times. No one knows how many operations those girls endured…” (43).
In addition to feeling appreciative, I am also in shock. We have been born into such a progressive stage in medicine that we have not yet experience what it is like to lack the ability of receiving proper care, or even what it is like to have the wrong tools. In this age and day, we feel sick and we go to the hospital and receive medication. Now, pregnant women are pregnant and they get monthly check ups. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. As the book said, childbirth was very uncommon in the earlier years of human existence. No one had a clear understanding of how a child was supposed to be delivered properly, or how a mother was supposed to be cared for. With this being said, I believe that in the years with less advances, many individuals sought assistance during their pregnancies based on their cultural practices. For example, many individuals who wanted a boy drank red wine with dried rabbits’ womb and read books about sex. In present time, we know that this is definitely nonsense due to our better understanding of science. We now know that a baby’s sex is not determined by a special drink but, it is determined by the father’s sperm and the x or y chromosome it carries. Overtime, as the science developed, the beliefs of the people changed as well.
“The hand that is relied upon for succor in the painful and perilous hour of childbirth becomes the innocent cause of her destruction,” (56).
Back then, mothers received care that wasn’t the best. Many of the tools that they used such as forceps, were harmful and not very sanitary. I believe that this led to the start of the scientific discoveries. This evidently allowed women to realized that their were many tools that could actually be pretty harmful. These discovery also lead the doctors to encounter the conflict of trying to have a safer way of delivering babies. With new information, the beliefs of individuals where no longer influenced by their culture and tradition but instead they were influenced by scientific discoveries. Most of the concepts that were once very unknown, soon developed an explanation for it’s people.
“By the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the vast majority of doctors, midwives, and pregnant women worried that the instruments caused more harm than good,” (29).
As I read this book I too have had to take a second and just think about if we do have kids we don’t have to go through some of the gruesome things women way before us had to. It also makes me think how we are lucky for this because now we don’t have to worry as much as women before us of dying because a doctor didn’t wash their hands or because they didn’t clean their tools correctly. I do this it is somewhat reassuring that we have come a long way and we will continue to go ahead.