Print

If ever males wondered if they were born as the favoured gender, here is some real proof – as if any proof were needed. I’ve long lamented the gross inequality of the genders.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Lucky new mum ... Medieval woman, having given birth, enjoying her lying-in (postpartum confinement). France, 14th century From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.
Born male and you get the best of life.

Born female, and what better excuse is there for leaping off a high cliff somewhere.

As one of the blessed gender, I don’t really have much of an excuse for doing myself in, apart perhaps from the often gross unfairness of our society.

But then the fairer gender face that public peril, too.

Humorous writer

That wonderfully humorous writer, Bill Bryson has a new book out that I’m recommending even before reading it.

The section I refer to here comes from Delancey Place’s sample from Bill's The Body, published recently by Doubleday.

Compared to the female lot, however, freshly reminded by Delancey’s excerpt from Bill’s book, I shouldn’t feel so bitter about serving eight years thanks to a crooked prosecution.

It only stole all I possessed in addition to that great lump of life. No actual torture, though.

The worst affliction for the fairer gender, in my humble opinion and from what I have witnessed, is what goes on all around us. Childbirth.

I watched my son being born and I could scarcely believe that in such a modern age we accept as normal that a woman should suffer almost countless hours of agony.

Is modern life to blame?

I‘ve seen many animals of different breeds giving birth, and it seems just about distress-free for them. But for a human! Is it modern life that makes us so unsuitable for so-called natural birth?

Bill Bryson’s very moving story suggests otherwise – that there is certainly nothing new in expecting the aspiring mother to suffer.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Waiting for the world ... A baby waits to be born, in this very old sketch by William Smellie - Plate 14, from A Set of Anatomical Tables with Explanations. archive.org, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9092070.

Bill writes, ‘However tedious and painful childbirth is now, it was much worse in the past. Until the modern era, levels of care and expertise were often pretty appalling.

Just determining whether a woman was pregnant was a long-standing challenge for medical men.

'We have known a practitioner of thirty years' standing blister the abdomen in the ninth month under the idea that he was treating a morbid growth,' wrote one authority as late as 1873.

Abjure conjugal enjoyments!

'Women who suffered from morning sickness and were rash enough to declare it were likely to be bled, given enemas, or dosed with opiates.

'Women were sometimes bled even if they had no symp-toms at all, as a precaution. They were also encouraged to loosen their corsets and to abjure 'conjugal enjoyments.'

In the same period, surgeons developed a new procedure called an oophorectomy -- the surgical removal of the ovaries.

For a decade or so, it was the operation of choice for well-off women with menstrual cramps, back pain, vomiting, headaches, even chronic coughing.

In 1906, an estimated 150,000 American women underwent oophorectomies. It more or less goes without saying that it was an entirely pointless procedure.

Pain was considered a more or less necessary correlate of the process because of the biblical injunc-tion 'in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children,' Death for mother or baby or both was not uncommon.

'Maternity is another word for eternity' was a common saying.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, which are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory and on Blogger,

Care to comment? You can contact Paul here ⇒⇒ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook and Blogger.