I neglected to give the full title of Dr. West's book yesterday in my discussion about "you're going to put WHAT in WHAT?" The proper title is Maidenhood and Motherhood or Ten Phases of Woman's Life. The phases covered in this gem of a book published in 1887, include:
The Infant, The Child, Puberty, The Maiden, The Wife (if she survives the honeymoon); Maternity, Confinement (we'll get back to this); The Mother, Mature Womanhood and Celibacy (we'll definitely get back to this one)
Let me just say this about the chapter on Confinement. Those of you who have had a child in the last 30 years would be completely unfamiliar with this term. Insurance companies rule in all cases of hospitalization, treatment and recovery. You're lucky they don't hunt you down and toss you out of the hospital within 10 minutes of giving birth - along with any baby that just happens to be within reach at the time. (Just take it and get out. We'll deal with the rest later.) You're confined to the car on your ride home - that's you confinement. Take it or leave it.
In the days of yore - all the way through the 1940's the woman was treated as though giving birth were an illness. Women of means, that is. The woman of little or no means did their thing, plunked the kid in a laundry basket and went back to work.
My mother was given a ride home in an ambulance after the birth of her first child in 1944. This was a normal birth with no complications whatsoever. She was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks.
According to the good doctor West on the subject of confinement:
It is highly recommended that "She must not get out of bed for at least nine days" and "the recumbent position for the mother should be most rigidly held and an upright position should be strictly enjoined for several days. Her shoulders must not leave the bed."
I could so that now if I want to.
The mother of means actually had several people to attend to her every need. And bring the baby to her when it was hungry. And make the husband a sandwich now and again while he mulled over the whole mystery of the baby thing. (How do you suppose that all happened? And why did she have a girl? I told her I wanted a boy, and Heck, I don't suppose she's going to want to... uhm...you know....for a while)
Let's move on to Dr. West's ideas on Spinsterhood. Turn to page 547, Celibacy, Advantages and Disadvantages. He appears to be assuming celibacy here for some reason. I can't really think of any good ones. Can you?
The chapter begins with "It is not good for man to be alone." So you know where he's going with this. He is kind enough to discuss both sides of the issue. The advantages include: Escaping the drudgery of a house hold, the liberty to come and go as she will, and escaping the pains and dangers peculiar to maternity and the ravages such trials make upon the system. Plus if she wants she can be a teacher of a stenographer.
Now the disadvantages are many. Consider these few from his list if you will:
1 She cannot remain young - where married woman never grow old in mind.
2 The acid disposition and censorious spirit is attributed to the spinster of 40 or more.
3 She takes the risk of becoming sour, exacting, and disagreeable.
4 She misses out of the profundity of happiness which comes to the wife and mother.
5 misses out of the serene calmness and holy joy of the wife and mother.
Don't you just like totally agree with everything he said? Me neither. Especially the calmness and holy joy of the wife and mother. There may be a few days of that here and there, but raving maniac comes to mind on some of the other days. And then there's laundry day and I need 42 cupcakes for my class tomorrow, Mom, day.
Oh, sorry - I may be getting ahead of myself. The good Doctor has pages and pages of discussions about the kinds of hysteria that women are prone to. And there are many. I can agree with that. I may get hysterical a little later today if I feel like it. Like if my pasta doesn't come out au dente at dinner time or if we are going to be watching Monday night football tonight.
So. This important information is in a book, on a printed page and I felt obliged to share it with you. You may now go on with your serene day laden with the joy of the delightful tasks of homemaking, motherhood and tracking down Dr. West so we can hang him from a tree at dawn. I'll bring the tar and feathers and a sheet cake.
We'll discuss Puerperal Insanity and Insanity of Lactation along with the 34 other insanities and the trestment thereof that can be easily achieved during Maidenhood and Motherhood at a later time.