Article #3: Prenatal Life by William L. Esser
In considering the hygienic life of a child, we must begin at the beginning. The belief that a child is born when it separates from its mother and becomes physiologically independent is erroneous. Life begins at conception, when male and female cells unite and the marvels of creation begin anew. But we should even go back several generations if we wish to consider the influences which bear on the life of the individual.
The child is fated through its whole earthly existence to endure or enjoy, as the case may be, the conditions which the good or bad qualities of its parents have forced upon it. Smoking, drinking, sexual excess and other inordinate practices may not outwardly be seriously affecting the health of adults, but when their children become nervous, epileptic and subject to all the pathologies to which mankind has descended, they may seriously contemplate the seriousness of their weaknesses.
Though the seeds of both parents are vital in influencing the future of the child, it is the mother who after initial union must assume the delicate responsibility of making its first nine months perfect. Nature has appointed woman to the mission of motherhood and by this mission she is directly charged with the early life of the child upon which so much of future good or ill depends. The rights of children begin while they are still in fetal life. Not by any will of their own do they come into existence.
Children are what parents make them. Children in later life are often condemned and punished for things for which parents are directly responsible.
Though it should be unnecessary to mention it, there are still those who harbor superstitions in connection with influences during pregnancy. It is thought that if the mother hears beautiful music while carrying her child it will develop into a musician, or that if she reads or thinks about certain favorable subjects, the child will have favorable tendencies in the particular field desired. It is desirable that the mother be surrounded by beautiful things, lovely music, inspiring books, because these things all contribute to poise and health, but listening to the moving passages of a Wagnerian masterpiece will not develop a little Wagner any more than looking at a Ford automobile will make a budding automotive genius out of little junior. These superstitions are just as untrue as the belief that the sight of a rat will cause a brown mark on his forehead, or that baby will certainly be an idiot because mother happened to see a case of insanity sometime after conception.
Russel T. Trall, M.D., has this to say for the expectant mother: “Motherhood should be normal. But it never will be and never can be under the prevailing fashions of society. A man might as well drink intoxicating liquor and then endeavor to walk erect with face upturned to Heaven, without gibbering or staggering, as a woman expects to eat, drink, cress and dissipate in the fashionable ways and be the mother of healthy offspring.
“One of the pernicious errors abroad is that woman is the ‘weaker vessel’ physically; thus accounting for, if not excusing, her manifold infirmities. Fashion is justified and nature blamed. This doctrine has its origin in viewing ‘woman as she really is,’ and not ‘woman as she should be.’ The fact that woman in civilized life is, as a rule, feebler than man is taken as evidence of constitutional and natural infirmity.
“There is no truth to this notion. Physically woman is man’s equal. In bodily stamina, powers of endurance, vital resources and muscular strength, under the same circumstances of habit and education, she is no sense inferior; on the contrary, if there is a difference, it is in her favor. This should be so; and there is an anatomical and a physiological reason why it is so. The woman has not only to nourish herself but others. She must construct and replenish her own structures and those of her offspring. Hence she has the greater nutritive apparatus.”
A woman living a rational life free from superficialities will have a normal, painless pregnancy and labor. The labor will be painless without the use of anesthesia and the abusive treatment of hospitalization. There are occasionally cases of badly formed pelvises which no amount of perfect living can alter, in which a certain amount of pain cannot be avoided. It is more important in these than in any that the patient live as closely to the laws of health as possible.
A pregnancy fraught with the usual discomforts, sickness and painful labor is simple to avoid. Mothers should live as close to their usual routine of duties as possible. This applies, of course, to women in the home rather than those who are working in defense plants and under other types of stress. A woman carrying a child should not be engaged in laborious occupations where she cannot rest when the inclination is there, and where she is subject to the vicious emotions of jealousy, hatred, deceit, etc. A poised, serene, self-controlled disposition should be cultivated. The atmosphere of the expectant mother should be one of quiet and refinement, one of happiness and love, and the husband should assist his wife in supplying that medium.
The unborn baby must have as perfect a home as possible. Its food supply which it receives from its mother’s bloodstream should be clean and laden with rich nutriment for perfect growth. Hence the mother must take great pains to eat only the best food, in the best combinations and in the amounts best suited to her needs. Though it may sound like repetitious record, it is nevertheless important to stress the importance of not “eating for two” since the habit seems to be just as prevalent as always. A fat baby is diseased and because of its size will cause an uncomfortable pregnancy and a painful labor. Under normal circumstances a child’s weight should be no more than six pounds at birth.
The child in the womb should have freedom of movement and for this purpose, the mother should allow her body all the freedom from dress that convention allows. She should dress comfortably and wear no tight garments of any kind. Her shoes should be low-heeled, or better still, have no heels at all. Whenever possible barefooted walking is good.
Sun-baths should be a regular part of the prospective mother’s program. The sun creates vital changes in the body for the child and mother, improving the tone and vigor of the body. Women living in the north where the sun is scarce must be certain to expose themselves at every opportunity to insure at least a minimum amount. It is because of the need of sunshine that Dr. Herbert M. Shelton in Care of Children urged that babies be born in the spring. He writes as follows, “Babies born in the late fall or early winter, and who live through the winter, nearly all develop rickets to a greater or lesser degree. Fewer cases of rickets are seen in children who have the advantage of sunshine and sun-kissed food during their first months of life. That sunshine is absolutely essential to the normal assimilation and utilization of calcium (lime) and perhaps also of iron and other elements, is certain. This is true of plants, animals and man. If your child is born in the early spring or the closing of winter, it need never have rickets and will also have reasonable assurance against scrofula, tuberculosis, anemia and other diseases.”
Exercise should be regular. Dancing, calisthenics, golf, hiking, tennis, swimming, if the water is not too cold, can and should be indulged in with care until the end of the pregnancy.
It should hardly be necessary to state that smoking, the use of alcoholics, coffee, cola drinks, and other suicidal habits must be outlawed. If a woman cannot make these sacrifices for her baby and for her own improvement, she certainly does not deserve the right and honour of having a child. These vicious habits make the mother a neurotic and the poor child nervous and irritable. There, can be no compromise.
Sexual abuse is a common and dangerous occurrence during pregnancy. Miscarriages are not infrequent and the abortion habit is often the result of this cause. It’ is not uncommon to have expectant mothers forced into submission to this unnatural practice with threats of infidelity.
John H. Tilden, M.D. says. “The stockman, as well as the humane society, would prosecute anyone ignorant and stupid enough to allow the males of any breed of animals to tease and excite sexually the pregnant females; but this health destroying practice is permitted without protest among human animals.”
The very least the husband can do is to cooperate with the mother of his child in this matter and other conditions pertaining to her’s and the baby’s health. He must consider that she is making much greater sacrifice in the deal than he, and that a little self control and a less stimulating mode of eating and living will reduce his rapacity and improve his health.
The Hygienic mother has nothing to fear. The parturition will be painless and the newborn babe blessed with the health and promise every proud parent wishes it to posses. Home or a hygienic institution are the best places for the birth to take place. Likewise, a midwife, if obtainable, is the safest practitioner to have present at the time. The hospital and its brutal methods of hastening the parturition with drugs, anesthesia, forceps, and Caesarian section (the latter being routine procedure in some establishments) should be avoided with rightful dread. Here, everything is anti-natural. The birth of a child is treated as though it were the removal of a cancer instead of a perfectly normal, completely physiological, function.
The hospital mother is rarely capable of performing the most important function for her child after it is born; namely, that of lactation, of nursing it at her breast, because of the destructive medical procedure. If she can, the milk has invariably been made unfit for the same reason and rarely lasts beyond the fourth or fifth week. To the hygienic mother, these are all nightmares and disappointments she will never experience.