Expecting by Marika Seigel - Read Online
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Summary

As long as there have been pregnancies, there have been suggestions for how best to bring a child into the world: from tips for homeopathic care and natural childbirth to the circulation of old wives’ tales, those who deliver advice to pregnant women are often influenced as much by their own agendas as what is best, or most comfortable, for a new mother. In Expecting, Marika Seigel, author of The Rhetoric of Pregnancy, provides a list of recommended reading and considers the history of pregnancy advice. Opening with her own birthing histories and careful explanation of how she first became interested in the topic, Seigel then casts a skeptical eye over the pregnancy guides that have circulated from the Enlightenment to the present day. Encouraging women to remain empowered when they are pregnant and to collaborate with their health care providers, Seigel articulates how best to have a healthy and affirming birth experience.
Published: University of Chicago Press an imprint of UChicagoPress on
ISBN: 9780226153384
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Expecting: A Brief History of Pregnancy Advice

Marika Seigel

Chicago Shorts

For my mother and my grandmothers

Expecting: A Brief History of Pregnancy Advice © 2014 by The University of Chicago

All rights reserved.

Chicago Shorts edition, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-226-15338-4

Much of the material in this Short is adapted and revised from The Rhetoric of Pregnancy by Marika Seigel, University of Chicago Press, 2014.

CONTENTS

Birth Stories

Monsters and Maternal Imagination during the Enlightenment

Eugenic Imaginations in the Early Twentieth Century

Risky Imaginations in the 1980s and Beyond

Corporate Imaginations and Online Advice

Conclusion: Reimagining Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

Further Reading

Notes

References

Birth Stories

My husband and I left a pot of chicken stock warming on the stove when we drove out to the clinic for what we thought would be a quick, just in case visit. It was five and a half weeks before my due date, and I had experienced some light bleeding. The midwife told me that my water was leaking out slowly, that there was no going back, that I would have to take an ambulance from the clinic to the regional medical center, two hours away. I was wheeled out to the ambulance; my husband drove home to turn off the soup, to pack a bag, to feed the cats. Motherhood came on suddenly.

My pregnant body also came on suddenly, in the minutes between peeing on a stick and seeing a pink cross materialize. One of the first things that I did after receiving this positive result was to call the University Health Clinic, tell the receptionist that I was pretty sure I was pregnant, and make an appointment with a doctor. Barely a week later, I paid a visit to that doctor, who further confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test and ultrasound. He pointed out the yolk sack, a black bean sprouting on a blurry field.

After my pregnancy was confirmed, after I felt that it was official, one of my first stops was a megachain bookstore with a well-stocked maternity section. I grabbed the book that was most prominently displayed in the bookstore, the title I’d seen frequently on other women’s coffee tables (not to mention on pregnant women’s bedside tables on TV and in the movies): What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Murkoff, Eisenberg, and Hathaway 2002). As I eagerly leafed through the book, I was confronted with lists (one for each month of pregnancy) titled What You [meaning I, meaning the pregnant woman] May Be Concerned About: from cesareans and STDs and genetic problems to alcohol and drug use, microwave exposure, occupational hazards, weight gain, and air pollution.

Needless to say, I found things to be concerned about that I hadn’t been concerned with five minutes before: the lunchmeat in the sub sandwich I’d had for lunch, for example, and the exhaust spewed by congested downtown traffic. I also found suggestions for minimizing the risks posed by these concerns. The book emphasized the countless ways that my nauseated, bloated body could malfunction. This pregnancy guide, in effect, told me to see my pregnant body as a risky body and to undertake a program of self-discipline—under the supervision of a qualified medical professional—that would keep those risks in check. I felt disempowered and angry, although at the time I couldn’t articulate why.

Risk management also defined the birth of my daughter Annika. When I went into labor five and a half weeks early, I had to give