Birth: The Surprising History of how We are Born

Front Cover
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006 - Health & Fitness - 312 pages
Pregnant women have always dreaded the pain of childbirth and have done just about anything to avoid feeling it. Five thousand years ago, the Egyptians and Indians made use of opium, from which we would later derive morphine. The Greeks chewed willow bark, the predecessor to aspirin. The people of the Andes had their cocoa leaves, the basis for cocaine. And myrrh might not have been just for the baby Jesus. Women have drunk wine and poppy juice, eaten mandrake and hemp. They've been hypnotized, offered Demerol, Nubain, and Stadol. Drugs aside, many in myth and reality have sworn they would give up anything to avoid the agony of childbirth. Even sex. The Greek goddess Actemia was terrified by her mother's suffering at her own birth and so she asked Zeus the favor of eternal virginity. Actemia changed her mind though, seduced Endymion, and ended up giving birth to fifty daughters. Mere mortals, also unable to resist the lures of sex, have eaten strange things--including cassowary anus or swamp eel, hoping to make the birth canal slippery--to reduce the pain.... Indigenous peoples, from Siberia to the Sudan, would demand confessions from the woman in labor. Did she commit adultery? If she did not answer truthfully, they believed, her birth would be extremely painful.

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BIRTH: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

User Review  - Kirkus

Former Boston Globe editor Cassidy explores the way childbirth has changed, from pre-history to the present.Women have always borne children, but how people have thought about the process is far from ... Read full review

Fascinating and funny

User Review  - Eliza the Bookseller - Borders

This book chronicles the management (or mismanagement) of birth across time and cultures. It covers the fads, misconceptions, policies and even tools that have been in vogue in the quest for the ... Read full review

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