Wednesday, July 24, 2013


First off, congratulation to Will and Kate on the birth of the Prince of Cambridge! 

My family is awaiting such an arrival. Our daughter-in-law is expected to deliver any day. Her due date is the 26th. We know it’s a boy, and his arrival is greatly anticipated by his older sisters, ages six and four. This is the 3-D ultrasound picture of the new baby. Amazing, isn’t it? 

Remember when ultrasounds first came out? Those gray and white pictures that didn’t look like anything. I must admit, I was like Rachel on Friends, I just couldn’t ‘see’ a baby no matter how hard I tried.

Plenty of things with birth control, pregnancy and childbirth have changed over the years. Here are a few tidbits from the 1800’s: 

Not including miscarriages and still births, the average American woman in the 1800’s gave birth to six children.

To maintain modesty, doctors were to have ‘eye contact’ with their patients and exams were performed only by touch.

Pain during childbirth was expected, but in the mid-1800’s chloroform was offered to some upper-class woman. The pain reliever soon became more acceptable. Easily obtainable, any one assisting with a birth could administer it. Mid-wives, family members, etc. and overdoses were not uncommon.

During this time, when more lower-class women were working outside of the home, postpartum rest (in the years before this included up to a month of ‘lying in’) eroded. Women were expected back at work the day after giving birth, especially those in domestic positions.

If a woman couldn’t breast feed, or afford a wet-nurse a ‘pap’ was created from bread, water, and sugar. Milk was added weeks later.

Actual maternity clothes were not ‘invented’ until 1906, before then women adapted the dresses they had to accommodate their ever growing middle. 

‘Bandages’ or ‘support girdles’ were sometimes worn to support the stomach. There was a ‘pregnancy corset’ which hid their growing abdomen so women could participate in social activities long into their pregnancies, but doctors did advocate not lacing it too tightly.

Up until the 1920’s most babies were born at home, hospital births were only for the very poor. There was also the fear of disease due to sanitary measures in most hospitals.   

Birth control—a very common prevention method was nursing. Women nursed their babies until the age of two which for many prolonged their infertile period.

Condoms, sponges, diaphragms and douching were a few other methods, however, these were used mainly by ‘ladies of ill repute’ and were not promoted to prevent pregnancy, but to stay free from venereal diseases.

At the time, there was nothing greater a woman could give her husband than a houseful of children. If a woman was encouraged to refrain from having another child due to complications, abstaining from sexual intercourse was the prescription given. Separate bedrooms, or long vacation where one spouse or the other went to live with family, were often the way couples attempted to follow doctor’s orders. 

My latest release, The Cowboy Who Caught Her Eye features a pregnant heroine.

Pregnant and unmarried, Molly Thorson knows her livelihood is under threat. The last thing she needs is a distracting cowboy swaggering into view. Especially one who knows she has a secret and still looks at her with desire in his eyes.  

Carter Buchanan knows all about secrets. It's his job to know. And Molly sure has something to hide. But the fear in her eyes touches a place he thought long-ago dead-and now this cowboy can't help but consider exchanging his pistol for a band of gold.... 



  1. Lauri, thanks. That's the first photo of a pessary that I've seen, but I recognize it from the description.

  2. Excellent post! I look forward to reading your work! :-)

  3. Fascinating, Laura. All of it. Women had a hard time of it--if the pregnancy didn't kill her, all those things to wear tightly around her middle might. The Native Americans had it right, and knew more than us from the get go.
    In the novel The Good Earth, the wife followed her husband out to the field while in labor and continued tilling the land and planting seeds. Somewhere during the day, she called out she needed to stop and give birth. Her Chinese husband called back, something like, "Don't take too long--we have work to do."
    So, she squatted between two rows and gave birth, buried the afterbirth, stood up, wrapped the infant in a cloth around her body, and continued to work.
    That scene has always made me angry. Later in the book, she was giving birth again, and the woman was required to stay in her closed room and do it all herself. No one could enter. This is China way back. It wouldn't surprise me if that didn't still happen.

    Yes, we've come a long way, baby. My babies were born in the early 60's, and the doctor put me completely out--without my knowing what he was doing. I woke up and next morning, no one in the room, and wondered if I'd had a baby. I rang for a nurse to tell me.
    The second baby came so fast, they had no time to give me anything except one whiff of something for a few minutes. I rolled down the hall with the lunch trays to my room. I was so hungry, I ate everything on my plate. See, I'd had not drugs except that one whiff.

    Thanks for all the details. I never knew about much of this.

  4. The Good Earth, Celia, was one of Pearl Buck books and I think I read almost all of them. Great author.

    Loved the baby photo before birth, Lauri. He looks like a darling and best of luck with all the waiting. Very interesting about all the pregnancy and birth. Women certainly have it a lot easier these days.


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