Labor is terrifying. Even after dealing with the discomforts and sickness of pregnancy, most women would rather not go through the excruciating pain of delivering a relatively large baby out of a tiny orifice.
There are many ways to mitigate the pain of labor, but most of the ways that actually work were not invented until recently.
Pregnancy ad New Baby Lore (FA 01 45)
Labor is already hard enough, which is why any chance for reprieve will be considered by a terrified expectant mother. Some women choose not to eat after their water breaks because they believe that eating directly before delivery can cause the energy needed to have the baby to be diverted into digesting food. Other mothers tried deep breathing exercises to relax the body and avoid the pain tension can cause. Still more decide to chew ice in lieu of food.
Sometimes even waiting to go into labor can be uncomfortable. In desperation, women will try all sorts of odd things to induce labor. Drinking Caster oil in an attempt to go into labor may not work. Instead it gives drinker a terrible case of ‘the runs’.
The Lore of Pregnancy (FA 01 229)
Foods and drinks are easy to change, so many women try strange things to ease pregnancy. Certain ‘herbs’ help speed delivery. And drinking red raspberry tea all through pregnancy will help with labor. Different oils are drunk with gusto in an attempt to control the misbehaving body. Castor oil is taken to induce labor, Cod Liver Oil to shorten labor. Most of these are unproven by scientists, but seem to make people feel better through the act of preparation itself.
Everything You Should Know About Pregnancy??? (FA 01 456)
The time leading up to labor is terrifying. Women are told for most of their life that delivering a baby is the most terrible pain they will ever face. Preventing that pain can be more feasible with modern medicine, but that has its ups and downs. One woman suggested sitting over a pan of hot ashes to expand the bones for an easy delivery.
Predicting when the birth will occur is a large part of the lore. Babies can take a long or short time deciding to come out, but some claim that the baby will be very active right before labor, and then completely still right before delivery. A woman can utilize that information to know when to go to the hospital or call her midwife.
While there are many tales of lengthy, painful labor, there are also many tales of lightning quick labor that springs itself upon people at awkward moments. Getting lost on the way to the delivery ward, a few women have revealed that they delivered their baby in the elevator. Apparently this location isn’t as weird as it could be. One woman had her first three children in the elevator because her labors were so short. Other women have their babies in the car on the way to the hospital; including one with her other children in the back seat because they didn’t even have time to drop them off on the way to the hospital.
Having a baby at home can be a decision made by a family with a midwife on call. Or it can occur by accident, like the woman who had her baby in the living room while her husband was preparing her bag for the hospital. He called 911 to have an ambulance to come pick them up, and his mother, who was the telephone operator, gave him a copy of the tape for a baby present. Other home births include the surprisingly common birth location of the toilet. Usually it happens when a young lady with mild labor pains thinks she’s having a bowel movement. A rarer example is the woman who had her baby on the front lawn. None of these stories explain what they do with the umbilical cord.
Folklore of Pregnancy and Birth (FA 01 510)
Women have babies more during big storms because the drop in barometric pressure induces labor.
Pregnancy and Birth Folklore (FA 01 1283)
In a way, mild birth stories can be worse than long, painful birth stories. When a woman doesn’t realize she’s about to give birth, she doesn’t have time to prepare and ends up having her baby in an odd place, like while she’s standing in line at the bank.
On the other hand, long birth stories are also occasionally terrifying. One woman was having difficulty with labor, so the nurse put a belt above her pregnant belly and pushed downwards.
Pregnancy Lore and Folk Belief (FA 01 1502)
Anesthesia first developed during the nineteenth century. A cocktail of drugs, including morphine, were administered to pregnant women to dull the pain and the memory of child birth. This was popular until the late fifties, when women finally started to realize the dangers of such practices. At that point, women had little say in their care if they chose to go to a hospital, so babies had to be extracted with forceps or cesarean sections. The woman had no say in her own care, and may not have known much about childbirth even after giving birth to a child.
The women’s movement rejected the prevalence of men making decision about childbirth, so the early sixties brought on a secondary movement for natural childbirth. Some of their reasoning came from overly literal biblical interpretations. Because the bible tells them that Adam and Eve should have their children ‘in sorrow.’ This means refusing any pain medication during the birth, so they’ll experience pain.
Doctors are still useful though, and some even try alternative things like advising women to lie on their side as an extra measure against pain. Without doctors, many more women died. In fact, Puritans had such a high rate of death during pregnancy that they called any woman who was pregnant “on the couch” as in “on her death bed” and would call a mother “off the couch“ if she survived the pregnancy.
The Folklore of the Pregnant Community (FA 01 1507)
One nurse told a pregnant woman to hold her breath to open a wider space for the baby to get out. Later that woman learned that holding her breath was the most painful, useless thing she could have done, because deep breathing is actually a better aid to labor.
Baby Folklore (FA 01 1075)
Ginger root may induce labor.
Pregnancy Folklore (FA 01 1807)
Orange juice may induce labor.
Red Raspberries and Drano: Pregnancy Beliefs and the Influence of the Family (FA 01 1881)
Some believe that women will have an urge to thoroughly clean their house the day that the baby will come, because their body knows the baby is coming, and wants everything to be ready.