I found the Duden article about pregnancy in the past to be singularly shocking! I guess it’s a subject that I never gave much thought to before. Seeing the realities of it written down in great detail was quite a shock to the system.
What I found most alarming was that a woman’s claims of pregnancy were most often met with speculation. She was either dismissed and sent home or diagnosed as a vessel harboring evil. It’s just absurd! When viewed through the cultural lens of a strongly Christian society, one that I assumed would want to produce children at all costs. the thought of limiting the role of a pregnant woman (or even one who might be pregnant) in the discourse surrounding the birth of a healthy child seems entirely counterproductive.
The misconceptions that held menstruation as a process fueled by the evil of a woman’s body no doubt contributed to the poor standard of medical care available to them, but I still find it hard to believe that doctors – supposedly the most educated men of their time – thought that the best solution was to evacuate the evil fluids. You’d think there would have been some kind of communication between medical professionals that could have allowed them to make a more standardized checklist for diagnosing pregnancy. Something along the lines of: “Oh. She hasn’t had her period in a few months. Women without periods have a tendency to have babies. Probably should avoid giving her those evacuation herbs! I wouldn’t want to abort it on accident!”
The cases that Duden described in the article made the women seem more like science experiments that real human beings. Like the doctors were purposefully toying with them in order to figure out what worked and what didn’t (although they certainly didn’t seem too concerned about writing these things down!). It was a cycle that included a sick dance of trial and error. No wonder children seemed like such a blessing when they finally arrived! Carrying a baby to term was nearly impossible with the medical care available at the time.
The lack of concern for women’s bodies (multiple abortions and miscarriages can’t be healthy) reinforces the idea held at the time – and even into modern day – that female forms are objects and vessels that can be occupied but are not owned by the one who embody them. Although prenatal care has obviously improved tremendously, some women are still being given unwanted medication during the actual birth and others are deterred by medical professionals from having the birthing environment of their choice (home and water-births come to mind). Women are still viewed as incapable of making decisions for themselves and their babies. The perception remains that a mother is simply the vehicle that a child is carted around in for nine months. Her sovereignty is secondary to that of the outsiders who will welcome the baby once it is born and therefore her input in the decision making process seen as unnecessary and subversive.
Pregnancy is an incredible experience and to sanitize or ignore the woman’s role in bringing a child into the world is inexcusable. She should have the most control over the entire process from conception to birth and accept suggestions from medicine instead of allowing doctors to rule with an iron fist.
Reading both pregnancy articles from Duden and Iris Marion Young gave me a completely different perspective on the process. The idea of having something living inside of me for nine months still makes me squirm. I don’t plan on ever having children of my own, but I can appreciate the emotional and physical hardships and triumphs of the brave women that chose to carry a child.