Before there were pregnancy websites… before there was What to Expect When You’re Expecting… our foremothers relied on books like this one to help guide them through the process of gestation.
This book, Expectant Motherhood by Nicholson J. Eastman, was my grandmother’s. She had her children in the 1950s, presumably armed with this book which was originally written in 1940 and re-released in 1950. This was a time period when women showed up to the hospital to give birth and were anesthetized — against their will in some cases — so that they had no memory of the experience of childbirth. (I’m not making that up, incidentally. Look it up.)
The book, while outdated and a souvenir of a very different era of womanhood, actually isn’t all that bad in terms of medical information. There’s quite a lot in it that you would find in a modern text, albeit perhaps not worded in quite the same way.
But this wouldn’t be a very entertaining post if I just showed you the reasonable stuff, now would it? So instead, I bring you some of the “Best Of” excerpts from Expectant Motherhood. Enjoy.
A newly pregnant woman’s journey to motherhood begins with a visit to the doctor’s office — her very first such visit, as a matter of fact, since she’d have had no reason to worry about that anatomical neighborhood until this point.
After that pain-free and modesty-preserving experience, the woman is ready to begin cooking that bun in her oven. While doing so, she should be careful to cut down on potentially problematic vices.
As her pregnancy progresses, she will need to consider the problem of her wardrobe and its changing requirements.
(It kills me that I can’t find the line about how she should take care to maintain her appearance, for her husband’s sake — wondering if I read that in a different old maternity book? It was classic…)
She will want to select her undergarments, in particular, with care.
It will be important for her to refrain from overexertion, and from overtaxing her nervous system. Driving an automobile should be considered carefully; for that matter, it isn’t necessarily healthy for her to be a passenger, due to the strain of observing the landscape speeding by….
Delivery of the child is, naturally, a concerning prospect for the young mother-to-be. Fortunately, Expectant Motherhood is here to reassure her that she won’t even be conscious of the experience.
The book details several methods by which a laboring mother might be spared the pain of delivery, such as this one:
It then goes on to explain that, after delivering her child, the mother is (for at least the first week or so) free of any responsibility toward the infant.
Using Expectant Motherhood as a prop for some of my maternity pictures made it hard to maintain my composure, as you can probably well imagine…
Anyway, there you have it. Forget all those slick 21st-century productions! Next time you’re in a family way, reach for a classic: Expectant Motherhood. It worked for me!