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Ethnography of pregnancy in our culture Powell, Martha Bauder 1972

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AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF PREGNANCY IN OUR CULTURE by Martha Bauder P o w e l l B . S c , Pennsy lvania Sta te U n i v e r s i t y , 1956 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n the Department of Anthropology and Soc io logy •Me accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r equ i r ed s tandard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, 1972 In present ing t h i s thesis" in part i al f u l f i Vment o f the requirements fo r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L i b r a r y sha l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e for reference and study. I fu r ther agree that permission for extensive copying o f th is t h e s i s fo r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h is representa t ives . It i s understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n o f th is t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l gain sha l l not be allowed without my wr i t ten permiss ion . Department of The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada i ABSTRACT The essay describes ethnographically some of the special experience's of married women during pregnancy. Data were c o l l e c t e d among middle class women i n Vancouver, B r i t i s h Columbia, by means of observation, interviews, and a question-naire . Material relates to 1) the s o c i a l relationships of pregnant women to other people, 2) some of the s o c i a l customs practiced during pregnancy, 3) the s o c i a l readjustments which occur as a result of pregnancy, and li) preconceived notions about pregnancy i n our culture. The essay concludes that during pregnancy, c e r t a i n kinds of communication with other persons ( p a r t i c u l a r l y kin, good friends, and medical personnel) provide a means by which women learn to orient themselves to the physical and s o c i a l r e a l i t i e s of pregnancy and motherhood. This communication enta i l s the mutual exchange of knowledge and feel i n g s , and the content and function of these exchanges are discussed. Supervisor TABLE OP CONTENTS ABSTRACT E. INTRODUCTION I I . BASIC OBSERVATIONS I I I . MAKING THE ANNOUNCEMENT I V . CARE AND SUPPORT V . CONCLUSIONS BIBLIOGRAPHY APPENDIX H i LIST OP FIGURES -Page FIGURE 1 K i n who have a r i g h t to know f i r s t about a pregnancy ( s o l i d areas) and those who may be t o l d second ( shaded areas) . , . . 1 31 FIGURE >P F i v e spheres of communication dur ing pregnancy and t h e i r re-l a t i o n s h i p to each o ther 50 FIGURE 3 Parameters which d i s t i n g u i s h between spheres of communication dur ing pregnancy . . . . 51 1 I . INTRODUCTION Pregnancy and c h i l d b i r t h are experiences shared by a major p a r t of the a d u l t female p o p u l a t i o n the world over. Be-cause of t h e i r u n i v e r s a l i t y , f u l l ethnographic d e s c r i p t i o n s of the s o c i a l customs surrounding them could p r o v i d e v a l u a b l e c u l -t u r a l and c r o s s - c u l t u r a l m a t e r i a l , f o r the b i r t h of c h i l d r e n i s among the most s i g n i f i c a n t s o c i a l m i l e stones i n a woman's l i f e , s i n c e i t changes h e r s t a t u s and r o l e i n s o c i e t y . A few such d e s c r i p t i o n s e x i s t i n the l i t e r a t u r e of anthropology, though g e n e r a l l y speaking, f u l l d e s c r i p t i o n s of 1 pregnancy and c h i l d b i r t h are uncommon. For our own c u l t u r e , 2 ethnographies on these s u b j e c t s do not e x i s t . T h i s paper p r o v i d e s an ethnographic account of some of the s p e c i a l experiences married women have d u r i n g pregnancy. It shows that these p e r i o d s i n a woman's l i f e are more than b i o l o g i c a l e p i s o d e s . The nature and scope of t h e i r s o c i a l 1. See B i b l i o g r a p h y f o r a p a r t i a l l i s t o f ethnographies i n which pregnancy i s mentioned. 2. References: An Inventory of Family Research S t u d i e s i n Canada (1963-1967). Ottawa: Vanier I n s t i t u t e of the Family, 1967. I n t e r n a t i o n a l B i b l i o g r a p h y of Research i n Marriage and the - Family 1900-I9bl;7 Mi n n e a p o l i s : U n i v e r s i t y of MinnesoTa -Press, 1967. Mogey, John. S o c i o l o g y of Marriage and Family Behavior 1957-19o7« The Hague: Mouton, 1969. C-oode, W i l l i a m J . ; Hopkins, E l i z a b e t h ; McClure, Helen M. S o c i a l Systems and Family P a t t e r n s . I n d i a n a p o l i s : Bobbs M e r r i l l Co., 1 9 7 1 . S o c i o l o g i c a l A b s t r a c t s , I963- p r e s e n t . 2 relevance i s the subject of the paper. Data for the study were collected in the Vancouver, B r i t i s h Columbia, metropolitan area over a period of approx-imately f i f t e e n months. The data consist of observation ( i . e . , pregnant women were observed in everyday s o c i a l contacts), as well as interviews with selected informants, who were chosen because they gave information e a s i l y and because they showed a general sense of s o c i a l awareness. Por a portion of t h i s time, I was myself a participant observer, during my own second pregnancy. My Informants were chosen from among married women enrolled i n prenatal classes sponsored by the Vancouver Metro-p o l i t a n Health Services and by the National C h i l d b i r t h Trust. Most of them were having t h e i r f i r s t babies, and a l l but one were interviewed two months to one week p r i o r to the estimated date of b i r t h . The lone exception had given b i r t h , prematurely, f i v e weeks before the interview. The scope of the study i n c l u -des the nine-month period of pregnancy but not c h i l d b i r t h i t s e l f . By f a r the majority of informants were young Caucasians with Grade 12 or higher education, married to men of s i m i l a r back-grounds. An e f f o r t was made to keep the sample f a i r l y uniform. Some of the women were employed and of these a few planned to return to work a f t e r the b i r t h of the baby, though this was the exception. Their husbands were ste a d i l y employed at jobs ranging from s k i l l e d labour to professional positions. A l l l i v e d i n r e l a t i v e comfort and anticipated some degree of advancement i n l i f e s t y l e i n the future. Their orientation was, loosely, speaking, 3 middle c l a s s . Generally, this i s the kind of person who ava i l s herself of the services of prenatal classes, though they are open to everyone. * The material I gathered proved relevant f o r the study i n several ways, as those pertaining to: 1) the relationship of pregnant women to family members, friends, professional medical personnel, strangers, and casual acquaintances. Of Interest were regularly recurring acts and inferred attitudes of various kinds which c l e a r l y indicated a s h i f t of status and role from the pre-pregnant state: 2) the s o c i a l customs and amenities practiced by and f o r pregnant women; 3) the impressions of the women themselves concerning the s o c i a l adjustments involved; and 3) preconceived notions concerning c h i l d b i r t h and the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of parenthood, insofar as these are part of the c u l t u r a l milieu. Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive and are not treated as such i n the report. Work with the informants was casual during the i n i t i a l phases of the study. That i s , much information was gathered through conversations between informant and investigator and by f o r t u i t o u s l y overhearing conversations of others. In addition, the talk between teacher and students i n the prenatal classes was in s t r u c t i v e . During the second phase, eight interviews were recorded on tape, six of which were used i n this report. In each case, the interview was conducted i n the home of the informant. They lasted from f o r t y - f i v e to seventy-five minutes. Transcripts of these were useful not only for t h e i r information content, but also because they provided this Information in the woman's own words. Brief descriptions of three of the informants appear:: at the end of t h i s chapter. Thirdly, I e l i c i t e d further information by means of an open-ended questionnaire, a copy of which appears as an Appen dix. Ten of these were used in reporting the data. Frequently, I had occasion to r e f l e c t upon my own dual role i n this project of ethnographer and participant, and f o r a time I questioned the seeming incompatibility of these roles. As the project went on, however, i t became evident that my own pregnant condition was working to my advantage, inasmuch as my informants a c t u a l l y gave Information much more f u l l y to me in my pregnant state than e a r l i e r i n the study when I was not pregnant. Also, as a participant, my i n t u i t i v e f e e l for the subject provided a means of interpreting the material gathered from each informant. It i s c l e a r to me that my personal involve ment in the subject set up a positive condition f o r M communicat ing with my informants, a factor which helped me to formulate the main thesis of t h i s presentation. Description of Three Informants. Anne, age 28, has been married for seven years to a clothing salesman at Woodward's. This is t h e i r f i r s t baby. Before marriage Anne was an a i r l i n e stewardess, and has main-tained the physical glamour and s o c i a l responses associated with that profession. Af t e r marriage she worked as a secretary fo r f i v e years in the a i r l i n e offices i n Vancouver. Although she and her husband are Catholics, they practiced b i r t h control for the f i r s t year of t h e i r marriage so that she would not be forced to give up her job as a source of income, on the b e l i e f that a couple should e s t a b l i s h i t s e l f materially before beginning a family. However, when several years had passed and she had not become pregnant, the couple sought medical help and, learning that a low sperm count made pregnancy u n l i k e l y for them, they were i n the process of adopt-ing a baby when Anne at l a s t became pregnant. In her eagerness to confirm the pregnancy, Anne had a laboratory test just ten days a f t e r missing her period, an unusually short i n t e r v a l . In his eagerness to confirm the pregnancy, her husband phoned the doctor's o f f i c e to obtain the test results from work and then proceeded to t e l l his co-workers, relativessand several friends before r e a l i z i n g that he had not yet informed Anne. The deviation from normal proceedure is a source of amusement for her, and probably occurred because he had been anxious about his low sperm count. I interviewed Anne i n the ninth month of her pregnancy at her home in a new housing development i n Surrey. In terms of material possessions — furnishing, clothing, automobiles --the family i s comfortable. They have traveled to Europe and Asia by taking advantage of employee benefits from the a i r l i n e . 6 They entertain frequently^ have many friends, but I gather that she has few close friendships. Family t i e s are close but not intense. Parents, s i b l i n g s , in-laws, and aunts and uncles l i v e i n Vancouver. The couple have no hobbies or outside a c t i v i t i e s , but devote a considerable e f f o r t toward home maintenance. Anne projects an image of physical'and-emotional strength, and I gathered at our interview that thes-e q u a l i t i e s are very important to her. A l l of my informants, in fact, seemed eager f o r me to believe that they were doing the " r i g h t " thing, such as taking good care of themselves physically, edu-cating themselves concerning proper-health habits, making good preparations for infant care, and adopting a positive frame of mind concerning b i r t h . These are things which are encouraged i n the l i t e r a t u r e as a means of insuring success and are, there-fore, not surprisingly, the things which my informants wanted to communicate to me, not only i n my role as researcher, but also as someone having the same experience. Carol was the oldest (mid-30's), longest married (11 years), and most highly educated (two M.A.(a) of informants. Yet these factors did not make her s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t from the others as concerns her pregnancy. This is not to say that there was nothing unusual in her handling of the s i t u a t i o n , f o r she had chosen an unorthodox way of announcing her pregnancy, which was not to announce i t at a l l to out-of-town r e l a t i v e s and friends u n t i l a f t e r the baby's b i r t h . In f a c t , her plan did not work, f o r Carol ended up t e l l -ing her mother during the seventh month i n order to insure that 7 she would not h e a r the news second hand from a r e l a t i v e who l i v e s n e a r b y . She s a i d tha t she had not wanted h e r mother to worry about h e r d u r i n g the pregnancy at a time when she was a l s o c a r i n g f o r an a i l i n g s i s t e r . L a t e r i n o u r c o n v e r s a t i o n , however, i t emerged that i n h e r s m a l l home town i n Nor th Dakota , news of pregnancy becomes the focus o f g o s s i p which she c o n s i d -ered d e g r a d i n g and meddlesome,, and so h e r p l a n to keep the s e c r e t r e l a t e s to h e r d e s i r e to break from t h i s t r a d i t i o n , as she had a p p a r e n t l y done b e f o r e , by s e e k i n g e d u c a t i o n i n s t e a d o f marr iage and f a m i l y l i f e w i t h i n the community. She s t a t e d t h a t h e r c h i l d -hood f r i e n d s had never u n d e r s t o o d h e r l i f e s t y l e and had f r e -q u e n t l y asked h e r why she d i d n ' t have c h i l d r e n , a l i n e o f q u e s t -i o n i n g which C a r o l f e l t was t a c t l e s s and c r u e l . C a r o l and h e r husband Tom, a u n i v e r s i t y p r o f e s s o r , l i v e i n a new h o u s i n g development i n South Vancouver . They have no k i n l i v i n g i n Vancouver . They share hobbies such as p h o t o -graphy and m o t o r c a r s , as w e l l as i n t e r e s t s i n l i t e r a t u r e and mus ic , and l i v e q u i e t l y , w i t h o u t i n t e n s e r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h f r i e n d s . They had at the time l i v e d i n Vancouver f o r one y e a r , d u r i n g w h i c h she had worked as a l i b r a r i a n at a secondary s c h o o l . P r e v i o u s l y , whi l e l i v i n g i n the S t a t e s , she taught E n g l i s h i n Secondary s c h o o l b e f o r e r e t u r n i n g to the u n i v e r s i t y to ge t a degree i n L i b r a r y S c i e n c e . Suzanne, who i s about 20, became pregnant whi le l i v i n g In the Queen C h a r l o t t e I s l a n d s , where h e r husband was w o r k i n g at a min ing camp. As there was no d o c t o r nearby , she was f lown out to C h a r l o t t e C i t y to a d o c t o r to c o n f i r m h e r c o n d i t i o n , as w e l l 8 as f o r regular monthly check-ups, although she was i n excellent health. Had they stayed there, she would have been flown to Vancouver or Charlotte City p r i o r to her due date to make sure that the baby could be born i n a hospital, with a doctor i n attendance. The only medical personnel available at the camp were an i n d u s t r i a l f i r s t - a i d man and a former nurse. However, the couple moved to Vancouver when Suzanne was four months pregnant. Shortly thereafter, they made a t r i p to the Int e r i o r to announce the pregnancy to r e l a t i v e s , although an aunt who l i v e s i n Vancouver thought that they r e a l l y should have ca l l e d home immediately to l e t her mother know, rather than waiting to t e l l her in person. In spite of a l l the advice her mother offered concerning how she should care f o r h e r s e l f during pregnancy, Suzanne had consistently disregarded this and preferred to ask the doctor or public health nurses. 9 I I . BASIC OBSERVATIONS 3 The average mar r ied Canadian woman has 2.I4 c h i l d r e n , a s t a t i s t i c which i s r e l e v a n t i n t h i s study f o r two reasons . F i r s t , i t p rov ides a pe r spec t i ve from which^to^view my sample of in formants . Most were pregnant f o r the f i r s t t ime, and on the average, cou ld expect to be pregnant aga in on ly once or at most two more t imes . So a l though the sample i s h e a v i l y weighted i n the d i r e c t i o n of f i r s t p regnancies , i n l i g h t of fu ture e x p e c t a t i o n , however, t h i s f ac t does not s e r i o u s l y de t r ac t from i t s r ep re sen t a t i venes s . Secondly , (and more important) the s t a t i s t i c shows that dur ing her t h i r t y - f i v e years o f r ep roduc t ive c a p a c i t y , a woman i n our c u l t u r e f u l f i l l s t h i s p h y s i c a l p o t e n t i a l on ly two or three t imes , a f a c t which makes each pregnancy an event i n which a woman inves t s a cons ide rab le amount of thought and emot iona l energy. The fac t that c o n t r a c e p t i o n and a b o r t i o n are accepted both i n s p i r i t and i n f a c t , means that one may choose the time to become pregnant somewhat at w i l l , >when c e r t a i n economic and p h y s i c a l l i v i n g c o n d i t i o n s are " r i g h t " . L i k e w i s e , a woman t r i e s to do the " r i g h t " and m e d i c a l l y accepted th ings dur ing pregnancy i n order to insure a safe d e l i v e r y and a normal 3. Reference; M i t r a , S . ; Romaniuk, A . Parsonian Type I Curve - - F e r t i l i t y  P r o j e c t i o n P o t e n t i a l . Paper presented at American S t a t i s -t i c a l A s s o c i a t i o n Annual Meet ing , Aug. 15, 1972. 10 baby, f a c t o r s which she f e e l s are a l l the more e s s e n t i a l s i nce she w i l l have t h i s experience so seldom. In recent years a growing number of r e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e p u b l i c a t i o n s desc r ibe pregnancy and c h i l d b i r t h as emo t iona l l y and s p i r i t u a l l y f u l f i l l i n g events i n a woman's l i f e , and are thus c o n d i t i o n i n g women to view t h e i r pregnancies as i n t e n s e l y pe rsona l events i n which they themselves take major r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and from which they g a i n s p e c i a l rewards. Another recent t r end takes t h i s g l o r i f i c a t i o n o f p reg-nancy a step f u r t h e r by p repa r ing the husband-father to care f o r h i s pregnant wife and a s s i s t her dur ing labour and d e l i v e r y . Some p r e n a t a l c l a s s e s s p e c i f i c a l l y s t r e s s t h i s o p t i o n . C u l t u r a l l y , t h i s t r end i s r e l evan t f o r two reasons . F i r s t , c r o s s - c u l t u r a l l y i t i s ra re to f i n d the husband-father d i r e c t l y i n v o l v e d i n any support c a p a c i t y dur ing the b i r t h o f c h i l d r e n , except through such i n s t i t u t i o n s as the couvade, and even then , he has no p h y s i c a l contact w i t h he r . Secondly, i n our own urban c u l t u r e , h o s p i t a l s have mainta ined s t r i c t r u l e s aga ins t the involvement o f men i n t h e i r w i v e s ' d e l i v e r i e s , as t h i s i n t e r f e r e s w i t h the smooth ope ra t ion o f the f a c i l i t i e s . This s tep away from s tandard accepted p r a c t i c e perhaps r e f l e c t s a changing concept o f the r e l a t i v e r o l e s of husband and w i f e , inasmuch as men are v o l u n t a r i l y i n v o l v i n g themselves i n what has p r e v i o u s l y been the domain o f women, i . e . , l i f e - g i v i n g . These trends i n d i c a t e tha t some e f f o r t i s be ing made to he igh ten the q u a l i t y of the e x p e r i e n c e . 1 1 The o p t i o n a l s o apparen t ly e x i s t s now to pre-determine the sex o f the unborn c h i l d by f o l l o w i n g a procedure developed r e c e n t l y by a medica l research group. Thus, marr ied couples have a number of o p t i o n s , b a s i c of which i s the cho ice to have c h i l d r e n o r not ; they may decide when to become pregnant, and how o f t e n . Beyond t h a t , they may choose to manage the pregnancy and b i r t h i n a number o f m e d i c a l l y and s o c i a l l y accepted ways. These t o p i c s are openly d i scussed i n the p u b l i c media. Por a l l these reasons, t a l k i n g with, the informants about the r e l e v a n t t o p i c s was open and easy i n almost every case, and re luc tance on the pa r t o f the informants to g ive answers to ques t ions , due to embarrassment, was r a r e l y encountered, a l though on a few occas ions , informants qu i t e p r e d i c t a b l y would not venture i n t o t o p i c s about which they were f e a r f u l ( t h i s i s d i scussed i n S e c t i o n I V ) . On the con t r a ry , informants o c c a s i o n a l l y vo lun tee red in fo rma t ion o f a very pe r sona l nature w i t h no embarrassment what-ever , even though, to most of them, I was a t o t a l s t r a n g e r . In f a c t , I have found tha t women i n our s o c i e t y are more than w i l l i n g to t a l k about t h e i r p regnancies , o f t en going i n t o cons ide rab le d e t a i l about such occurrances as morning s i c k -ness , the sensa t ions o f movement of the fe tus i n u t e r o , and the inconvenience of hav ing an enlarged abdomen. They t a l k a l o t about pregnancy, not on ly among themselves, but to o ther women who have had bab i e s . Moreover, i t i s qu i t e s o c i a l l y acceptable to t a l k about 12 these things in mixed company, with the males joining i n the general f r i v o l i t y which often accompanies these conversations or expressing sympathy when appropriate. Among persons who have a l l experienced a pregnancy, everyone feels free to join in, and t e l l of t h e i r own experiences or those of t h e i r wives or friends. The tone of these conversations may become quite intimate. The topic can continue at great length, as is re-fle c t e d in the following remark overheard at a party, "Oh, no, we'll be here a l l night; they are talking about c h i l d b i r t h . " Mothers of young children, f o r whom the experience i s s t i l l quite v i v i d , seem to enjoy t e l l i n g t h e i r experiences and hearing about others. In fact, i t is very easy to tr i g g e r t h i s sort of t a l k among gatherings of women under a variety of circum-stances; I have observed and on several occasions purposely stimulated conversations between casual groups of young mothers, who were strangers to one another, while t h e i r children played together in the park. In each case, an off-hand remark about having babies was s u f f i c i e n t to t r i g g e r the dialogue. A s p i r i t of comraderie is evident on these occasions, f o r seldom does the topic engender controversy, as might develop during t a l k about other domestic topics, such as child-rearing or eating habits. Moreover, women frequently seek out occasions to talk about the subject. At prenatal classes, f o r instance, groups of women usually c l u s t e r together during the coffee break to talk about pregnancy and baby care, as i f the sharing of this experience were s u f f i c i e n t to cancel out differences they might 13 have. Quite o f t en , these conversa t ions resemble "war s t o r i e s " , f o r what u s u a l l y happens i s tha t each person s i n g l e s out those features of her pregnancy and d e l i v e r y which are somewhat un-u s u a l and which had to be handled w i t h a degree of courage and endurance. The f ac t tha t some i n f o r m a l acknowledgement i s u s u a l l y g i v e n to the one who had the most unfor tunate exper ience a l s o p o i n t s toward a s t rong element o f oneupmansbip. There i s , on the o ther hand, u s u a l l y some exp re s s ion of amazement when someone i n d i c a t e s tha t she has had an e s p e c i a l l y easy time o f i t , and t h i s may i n d i c a t e tha t good fortune e i t h e r has p r e s t i g e value or that i t provokes antagonism s ince i t runs counter to e x p e c t a t i o n . The f ac t tha t so much t a l k centers around the compl i ca t ions o f having a baby revea l s an u n d e r l y i n g b e l i e f o r assumption that i t i s a "hard" t h i n g to do. Th i s perhaps stems from the med ica l o r i e n t a t i o n which t r e a t s c h i l d -b i r t h as i f i t were a medica l c r i s i s . . Indeed, p r o f e s s i o n a l s i n the f i e l d of c h i l d b i r t h educa t ion see i t as t h e i r t a sk to "decon-d i t i o n " these b e l i e f s i n t h e i r s tuden t s . A woman i s l i k e l y to be i n c l u d e d i n on these conver -sa t ions i n i t i a l l y when she f i r s t t e l l s others tha t she i s pregnant ; Informant: (a former secondary s c h o o l teacher) I found that as soon as they f i n d out y o u ' r e pregnant, the adu l t s i n the s t a f f room they t a l k about t h e i r exper iences and the o l d w i v e s ' t a l e s would come out and t h e y ' d go on and on . MP; Iha t d i d they ®ay to one another? Informant: They 'd desc r ibe the pa ins and so on and the d e l i v e r y . . . And I-had t h i s exper ience , too , when I had another a i l m e n t . I don ' t g e n e r a l l y admit to having i t , because when I do, ll+ I invariably say i t to someone who says, "Oh, my mother-in-law had t h i s , or my s i s t e r , and they died on the operating table." I don't know why people enjoy talking about their ailments. Some people are just morbid and enjoy talking about i t . As the informant suggests, some persons f i n d these tales d i s t a s t e f u l and w i l l r e f r a i n from p a r t i c i p a t i n g . It is also true that, f o r reasons of tact, persons w i l l r e f r a i n from t e l l i n g experiences which might frighten a woman who is expect-ing her f i r s t baby,. During the coffee break at a prenatal class, for instance, one mother was describing i n graphic d e t a i l the complications which had occurred during her two previous d e l i v -eries to three others who were pregnant f o r the f i r s t time. A mother of two who was l i s t e n i n g i n was v i s i b l y uneasy and t r i e d to smooth the s i t u a t i o n over by assuring the g i r l s that such complications are rare. It i s also i n poor taste to engage in such talk i n the presence of a c h i l d l e s s woman who is known to be i n f e r t i l e or whose advanced years preclude her ever becoming pregnant, unless her role cancels out t h i s r e s t r i c t i o n , e.g., i f she i s a nurse or counsellor. There are two reasons f o r t h i s . F i r s t , her lack of experience makes her i n e l i g i b l e to communicate in this area, and second, there i s always the chance that she might be made to f e e l inadequate by her f a i l u r e to f u l f i l l t his bio-l o g i c a l function. Closely related to the l a t t e r i s the assump-ti o n of many people that a l l women wish to become pregnant and that married women are expected to have babies. Therefore, one must observe a few rules of etiquette when conversing about such matters, though these r e s t r i c t i o n s 15 are few i n number. One i s f ree to d i s c u s s her exper iences i f others i n the group have shared them, and i s i n f a c t , spurred on by the response of o thers i n the groups, as long as she does not offend the f e e l i n g s o f o t h e r s . Y e t , as i n most o ther matters of t ac t and e t i q u e t t e , the ru l e i s f r equen t ly t r ansg re s sed . Often the eagerness of some women to t e l l o f t h e i r own exper iences b l i n d s them to the negat ive responses of o t h e r s . Thus, a p reg-nant woman f inds h e r s e l f i n a p o s i t i o n where she i s p r i v i l e g e d to share w i t h others a s p e c i a l set o f expe r i ences . As one informant s a i d : I t ' s s u r p r i s i n g , you know; I mean I ' d r e a l l y so r t of never n o t i c e d pregnant women before I got pregnant - - I wasn ' t i n t e r -ested i n i t , and I had no g i r l f r i e n d s who were pregnant be fo re . And i t ' s funny, s ince y o u ' r e pregnant, you so r t of look at the d i f f e r e n t pregnant women. I don ' t know, i t ' s so d i f f e r e n t ; y o u ' r e so changed, i n y o u r s e l f . To say that a change has taken p lace i n y o u r s e l f i s to say that a b a s i c a l t e r a t i o n has occurred i n the concep t ion of s e l f and i s r e f l e c t e d i n s o c i a l i n t e r a c t i o n , and that a mean-i n g f u l t u r n i n g p o i n t has taken p l a c e i n a pe r sons ' s i d e n t i t y . Moreover, t h i s informant imp l i e s tha t the change i s permanent, tha t i t goes beyond the nine-month pregnancy. Before pregnancy, women have l i t t l e reason to o r i e n t themselves to t h i s way o f t h i n k i n g or to i d e n t i f y w i t h those who do. Pregnancy changes a l l t h a t . Viewed i n t h i s way, f o r marr ied women i n our c u l t u r e , the p e r i o d o f pregnancy c o n s t i t u t e s a so r t o f female r i t e o f passage, f o r having exper ienced t h i s sequence of events, she can never be the same a g a i n . T a l k i n g about t h i s to others serves 16 to r e i n f o r c e t h i s f a c t , as w e l l as to acknowledge the bond be-tween those who share i t . Here i s where the f a c t o r of expec t a t i on comes i n . Mar r i ed couples are expected to have c h i l d r e n — to be able to have t h i s experience i n common. A common a t t i t u d e i s tha t every woman r e a l l y wants to become pregnant . MP: They expected you to have a f a m i l y ? Informant: Oh, yeah. MP: 'ilhen someone gets mar r i ed , do you t h i n k t h e i r r e l a t i v e s expect them to have a f ami ly? Informant ' Oh, I t h i n k so , e s p e c i a l l y o l d e r people - - l i k e , not our gene ra t ion so much. L i k e I f e e l that when people get marr ied nowadays - - um, l i k e I mysel f don ' t expect them to have a f ami ly r i g h t away. MP: What do you mean by r i g h t away? Informant: W e l l , w i t h i n , say, a y e a r or two. I so r t of t h i n k , w e l l , now the way i t i s you so r t o f get marr ied and you maybe l i v e i n an apartment f o r a few years and s o r t of have a good t ime . Say your parents and wife work and you so r t o f get a few m a t e r i a l needs, and then you t h i n k o f a f a m i l y . Whereas before , i t seemed l i k e f o r my mother and f a t h e r and f o r my aunts and uncles tha t they got mar r i ed and had c h i l d r e n r i g h t away, and that was i t . MP: Do you f e e l that people expect you to r a i s e a f a m i l y when you get marr ied? Informant: Very much s o . MP: \fhat do they do i f you don ' t ? Informant: I don ' t t h i n k they are i n t e n t i o n a l l y c r u e l , but the word i s c r u e l , I t h i n k . Because I have s e v e r a l f r i ends who c o u l d n ' t have t h e i r own c h i l d r e n and e v e n t u a l l y adopted. And i n some cases i t was q u i t e hard on them. They almost had to adopt . Oh, we'd go home f o r the summer and be in t roduced 17 around and some of them say, "How many c h i l d r e n do you have And when you t e l l them they say, "None?! W/hat's the mat ter w i t h you? Tha t ' s a d i r e c t quote, which i f s a i d to one o r two o f my g i r l f r i ends who were t r y i n g despe ra t e ly to have c h i l d r e n they would have run o f f i n t e a r s . I t h i n k that i t was rude, t a c t l e s s . Not I n t e n t i o n a l at a l l . Often, pressure l i k e t h i s i s put on c h i l d l e s s couples by r e l a t i v e s and f r i e n d s , and t h i s may become a source of hard f e e l i n g s and o f t e n s i o n between f r i e n d s . People show zero t a c t where I n t e r r o g a t i n g the c h i l d l e s s i s concerned, couples say. Why not? Have you been t o a doc tor? The couple i n t u r n f e e l no compunction about the b a l d l i e . "Tha t ' s r i g h t , we c a n ' t have them," i s the s imples t way to c l o s e the subject . . . In-laws are almost by d e f i n i t i o n i n c o n -s o l a b l e . When the Rosenbergs f i n a l l y brought home a ca t , Mother-i n - l a w c r i e d f o r j o y : "Now y o u ' r e a f a m i l y ! " The idea i s tha t i f mar r ied people have no c h i l d , they are j u s t p l a y i n g house. i\. What would appear to be a p r i v a t e matter between a man and a wi fe has a p e c u l i a r l y p u b l i c d imension , f o r people can and o f t e n do f e e l free to ask ques t ions about f a m i l y p l a n n -i n g , whereas s i m i l a r candor i n d i s c u s s i n g such mat ters as f i n -a n c i a l a f f a i r s and sex would be cons idered i napp rop r i a t e and t a c t l e s s . In f a c t , t h i s i s not such a p r i v a t e mat ter at a l l , f o r people are remarkably ca sua l i n approaching i t . Informant: I asked her (a good f r i e n d ) i f she wanted another baby and . . . MP: Would you f e e l tha t freedom to ask a q u e s t i o n l i k e that i f you hadn ' t had one y o u r s e l f ? Informant: No, probably no t , I guess . L i k e people say to me now (the informant had ju s t had a baby g i r l ) , "afayne wanted a boy; how long are you going to wait before you have another In " C h i l d l e s s by Cho ice" , by G a i l Sheehy. New Y o r k , January 20, 1969, p . 38. 18 baby?" I haven't r e a l l y thought about i t , you know. I think I'd l i k e to have one f a i r l y soon afterwards. MP: That's i n t e r e s t i n g . That's a r e a l l y personal question. Informant: Yes, i t ' s true. MPt Is t h i s an area of your l i f e that people f e e l free to ask you personal questions? Informant: They must, because they don't ask other questions l i k e that. A~nother thing, many of them have not gone beyond high school. You see, by husband has gone to school quite a b i t and has a doctorate, and I have three de;grees, and i t ' s always "\$hat on earth do you want to get more schooling for?" So they have t h e i r families and we have our degrees. I am not saying that one i s better than the other. They have lovely f a m i l i e s . There's just no understanding. We've had to give up a family f o r a few years. Thus, a pregnant woman arouses the interest, sympathy, and acceptance of others who have themselves become altered by this experience. In fact, ideal conditions for communication come into play i n the case of pregnancy in our culture. 1) Most married couples in the culture have had this experience. 2) Although a pregnant woman is f u l f i l l i n g her bio-l o g i c a l p o t e n t i a l , s t i l l she is expected to r e s t r i c t the number of times she does so. The means f o r doing this are widely shared and openly discussed, not only on the l e v e l of interpersonal com-munication, but i n the mass media as well. 3) Thus, a woman who has decided to be pregnant shares with others not only the experience i t s e l f , but the experience of having made that decision, and a l l that that implies. From these two factors, there exists a dual bond. *9 ]+) I f , on the o the r hand, he r pregnancy i s a c c i d e n t a l , t h i s i s openly acknowledged and there are others who have had t h i s exper i ence , as w e l l , and make no secre t of a d m i t t i n g i t . 5) The commonality of the exper ience of pregnancy u n i t e s i n d i v i d u a l s who are separated by v i r t u e o f n e o - l o c a l res idence r u l e s and pr imary f a m i l y groupings i n our o i i l t u r e , and thus p rov ides one k i n d o f l i n k , at l e a s t du r ing the c h i l d -bea r ing yea r s , between people who l i v e q u i t e separate e x i s t -ences and have few o ther o p p o r t u n i t i e s f o r shared exper ience . 6.) Pregnant women are h i g h l y v i s i b l e to others on the one hand, and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s of t h e i r own c o n d i t i o n on the o t h e r . This mutual awareness serves as a constant reminder of the ex i s t ence of p o t e n t i a l communication channe ls . I t g ives l i c e n s e to t o t a l s t rangers to r e f e r to a woman's pregnant con-d i t i o n wi thout of fending her o r p l a c i n g h i m s e l f i n a vu lne rab l e p o s i t i o n , so l ong as he i s t a c t f u l . L i k e w i s e , I t loosens r e -s t r i c t i o n s on in t imate c o n v e r s a t i o n between casua l f r i e n d s . 7) Indeed, pregnancy may create a s p e c i a l category of f r i ends w i t h whom one shares d e t a i l e d i n f o r m a t i o n about pregnancy and c h i l d b i r t h , as w e l l as r e l a t e d t o p i c s such as l a c t a t i o n , and v i r t u a l l y no th ing e l s e , iffihile these f r i e n d s h i p s may broaden i n t o more g e n e r a l i z e d r e l a t i o n s h i p s , they are j u s t as l i k e l y to end when c h i l d b e a r i n g ends. These var ious f a c t o r s suggest that pregnancy i n our c u l t u r e provides a focus f o r communication between people , p a r t i -c u l a r l y between women. One t h i n g that t h i s i n d i c a t e s i s that 20 pregnancy is important and valuable i n the culture. That i s , although women place r e s t r i c t i o n s on t h e i r natural reproductive capacity, pregnancy i t s e l f has not l o s t i t s value. On the con-trary, i t can be argued that i t s re l a t i v e r a r i t y elevates the importance of each pregnancy, not only to the woman herself, but i t also heightens the degree of interest which is shared by others and expressed i n various communication events. Furthermore, the natural capacity to reproduce on the one hand and the c u l t u r a l necessity to l i m i t reproduction on the other is one of l i f e ' s dilemmas in our culture. Women must cope with this s i t u a t i o n , and the tensions/which flows from i t . Hence, the need to resolve i t and the desire to tal k about i t are joined in a l o g i c a l relationship, inasmuch as communi-cation permits a pregnant woman to orient herself regarding her condition, as well as giving those who have been previously pregnant an opportunity to re-orient themselves regarding t h i s important facet of their l i v e s . Not only i s there a mutual flow of information, but a more important means of mutual support and reinforcement. The next three chapters develop these ideas more f u l l y . 21 I I I . MAKING THE ANNOUNCEMENT Al though a normal pregnancy l a s t s f o r approximate ly nine months (or for ty , weeks), there Is reason to b e l i e v e that a person does not assume the s o c i a l i d e n t i t y o f a pregnant woman f o r some time f o l l o w i n g c o n c e p t i o n . A woman can c o n t r o l the time at which t h i s occurs by choosing a p a r t i c u l a r t ime to make her pregnancy known to o t h e r s . This ac t o f communication v a r i e s between i n d i v i d u a l s , but f o l l o w s a g e n e r a l , p r e d i c t a b l e p a t t e r n , which I w i l l de sc r ibe i n t h i s chap te r . I f a woman wants to become pregnant , she u s u a l l y a n t i c i p a t e s i t s onse t . Therefore , women who are not p r a c t i c i n g c o n t r a c e p t i o n are g e n e r a l l y on the a l e r t for symptoms o f preg-nane^/. S u s p i c i o n of pregnancy g e n e r a l l y occurs when two men-s t r u a l per iods are missed , and i s i n t e n s i f i e d i f and when there are such symptoms as nausea, drowsiness , breas t changes, and the l i k e . Since i t i s not uncommon, however, f o r a non-pregnant woman to miss a p e r i o d o r two, the m a j o r i t y o f women i n the sample v i s i t e d t h e i r doc to r to make sure , f o r women i n our c u l t u r e r e l y upon med ica l t e s t s and/or examinat ion to v e r i f y the pregnancy. A l a b o r a t o r y t e s t may v e r i f y the pregnancy as e a r l y as two weeks a f t e r concept ion , but a t e s t t h i s e a r l y may not be r e l i a b l e . Four to s i x weeks i s g e n e r a l l y accepted as more r e l i a b l e . Most f e e l that f o l l o w i n g t h i s procedure p r o t e c t s the I n d i v i d u a l from the p o s s i b l e embarrassment of having to r e t r a c t 22 the announcement tha t she i s pregnant when i n f ac t she has some other g y n e c o l o g i c a l c o n d i t i o n . However, some women do not have e a r l y symptoms, and i f they are o b l i v i o u s to mi s s ing t h e i r p e r i o d s , they may not suspect fo r three or four months ( i n some unusual cases, even l o n g e r ) . There are unusual examples of women who l e t everyone know tha t they t h i n k they are pregnant almost r i g h t from the b e g i n n i n g . Three times d u r i n g the s tudy, I heard of women t e l l i n g f r i ends tha t they were pregnant when they were but a few days l a t e g e t t i n g t h e i r p e r i o d — i n o ther words, before medica l v e r i f i c a t i o n was p o s s i b l e . In each case, no one took them s e r i o u s l y , and i n f a c t , as time proved, none o f them was r e a l l y pregnant . The concensus of the informants was tha t they had acted f o o l i s h l y . Such behavior was ou ts ide c u l t u r a l expec-t a t i o n s , i f the r e a c t i o n o f my informants was t y p i c a l . ( I n c i d -e n t a l l y , a l l three women a l r eady had c h i l d r e n . Por reasons desc r ibed below, i t i s not l i k e l y that a woman would do t h i s i n her f i r s t pregnancy, nor i s i t t y p i c a l of women w i t h subse-quent p r egnanc i e s . ) "JShen medica l v e r i f i c a t i o n i s ob ta ined , she maji then f e e l free to t e l l others of her pregnancy. This u s u a l l y occurs between the second and f o u r t h months. I t i s not uncommon to purpose ly wait u n t i l a f t e r three months have e lapsed , s ince mi sca r r i ages are common before t h i s t ime and rare t h e r e a f t e r . Most women t e l l t h e i r husbands when they suspect that they are pregnant, and he is' therefore usually the f i r s t to know. The timing and manner i n which the announcement is made to others, however, proved to be in t e r e s t i n g . A few make the announcement as soon as medical v e r i f i c a t i o n is obtained: Informant; Oh, gosh, I started t e l l i n g people as soon as I knew. MP: When was that ? Informant: Oh, I think I was two months pregnant. MP: After you had& been to the doctor? Informant: Yeah. Informant: I t r i e d not to t e l l anybody, but I did. I wanted to keep i t a secret, but I couldn't. MP: Is i t your nature to want to say something? Informant: Yeah. I was a l l excited, you know. Good news. I wanted to share i t with friends. Yet, i t i s more common, p a r t i c u l a r l y among women having t h e i r f i r s t babies, to l e t the news leak out slowly: Informant: I told one g i r l at work. MP: This was real early in your pregnancy? Informant: Just one g i r l — not the r e s t . I t o l d her not to t e l l anyone el s e . MP: ffiry? Informant: For one thing, we had a l o t of g i r l s at work that blab around to everybody; then everybody would know. They'd come over and ask you a l l kinds of questions and get nosy. I did not want them to know right away. 2k MP; Did you t e l l any of the o ther teachers? Informant: No, not one. I t o l d the p r i n c i p a l , and asked that he not t e l l anyone. He respec ted my conf idence , and he s a i d he d i d n ' t care what I s a i d — "You cou ld t e l l anyone any-t h i n g , and i t won't come from me." One lady guessed and came r i g h t out and asked when the baby was due. I c a n ' t l i e . . . so , confronted w i t h something l i k e tha t , I j u s t asked that she not say any th ing . . . Otherwise, I d i d n ' t admit i t u n t i l the very l a s t day (of s c h o o l , when she was s i x months p regnan t ) . A statement to the e f f e c t t ha t " I asked that he/she not t e l l anyone" appears three times i n the two conversa t ions jus t c i t e d . I t a l s o came up f r equen t ly dur ing the casua l con-ve r sa t i ons I had w i t h o ther pregnant women. In f a c t , few women I t a l k e d to had b l u r t e d out the news. Rather, the i n fo rma t ion was handled i n a r a t h e r s e c r e t i v e way at f i r s t , as i f t o avo id suddenly f a c i n g the s o c i a l consequences that such an announce-ment would b r i n g . Some have specialfereasons f o r doing t h i s . One woman who had exper ienced a f r u s t r a t i n g s e r i e s o f mi sca r r i ages and g y n e c o l o g i c a l d i f f i c u l t i e s t o l d no one o f her pregnancy u n t i l changes i n her f i g u r e became so obvious that they r e q u i r e d some e x p l a n a t i o n . She s a i d she d i d not want to face the embarrass-ment and sense of f a i l u r e that yet another misfor tune would b r i n g , and therefore d i d not want to expose h e r s e l f to the s o c i a l involvements of pregnancy u n t i l she had reasonable assurances o f success . S i g n i f i c a n t l y , I t h i n k , the women i n the i n t e r v i e w sample who had t r i e d f o r qu i t e some time to become pregnant d i d not f o l l o w t h i s p a t t e r n o f l e t t i n g the news l eak out s l o w l y , but broke the news q u i c k l y and e n t h u s i a s t i c a l l y , as i f w a i t i n g 25 had made them eager to accept the changes i n l i f e s t y l e and the wel l -meaning support from f r i ends that t h i s announcement would b r i n g . I b e l i e v e tha t most women know, c o n s c i o u s l y or uncon-s c i o u s l y , tha t to present themselves as pregnant women w i l l i n -e v i t a b l y cas t them i n a new set o f r e l a t i o n s h i p s and that they can not avo id t h i s . Therefore , the t i m i n g of t h e i r announcement depends on t h e i r readiness and w i l l i n g n e s s to take p a r t . Those who are eager to p a r t i c i p a t e announce e a r l y ; those who are ambi-va l en t ho ld o f f u n t i l such t ime as they can comfortably cope w i t h i t . While i n d i v i d u a l emotional make-up may e n t e r i n t o t h i s cho i ce , there are a l s o v a l i d s o c i a l reasons why a n t i c i p a t i n g the i n v o l -vement of motherhood can be an ambivalent expe r i ence . F i r s t o f a l l , to become pregnant , e s p e c i a l l y f o r the f i r s t t ime, marks the beg inn ing of the most I r r e v e r s i b l e t u r n i n g po in t i n the l i f e o f a woman i n our c u l t u r e . As long as she can keep her pregnancy s e c r e t , she can avo id having to beg in the necessary adjustments . F o r a woman's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her c h i l d r e n i s l e g a l and b i n d i n g - - and u n l i k e marr iage , i t can not be d i s s o l v e d by l e g a l p r o c e s s . She i s m o r a l l y committed to care fo r her c h i l d u n t i l he can care f o r h i m s e l f , a p e r i o d o f at l e a s t e ighteen y e a r s . Furthermore, l i v i n g i n nuc lea r f a m i l y u n i t s means tha t the care of c h i l d r e n can not e a s i l y be delegated to o ther female f a m i l y members, and although, the s o c i e t y provides f o r some agencies ou t s ide the home to take the p l ace o f a mother 's care should she wish to pursue o the r g o a l s , the 26 dua l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f parenthood and ca ree r are heavy. The s a t i s f a c t i o n of r a i s i n g c h i l d r e n must be balanced aga ins t s a t i s -f a c t i o n s which are a v a i l a b l e to women ou ts ide the home. And f o r a woman who a l ready has c h i l d r e n , i t means the a d d i t i o n a l burden of c a r i n g fo r an i n f a n t , a prospect she may greet w i t h mixed or even negat ive f e e l i n g s , as t h i s example i l l u s t r a t e s : "Dear Ann Landers: I had not seen my s i s t e r i n three y e a r s . She i s 1+0 years o l d and her two c h i l d r e n are grown., Mien Erma and her husband met me at the a i r p o r t I was shocked to see tha t she had become so heavy. Immediately I concluded she was pregnant and I s a i d so . She became f u r i o u s and shouted, "You are out o f your mind! I have a t h y r o i d c o n d i t i o n , but i t ' s under c o n t r o l now . " . . . I l e f t Madisson on Tuesday. The f o l l o w i n g F r i d a y I r e c e i v e d a te legram from Erma. I t read , "Guess who gave b i r t h to an e ight-pound boy . " I 'm burned up because my s i s t e r l i e d to me. Ihy would a person do such a c razy t h ing? . Sure ly she knew I ' d l e a r n the t r u t h e v e n t u a l l y . Help me unders tand . I am — BAFFLED AND BOILING. Answer: I suspect your l+O-year-old s i s t e r was l e s s than t h r i l l e d when she learned she was pregnant . Her r e f u s a l to make the announcement spared her the embarrassment of dis-f cuss ing her c o n d i t i o n . . . " On the o ther hand, a n t i c i p a t i n g the b i r t h o f a baby i s not a negat ive p rospec t , e i t h e r . On the c o n t r a r y , most women that I i n t e r v i e w e d s i n c e r e l y wanted a baby and were w i l l i n g to commit themselves to the r a i s i n g o f a c h i l d o r c h i l d r e n . I t i s p e r f e c t l y normal f o r anyone to want two a l t e r n a t i v e s w i t h equal i n t e n s i t y ; and so i t i s not s u r p r i s i n g f o r a woman d u r i n g e a r l y pregnancy to want to be a mother as much as she wants to r e t a i n a ca ree r or t o f o l l o w some o ther cour se . For these reasons, many women do not want to expose themselves u n n e c e s s a r i l y to the quest ions of f r i ends who may not r e a l i z e the d e l i c a c y of the predicament , u n t i l some o f the 27 ambivalence has been r e s o l v e d , as i t u s u a l l y i s as time goes on . By mid-pregnancy, most women have become pregnant i n the f u l l s o c i a l sense, and most o f my informants enjoyed the i n t e r a c t i o n which t h i s i m p l i e s . But the f ac t tha t one informant planned to t e l l none of her many out -of - town f r i e n d s about her pregnancy u n t i l a f t e r the baby 's b i r t h shows tha t one can look w i t h d i s -t a s te on the whole phenomenon and p r e f e r to opt out o f i t . Once the announcement i s made, the responses are u s u a l l y l i g h t h e a r t e d and s u p p o r t i v e . Informant: We n o t i c e d that as soon as they ( f r i e n d s ) found out they were ju s t e l a t e d . Some of the l a d i e s were so e x c i t e d and happy f o r us . And the men, too . I was surprised" and some of them would come out and say i t was the most wonder-f u l experience i n t h e i r l i v e s and t h e y ' d go on and on . The news spreads q u i c k l y among f a m i l y , f r i e n d s , and co-workers . An informant s a i d : " I t h i n k people are cu r ious and want to know." Asked what people had s a i d when they had made the announcement, women c o n s i s t e n t l y repor ted such phrases as, " I t ' s wonde r fu l , " " I t ' s a happy time f o r everyone ," and "Most people expressed t h e i r joy and . congra tu l a t i ons w i t h hugs and k i s s e s . " One g i r l r epor ted that someone had asked " D i d you want the baby?" which i l l u s t r a t e s the degree o f f rankness which i s cons ide red appropr ia te among f r i e n d s . I t Is seldom necessary fo r the couple to t e l l more than a few people fo r i t to spread through t h e i r e n t i r e s o c i a l c i r c l e . For t h i s reason, couples c a r e f u l l y observe c e r t a i n p r i o r i t i e s when break ing the news, i n the b e l i e f tha t c e r t a i n people have the r i g h t to know before the news becomes p u b l i c 28 knowledge. The f o l l o w i n g example i l l u s t r a t e s t h i s : Informant: On F a t h e r ' s Day, he (Husband) wrote to h i s f o l k s and I wrote to my mother. And the reason, ma in ly , f o r t e l l i n g our mothers (at that t ime) was t ha t we stopped by to see a r e l a t i o n i n Washington (an aunt of the Informant) and of course , she guessed - - and I d i d n ' t want my mother to hear second hand. MP: So, the people tha t you see every day d i d n ' t r e a l l y know u n t i l i t became o b v i o u s . Informant: Tha t ' s r i g h t . Except f o r two people that I t o l d . They were c l o s e f r i ends and I know that they weren ' t seeing the obvious and that they might be hurt i f they found out from someone e l s e . Husbands f r equen t ly p lay a l a r g e par t i n b reak ing the news. Making announcements, i n f a c t , seems to be one of t he few ro l e s the husband has du r ing h i s w i f e ' s pregnancy. So one must take i n t o account that there are two people d e c i d i n g who should know f i r s t : Informant: I wanted to keep i t to mysel f f o r a l i t t l e w h i l e " But my husband was . . . the opposi te . . . He had to t e l l everybody. W e l l , a l l h i s f r i e n d s , everybody. He wouldn ' t keep i t a secre t . . . I used to t e l l him at times, " W e l l , wai t t i l I want to t e l l them." MP: I wonder why t h i s i s . I t happens many t imes . Informant: Did you do i t , too? MP: Are you s u r p r i s e d to hear that? Informant ? Yeah, I am. I f i g u r e d most g i r l s , t h e y ' d l i k e to t e l l everyone r i g h t away. W e l l , even;" my mom and dad, I d i d n ' t t e l l them u n t i l I went home. L i k e , I d i d n ' t t e l l them i n a l e t t e r o r a n y t h i n g . Everyone thought, "Oh, you s h o u l d . " . . . my husband's aunt, she says, "Oh. you shou ld t e l l her as soon as you f i n d ou t . You shou ldn ' t w a i t . I wai ted t i l I went home i n May f o r a v i s i t . MP: So other people had known about i t f o r a couple of months? Informant: Some people down he re . The ones my husband had t o l d . 29 MP: Once your parents knew about i t , d i d you then f e e l free to . . . ? Informant: W e l l , then I d i d n ' t mind t e l l i n g everybody because I d i d n ' t t h i n k I should t e l l everybody e l se f i r s t and not them. An informant who had been c h i l d l e s s f o r seven years had the f o l l o w i n g expe r i ence : Informant: Oh, l i k e I was probably the l a s t one to hear that I was pregnant . Because he (Husband) phoned up - - the next day he phoned the d o c t o r ' s t o f i n d out the r e s u l t s (of the preg-nancy t e s t ) . . . He phoned the doc tor tha t morning to f i n d out i f i t was p o s i t i v e o r n e g a t i v e . And i t turned out p o s i t i v e , so he went and s t a r t e d to phone everybody . . a l l my r e l a t i v e s , and he t o l d everybody at work, and then he phoned me to t e l l me ( l a u g h t e r ) . So by the time I heard about i t , everybody e l s e knew. linen she t e l l s whom he c a l l e d , she l i s t s "my r e l a t i v e s " ' f i r s t ; s ince she was not a c t u a l l y present , she cou ld not know i f t h i s was a c t u a l l y t r u e . Yet she put r e l a t i v e s f i r s t because p r o -bably i n her own taind, t h i s was the n a t u r a l t h i n g t o do . The whole i n c i d e n t amused her , but the f ac t that she h e r s e l f was the " l a s t to hear" was e s p e c i a l l y funny, s i nce i t was such a b i z a r r e t w i s t on what one would normal ly expec t . Many of the women assumed that one would t e l l one ' s c lose r e l a t i v e s f i r s t , as there were s e v e r a l conversa t ions which fo l lowed t h i s h y p o t h e t i c a l p a t t e r n : MP: 'fflbo d i d you t e l l about your pregnancy? Informant: Oh, such and such a f r i e n d . MP: How about your r e l a t i v e s ? Informant: Oh, I t o l d them when I f i r s t knew, before I t o l d anyone e l s e . 30 C o n s i s t e n t l y , everyone i n the sample e x e r c i s e d some order to p r i o r i t i e s because not to t e l l c e r t a i n r e l a t i v e s f i r s t , e s p e c i a l l y the parents o f both husband and w i f e , i s a breech of e t i q u e t t e tha t i s sure to cause hard f e e l i n g s . Many had gone out o f t h e i r way to t e l l t h e i r parents before the i n fo rma t ion reached them second hand. By the same token , o the r ca tegor ies of k i n and best f r i ends are t o l d before the p u b l i c at l a r g e . S i s t e r s were f r equen t ly named as having a r i g h t to know and o c c a s i o n a l l y aunts and uncles (whether maternal or p a t e r n a l was u n s p e c i f i e d ) were mentioned. S i g n i f i c a n t l y , b ro thers were never mentioned, nor were husband's s i s t e r o r b r o t h e r . My own i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h i s i s that the inces t taboo l i m i t s communi-c a t i o n between b ro the r and s i s t e r on in fo rma t ion r e l a t e d to sex , and sex and pregnancy are l i n k e d by cause and e f f e c t i n our c u l t u r e . As one man s a i d to me, "When a woman becomes pregnant , you know f o r sure she has a sex l i f e . Before that y o u ' r e not r e a l l y su r e . " Of the o ther k i n c a t e g o r i e s , grandparents were men-t i o n e d once, and cous ins never . This p robab ly r e f l e c t s the gen-e r a l absence of I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h these ca t egor i e s of k i n i n adu l t l i f e . To summarize, the informants I i n t e r v i e w e d , as w e l l as those who answered the q u e s t i o n n a i r e , c o n s i s t e n t l y l i s t e d those who had the r i g h t to know i n the f o l l o w i n g o rder : husband, mother and f a t h e r , i n - l a w s , best f r i e n d s , s i s t e r s , and then o ther l e s s -f r equen t ly mentioned k i n and f r i e n d s . In the f o l l o w i n g geneology t a b l e , the s o l i d areas i n d i c a t e those persons who have an absolu te right to know f i r s t , and the shaded ones have a secondary p r i v i -lege. Since most of my informants were having t h e i r f i r s t babie none mentioned children as having a right to know. Women with children would perhaps have included them i n t h e i r l i s t of o b l i -gations . A 6 4sA fa A A ^ t=Jk <k ^ FIGURE 1 Kin who have a right to know f i r s t about a pregnancy ( s o l i d areas) and those who may be told second (Shaded areas). Note that t h i s l i s t of p r i o r i t i e s relates only to those who have the right- to know f i r s t , and not to those who have preference when communicating other experiences related to pregnancy, such as discussions of physical symptoms and of c h i l d b i r t h i t s e l f , f o r which communication i s limited almost e n t i r e l y to peer group members — friends and si s t e r s -- and medical personnel. A discussion of this appears in the l a s t chapter. If parents and best friends have a right to hear the news f i r s t hand, the best way to insure t h i s i s to t e l l them 32 f i r s t , which might necessitate postponing any announcement at a l l u n t i l a v i s i t to a distant home or a phone c a l l or l e t t e r . So i t appears that a woman is obligated to break the news f i r s t to some of her kin, but having done so, she is then free to communicate f u l l y with her friends and other peers, with whom she w i l l actually share the experience. 33 IV . CARE AND SUPPORT Al though r ep roduc t ion i s a normal p h y s i o l o g i c a l f u n c t i o n i n man, as w e l l as i n the r e s t of the animal w o r l d , a c h i l d b e a r i n g woman i n many c u l t u r e s never the less r ece ives the s e r v i c e s of an exper ienced and/or t r a i n e d p r a c t i t i o n e r . In our own c u l t u r e , t h i s need i s served by a s p e c i a l branch o f medic ine , and indeed most urban Nor th Americans can not imagine having a baby wi thout the s e r v i c e s o f a q u a l i f i e d p h y s i c i a n fo r both p r e - n a t a l care and d e l i v e r y . Furthermore, most women r e l y almost e n t i r e l y on the medica l p r o f e s s i o n to t e l l them what to do du r ing pregnancy, f o r few women i n our c u l t u r e have had the p r a c t i c a l exper ience o f l i v i n g c l o s e l y w i t h pregnant women from whom they could take an example. L i f e i n the nuc lea r f ami ly i s o l a t e s young women from one another, so that what one l e a m s from the experiences o f pregnant s i s t e r , s i s t e r s - i n - l a w , cous ins , aunts , and f r i ends i s p iecemeal and i s l i k e l y to focus on c e r t a i n aspects of pregnancy which are worthy o f mention ( i . e . , nausea and o the r d i s c o m f o r t s ) , r a t h e r than on l i f e i n g e n e r a l , which i s more s u b t l y a l t e r e d . Consequently, t h i s o f ten f o s t e r s the n o t i o n that pregnancy i s an unusual (and to some people , even abnormal) con-d i t i o n . At the very l e a s t , t h i s g ives i t an a i r o f mystery. There i s a genera l b e l i e f that having a baby i s "hard" and fraught w i t h danger, but that proper medica l care can minimize these f a c t o r s . 3k Moreover, few women ou t s ide of the medica l p r o f e s s i o n have witnessed the b i r t h of a baby (human or any o t h e r s p e c i e s ) , nor have they even seen a woman i n l a b o u r . One p u b l i c hea l t h nurse who has taught p r e n a t a l c l a s ses f o r many years makes i t a p r a c t i c e to ask her students i f any have ever been w i t h a f r i e n d or r e l a t i v e dur ing l abour , and r a r e l y gets an a f f i r m a t i v e r e p l y . This i s because women areeremoved from normal p h y s i c a l and s o c i a l surroundings to the s t r u c t u r e d environment of the h o s p i t a l be-fore l abour becomes advanced. In a d d i t i o n , the fac t t ha t babies are born i n h o s p i t a l s , whereone u s u a l l y goes f o r treatment o f c r i t i c a l i l l n e s s , r e i n -forces the idea that c h i l d b i r t h i s a med ica l c r i s i s . A r t i c l e s which f r equen t ly appear i n women's magazines and o ther sec to r s of the popula r p res s , have drawn a t t e n t i o n to the number of hazardous s i t u a t i o n s which might develop i f proper p r e n a t a l care i s not o b t a i n e d . For t h i s reason, and because o f the great t r u s t that people p lace i n the medica l p r o f e s s i o n , women are g r a t e f u l f o r the a v a i l a b i l i t y o f med ica l care dur ing pregnancy and w i l l go to lengths to o b t a i n i t : Informant: W e l l , we were i n the Queen C h a r l o t t e I s l ands , l i k e . My husband was working down there . . . There ' s a f i r s t -a i d man there who was s tudy ing to become a doc to r and d i d n ' t , q u i t e f i n i s h because o f the war and t h e r e ' s nurses there now. But u s -u a l l y the g i r l s go out to have t h e i r baby. You know, ahead of the time they go out , wai t t i l l the baby i s born and go back. MP: Do they go to Vancouver or jus t to the c l o s e s t h o s p i t a l ? Informant: Vancouver o r C h a r l o t t e C i t y . I t depends, you know. I f they have r e l a t i v e s out here they might sooner come out here and s tay w i t h them. 35 MP: Would i t have made you f e e l uneasy to be there now? Informant: Yeah, I t h i n k so . MP: Would you have been scared about i t ? Informant: I t h i n k I probably would be more so than being out h e r e . But out here I d o n ' t f i n d t h e r e ' s much to worry about. Y o u ' r e c lo se to your doc to r and the h o s p i t a l . %Mien adv ice i s needed, i t i s the doc to r who i s c a l l e d , to the e x c l u s i o n o f anyone e l s e ; i f he were not a v a i l a b l e f o r some reason, another member of the medica l p r o f e s s i o n might be s u b s t i t u t e d , but accord ing t o my informants , r a r e l y would one consu l t a r e l a t i v e o r f f i e n d who i s a layman. Students i n one p r e n a t a l c l a s s were s p e c i f i c a l l y warned aga ins t a sk ing anyone outs ide the medica l p r o f e s s i o n f o r advice of any k i n d . In case the doc to r was not a v a i l a b l e , the s tudents were encouraged to c a l l the p u b l i c h e a l t h u n i t i n the a r e a . Informant: Oh, I t h i n k you should ask your d o c t o r . In C a l i f o r n i a , my doc to r s a i d , up to seven months you can do what you want t o , j u s t don ' t overdo i t . Soon as you s t a r t f e e l -ing t i r e d , r e s t . So t h a t ' s the way I d i d i t . I d i d n ' t ask any-body. MP: Suppose you had a problem and you c a l l e d your doc to r , and they s a i d that he ' s out o f town f o r a week, who would be your second choice? Informant: W e l l , I ' d ask my s i s t e r , because she i s a nurse . Informant: I f e l t good when I was about fou r o r f i v e months pregnant . I d i d n ' t even f e e l pregnant . And I was t a l k i n g w i t h t h i s g i r l f r i e n d - - she ' s due on the 25th, about two days be-fore I am - - I was t a l k i n g to her about th ings you should do and th ings you should not and she s a i d her doc to r says do anyth ing y o u ' r e used to doing n o r m a l l y . 36 MP: Do you ask you own doctor? Informant: Oh, yeah, I asked my doc to r when I came back to Vancouver . . . MP: I f you have a ques t ion about what you should o r s h o u l d n ' t do, do you t a l k i t over w i t h t h i s g i r l f r i e n d , o r do you ask your doctor? Informant: . . . Oh, I u s u a l l y ask my doc to r e v e n t u a l l y . Informant: I w r i t e down a l l the ques t ions that I have. He (the doctorT teases me about being so o r g a n i z e d . And he gave me an e x c e l l e n t book to read . . . that r e l i e v e s him of having to t e l l me a l l these t h i n g s . A l l I do i s ques t i on him about the th ings I wonder about . In the d i scharge o f t h e i r d u t i e s , however, many doctors can not spare the time and /or do not wish to o f f e r mora l support to t h e i r p a t i e n t s . Some women f e e l that the doc to r i s per func tory i n h i s du t i e s and f i n d t h i s d i s a p p o i n t i n g . Informant: I 'm sor t of d i s a p p o i n t e d . Maybe t h i s i s what you get from going t o a genera l p r a c t i t i o n e r and not an o b s t e t r i c i a n . L i k e he always asks me, "Is there anyth ing that y o u ' d l i k e to ask me?" and I just say, " N o . " Because r e a l l y , ah, I mean, I d o n ' t know what to ask h im . What i s there to ask him? . . . And i t ' s so r t o f d i s a p p o i n t i n g because unless you took these c l a s ses and d i d a l o t of r ead ing on your own from books that you would get — R e a l l y , my doc tor has t o l d me n o t h i n g . Indeed, du r ing pregnancy, p h y s i c a l care and emot ional support come from separate sources i n our s o c i e t y . (See Chapter V) Pew doctors have the time to care f o r more than immediate p h y s i c a l needs of t h e i r p a t i e n t s and do not seek to become more i n v o l v e d i n t h e i r pe r sona l l i v e s than i s necessary to f u l f i l l t h i s f u n c t i o n . Many women express some h o s t i l i t y f o r the fac t tha t doctors and nurses are so unconcerned about what i s to them one of the most 37 Important events in t h e i r l i v e s ; while from the other point of view, medicine as i t i s practiced in large urban areas seeks to routing©;"! recurring events such as occur i n pregnancy in order to give uniformly high performance in the technical sense, leav-ing the patiient's emotional needs to others. So while the patient is dependent upon her doctor, t h i s dependence i s not mutual. Wno can a pregnant woman look to for support? The person with whom she has primary d a i l y contact i n most cases i s her husband. The husbands of women in my sample offered a vary-ing range of support from none at a l l to a f u l l and eager desire to share the pregnancy experience with t h e i r wives. Most of the women, however, found that t h e i r husbands shared many of the same anxieties about impending parenthood, and that therefore i t was necessary to look beyond the home f o r help. Likewise, mothers, aunts, and others of ascending gene-rations might be considered Ill-equipped to provide support be-cause in the f i r s t place, they may be unavailable or because they are thought to be "old fashioned." It Is possible that, because of North American neo-local residence rules, nuclear family l i v i n g groups, and high mobility, the need for moral support during t h i s c r i t i c a l time i n l i f e «; might be l e f t u n f u l f i l l e d i f friends and other peers were not so free and easy when communicating t h e i r personal experiences during pregnancy and thereby permitting frequent opportunities to v entilate f e e l i n g s . I f e e l strongly that this i s why most people f i n d this a c t i v i t y not only s a t i s f y i n g , but also very necessary, as i t provides mutual support among the conversants that i s unavailable through any other means. 38 A l s o , p r e n a t a l c l a s s e s , which are an adjunct to the medica l p r o f e s s i o n , he lp to f i l l t h i s need by b r i n g i n g women toge ther f o r the purpose o f d i s c u s s i n g subjec t s of mutual concern . Thus, women who have t h e i r babies i n our c u l t u r e exper-ience a dilemma. On the one hand they are w e l l informed and g i v e n the best p h y s i c a l care a v a i l a b l e , a s i t u a t i o n which should lead to g rea t e r s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e . Y e t , t h e i r extreme dependence on the medica l p r o f e s s i o n and on h o s p i t a l s , combined with, t h e i r l a c k of pe r sona l experience i n t h i s area, takes away the sense that r e p r o d u c t i o n i s a n a t u r a l , normal f u n c t i o n and lends to the whole exper ience an impersonal q u a l i t y and i n t e n s i f i e s the sense o f f e a r . I t i s e s s e n t i a l , t he re fo re , tha t f r i e n d s and others be pe rmi t t ed the l i b e r t y of d i s c u s s i n g th ings which might o therwise be cons ide red too persona l f o r open c o n v e r s a t i o n , to he lp to compensate f o r t h i s l o n e l i n e s s . No tab ly , p r o f e s s i o n a l s i n the area o f c h i l d b i r t h edu-c a t i o n have n o t i c e d an increase In the number o f couples who want to have t h e i r babies at home, away from the i n s t i t u t i o n a l -i s e d h o s p i t a l s e t t i n g , where r u l e s and the n e c e s s i t y f o r s a n i t a r y c o n d i t i o n s i s o l a t e the mother from her husband, f a m i l y , and f r i ends dur ing d e l i v e r y and the days immediately t h e r e a f t e r . The presence of t h i s t rend i n d i c a t e s that some people are seek-ing new a l t e r n a t i v e means o f a s s u r i n g moral support d u r i n g t h i s l i f e c r i s i s . For pregnancy i s i n e v i t a b l y a l i f e c r i s i s on a persona l s c a l e ; only the f o c a l po in t of t h i s c r i s i s i s c u l t u r a l l y de te r -mined. ' .Ihile t h i s i s more true o f women having f i r s t babies who 39 are f a c i n g the unknown, i t a l s o a p p l i e s to second and subsequent exper iences , s ince each experience i s un ique . Informants f r equen t ly r epor t tha t f r i e n d s and s t rangers are unusua l ly s o l i c i t o u s dur ing the f i n a l phases o f pregnancy, and the ques t i on , "How are you keeping?" i s f r e q u e n t l y asked . This ques t i on i s i n fact s p e c i f i c t o pregnant women, r e p l a c i n g the u sua l "How are you?" that i s asked o f everyone e l s e . Non-v e r b a l gestures o f respect are a l so common, such as p r o v i d i n g a seat i n crowded p l a c e s , opening the window to p rov ide f r e sh a i r , p r o v i d i n g refreshments, and o ther ac t s o f c a t e r i n g . In f a c t , a new fad attempts to c a p i t a l i z e on these customs. Two New York des igners have begun manufacturing a s p e c i a l l y - s h a p e d p i l l o w , c a l l e d the Pwf, which can be worn by non-pregnant women to s imula te the look o f pregnancy, and thus to reap the rewards o f pregnancy without i t s consequences. Y e t , i n r e a l l i f e , many f i n d these s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n s amusing, as they are unnecessary gestures to someone who i s " f e e l i n g ju s t f i n e " . I asked one man why he was always so s o l i c i t o u s o f the comfort o f pregnant women and he r e p l i e d that i t made him f e e l b e t t e r tio know he had done something h e l p f u l , i n d i c a t i n g that he knows that some sor t of he lp i s needed and t r i e s to p rov ide i t i n h i s own way. People i n our c u l t u r e are aware tha t a woman who i s about to have a baby i s expe r i enc ing a c r i s i s , f o r not on ly do they r e a d i l y provide moral suppor t , but they a l s o unconsc ious ly p r a c t i c e a s p e c i a l p r o t e c t i v e measure. Th i s i s an in fo rma l taboo on the word "pa in" when t a l k i n g to a pregnant woman about her ho impending l abour and d e l i v e r y , a subject which f r equen t ly dom-inates her thoughts and conve r sa t ion d u r i n g the f i n a l weeks of pregnancy. F requen t ly , m i l d e r synonyms such as "discomfort" ' o r "ache" are e u p h e m i s t i c a l l y s u b s t i t u t e d , but the word p a i n i t s e l f i s consp icuous ly absent from the t a l k I both overheard and took par t i n . Y e t , i n our language, one meaning of the word p a i n has a s p e c i a l connec t ion w i t h c h i l d b i r t h : Webster ' s New I n t e r n a t i o n a l (I9I45) def ines pains ( p l u r a l ) as "the throes or t r a v a i l of c h i l d -b i r t h ; l a b o r . . . " The p a i n of c h i l d b i r t h i s a r e c u r r i n g theme i n our l i t e r a t u r e and f o l k l o r e and i s probably i ng ra ined i n our assumptions. Indeed, most women (even i f not a l l ) do exper ience some degree o f p a i n dur ing l a b o u r . S t i l l , we do not say t h i s word to a woman who i s about to have a baby, nor does she he r -s e l f say i t a loud , at l e a s t i n p u b l i c . One reason why t h i s i s so may be that everyone i n our c u l t u r e fears pa in and seeks medical a i d to prevent and r e l i e v e i t . Indeed, in tense pa in i s not g e n e r a l l y encountered i n eve ry -day l i f e , except i n the context of mi s fo r tune . Yet as b i r t h i s bo th i n e v i t a b l e and inescapab le , one must face up to the p o s s i b -i l i t y tha t i t might be an i n t e n s e l y p a i n f u l expe r i ence . The taboo on u s i n g the word shows tha t these are thoughts which one keeps s e c r e t , o r shares only w i t h a c o n f i d a n t e . I t i s not a subject to be spoken of l i g h t l y . Apparen t ly , the word p a i n power fu l l y symbolizes the whole range of emo t iona l ly charged Ideas; by avo id ing the word i t s e l f , one i s spared the a n x i e t y of b r i n g i n g a p r i v a t e c o n f l i c t out i n t o p u b l i c v i e w . Rather, the public denial of t h i s fear r e f l e c t s the attitude, "ignore i t and i t w i l l go away." By the same token, t a c t f u l persons avoid the use of the word i n the presence of a pregnant woman so as not to r i s k arousing emotions that they themselves are not prepared to handle. People in our culture seem to know, i n t u i t i v e l y , that just as one does not t a l k about death to a person who i s c r i t i c -a l l y i l l , one also would be irresponsible to mention pain to someone who is already worried about i t . A second reason stems from t h i s . The fear that one w i l l not be able to act i n a d i g n i f i e d or s o c i a l l y acceptable manner during the stress of labour i s a troublesome thought to someone about to experience i t f o r the f i r s t time. Informant: You don't know what to expect and you don't know how you'11 react. Informant: This is what scares me, that I don't want to make an i d i o t of myself. I r e a l i z e that people take things d i f f e r e n t l y . Some people can take more pain'* than others. And sometimes what you think i s painful i s not p a i n f u l to the next. ( * The informant's oblique use of the word pain occurred a f t e r about 5>0 minutes of talk, during which we had become remarkably frank and t r u t h f u l . It was as i f she was confiding In me.) Thirdly, current approaches to c h i l d b i r t h place major emphasis upon the more positive elements of emotional f u l f i l l m e n t in the act of giving b i r t h , thus de-emphasizing any pain involved. Proponents of "natural clhildbirtb" i n i t s varied forms, have been enthusiastic i n support of various methods f o r overcoming f e a r and t e n s i o n , which c o n t r i b u t e to p a i n , and the b a s i c assum-p t i o n s of t h i s way o f t h i n k i n g have become w e l l known, thus c h a l l e n g i n g one of our assumptions concerning c h i l d b i r t h . Yet, only experience can c o n f i r m or deny these b e l i e f s . By drawing the emphasis away from p a i n , the word i t s e l f has f a l l e n i n t o a s o r t o f d i s r e p u t e ; f o r i n s t a n c e , i n the vocabulary o f terms i n c u r r e n t use by laymen, what used to be c a l l e d a l a b o u r p a i n has been r e p l a c e d by the word " c o n t r a c t i o n " , a term which d e s c r i b e s the a c t i o n of the u t e r i n e muscles, r a t h e r than i t s r e a c t i o n on the nervous system. One informant was n o t i c e a b l y d i f f e r e n t i n h e r response to the idea o f p a i n . E a r l y i n our t a l k , she h e r s e l f q u i t e openly v o l u n t e e r e d her f e e l i n g s about p a i n and h e r p o s s i b l e r e a c t i o n s to i t . One major reason f o r her openness l i e s i n her f a m i l y s i t u a t i o n . She i s one of seven s i s t e r s from a c l o s e l y - k n i t I t a l i a n f a m i l y , three of whom had a l r e a d y had c h i l d r e n and had shared t h e i r experiences w i t h her d u r i n g frequent v i s i t s and phone c a l l s . She had had the o p p o r t u n i t y to v e r b a l i z e her f e a r s and r e c e i v e the acceptance and support of those who meant some-t h i n g to her. On the other hand, another informant avoided t a l k i n g about her worries t o a c l o s e r e l a t i v e : Informant: I r e a l l y don't l i k e t o t e l l h e r ( s i s t e r - i n - l a w ) too much about myself because she was a r e g i s t e r e d nurse, and she had an o b s t e t r i c i a n and she f e e l s that I should have one. She's one o f these people who f e e l s that i f you're going to have a baby you should go t o a baby d o c t o r . I don't know, she's always t e l l -ing me about bad t h i n g s , never anything good . . . When f i r s t I got pregnant, I had a p a i n i n my s i d e and she'd say, "Oh, you 1*3 might have a pregnancy i n the tube, and have to go to the h o s p i t a l and have i t removed or something." I t ' s never any th ing good. I t ' s always a l l the bad th ings . . . MP: So you don ' t t a l k much about i t because y o u ' r e a f r a i d she 's going to . . . Informant: - - t e l l me bad t h i n g s , which I know she w i l l . She never t e l l s me good t h i n g s ; they are always bad t h i n g s . Once I r e a l i z e d that t h i s taboo e x i s t s , I became aware o f the lengths to which some persons w i l l go to avo id the word p a i n , even where i t s use would not only have been otherwise app rop r i a t e , but a l s o would have conveyed the meaning more a c c u r a t e l y than the synonyms which were s u b s t i t u t e d . P r e n a t a l c l a s s i n s t r u c t o r s r a r e l y , i f ever , use the word when t a l k i n g about l a b o u r . One h i g h l y - s k i l l e d teacher w i t h many years exper ience , however, d i d use the word to desc r ibe a p a r t i c u l a r l y c r i t i c a l stage i n l abour , but on ly a f t e r she had c a r e f u l l y won the t r u s t of her s tuden t s . When I ques t ioned her a f t e r c l a s s , she s a i d tha t , though she had not g i v e n i t much conscious thought, pa in was i n fac t a word she sh ied away from i n her c l a s s e s . She f e l t tha t others d i d l i k e w i s e . This was confirmed by another t eacher , who uses the word on ly i n c a r e f u l l y guarded contexts and i n s t r u c t s her f e l l o w teachers to do l i k e w i s e . Y e t , though the word i s absent, the i dea i s s t i l l conve^retJsL by the frequent use o f such phrases as " s t rong con-t r a c t i o n s " , "hard l a b o u r , " "toss and moan", by r e f e r r i n g to drugs as " p a i n k i l l e r s " , and by teach ing that c e r t a i n methods of b r ea th ing and body p o s i t i o n i n g can r e l i e v e "d i scomfor t " and " t e n s i o n " . In o the r words, i t i s proper to t a l k of l abour as kh hard work, a time o f great s t r e s s , as r e q u i r i n g endurance and i n t e l l i g e n t management, and so on, but to r e f e r d i r e c t l y to s u f f e r i n g i s too t h r e a t e n i n g . The way that people act i n t u i t i v e l y to avo id t h i s d e l i c a t e i s sue i s one example which r e i n f o r c e s my b e l i e f that there i s a de f inab le communication code to dea l w i t h pregnancy i n our c u l t u r e , and that I t s parameters are w e l l unders tood . People r ece ive no i n s t r u c t i o n s about how to act i n t h i s a rea , ye t they "know" what to do; behav io r by and toward pregnant women i s not random, but conforms to a p a t t e r n . Th i s can on ly come from g<msping the u n d e r l y i n g assumptions from which the behav io r a r i s e s . Th i s unders tanding shapes the k i n d of s p e c i a l behav io r which passes between pregnant women and o t h e r s . Hence, c l ue s as to the nature o f these u n d e r l y i n g f ac to r s can be gained from the content of the conversa t ions that pregnant women have among themselves and w i t h o t h e r s . Three b a s i c g e n e r a l i z a t i o n s can be made i n t h i s r e g a r d : 1) T a l k centers on having the baby, not on the baby i t s e l f ; 2) There i s a preponderant concern w i t h p h y s i c a l w e l l -be ing , w i t h b i r t h i t s e l f , and with, the compl i ca t i ons which comm-only occur even dur ing "normal" pregnancies , and 3) These concerns are i n v e r i a b l y i n t e r p r e t e d through know-ledge of phys io logy and medica l procedures , the on ly body o f b e l i e f tha t i s cons idered r e l e v a n t . So much t a l k about the p h y s i c a l aspects of pregnancy suggests tha t our assumptions about pregnancy stem from b e l i e f s about b i r t h i t s e l f and i t s r e l a t i o n s h i p to the b i o l o g i c a l f u n c t i o n o f women. B i r t h , the source of l i f e , can also be the cause o f death, and i n our c u l t u r e we r e l y upon medical p r a c t i c e to mediate t h i s source of t e n s i o n and r e s o l v e i t i n favour of l i f e . Low maternal and i n f a n t m o r t a l i t y a t t e s t t o the success o f t h i s s o l u t i o n . Death i n c h i l d b i r t h we b e l i e v e t o be completely a v o i d -able, and i f i t does occur, i t i s the r e s u l t o f poor m e d i c a l management and i s a sen s e l e s s tragedy — a.scandal perhaps. So too w i t h i n f a n t death o r damage at b i r t h . Hence, f e a r o f d e a t h plays no s i g n i f i c a n t r o l e i n our assumptions about pregnancy and b i r t h , f o r we have r e s o l v e d i t s b a s i c l i f e - d e a t h a s p e c t s . S t i l l , even d e s p i t e the s u c c e s s f u l r e l i a n c e upon the science and technology o f medicine, b i r t h remains a c r i s i s i n our c u l t u r e . I suggest that t h i s i s because i t b r i n g s together the p h y s i c a l r e a l i t i e s of p r o c r e a t i o n w i t h the profound mysteries of l i f e i t s e l f , a d u a l i t y which s c i e n c e has not r e s o l v e d . A pregnant woman, a g i v e r o f l i f e , i s i n touch w i t h t h i s phenomenon, and hence symbolizes the power of nature, over which no one has c o n t r o l . In the middle c l a s s s e c t o r o f our c u l t u r e , t h i s set of circumstances g i v e s r i s e to indulgent behavior toward pregnant women ( i n c l u d i n g , f o r i n s t a n c e , the p r o t e c t i v e d e v ice o f a v o i d -ing the word " p a i n " ) , which are signs o f r e s p e c t , not ju s t f o r U6 the woman h e r s e l f , but f o r the symbol ic nature of her pregnant c o n d i t i o n . Other forms of behav io r which r e l a t e to t h i s are many. O c c a s i o n a l l y , i t i s s t a t ed o v e r t l y , as i n the case of a genera l p r a c t i t i o n e r who t o l d me tha t there i s a "magic" (h i s word) about a pregnant woman which causes him to f e e l awe i n her presence . And the sen t imenta l n o t i o n that "a woman i s never more b e a u t i f u l than when she i s pregnant" p e r s i s t s , even though the " f a t " image of a pregnant woman runs counter to other s tandards o f a t t r a c t i v e -ness i n the c u l t u r e . Seve ra l informants t o l d me that some men f e e l s e x u a l l y a t t r a c t e d to pregnant women, as w e l l , though statements of t h i s nature may a l s o be cons idered by some to be funny o r r i d i c u l o u s , as a pregnant woman i s cons idered by some to be i n a separate category s e x u a l l y . Laughter o r r i d i c u l e , as i n the above case, i s i n fac t express ive o f another frequent response to pregnant women — h o s t i l i t y — which i s u s u a l l y m i l d l y expressed through humour, but which i s o c c a s i o n a l l y expressed openly i n anger and i n s u l t . Examples: A pregnant woman dressed i n shor ts was approached by a middle aged man who sneered and s a i d : "Don ' t you look cu te" ; o r , a man makes a po in t o f admir ing the s l imness of h i s w i f e ' s f r i ends i n f ron t o f he r . H o s t i l i t y l o g i c a l l y stems from the th rea t posed by the power i m p l i c i t i n the metaphor of woman as l i f e - g i v e r . One can p r e d i c t that h o s t i l i t y i s expressed by 1) men who do not possess hi adequate compensatory expressions of maleness, 2) women who are phys i o l o g i c a l l y unable to bear children or who are single and wish to be married and have a family, and 3) to a much les s e r extent, other non-pregnant women i n situations which arouse jealousy, i . e . , when a pregnant woman i s getting a l l the attention. Thus, c u l t u r a l l y transmitted feelings about the function of women as givers of l i f e shapes the be.havior, both verbal and non-verbal, that people exhibit towards pregnant women. Though cer t a i n s p e c i f i c behaviors are learned through repeated contact in appropriate situations, i t can s t i l l be argued that a person facing a so c i a l situation involving pregnant women f o r the f i r s t time w i l l have an i n t u i t i v e f e e l f or i t , or w i l l at least know that some specia]|behavior i s c a l l e d for, and w i l l prob&bly act appropriately. V . CONCLUSIONS In t h i s essay, I have d i scussed pregnancy as the focus of a p a r t i c u l a r type o f communication i n our c u l t u r e , a process by which women l e a r n to o r i e n t themselves to the p h y s i c a l and s o c l a l ^ r e a l i t i e s of pregnancy and motherhood by s h a r i n g these exper iences w i t h o t h e r s . Wi th in t h i s genera l framework, f i v e r e l evan t groups can be d i s t i n g u i s h e d w i t h i n which communication takes p l a c e . Each group i n v o l v e s d i s t i n c t types of r e l a t i o n s h i p s , and forms of b e h a v i o r . One i s based upon o b l i g a t i o n , another on c h o i c e , and the t h i r d on exigency, a f o u r t h on r e c o g n i t i o n , and a f i f t h on commercial p r o f i t . O b l i g a t i o n Her husband, paren ts , i n - l a w s , best f r i e n d s , and o the r kin-'i types (see Chapter I I I ) form a group def ined by o b l i g a t i o n . These persons have a r i g h t to be the f i r s t to know about her pregnancy, to r ece ive u n s o l i c i t e d r e -po r t s on he r h e a l t h and we l f a re , and i n the o p i n i o n o f some, to be consu l t ed on such matters as naming. The' o b l i g a t i o n i s mutual , f o r i t i s t h i s group to whom she has the r i g h t to l ook f o r a s s i s -tance f i n a n c i a l l y i f need be, f o r s p e c i a l care ( i . e . , he lp w i t h housework and o ther cho re s ) , home nur s ing ( i . e . , p o s t - n a t a l c a r e ) , and f o r emot ional suppor t . R e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h i n t h i s group are based on the exchange of a f f e c t . Choice - - By c o n t r a s t , a second group i s comprised of peers , w i t h i n whom the r e l a t i o n s h i p s are p r i m a r i l y based on h9 the exchange o f shared exper i ences . In t h i s group are f r i e n d s and acquaintances , as w e l l as s i s t e r s , who have themselves been or who are now pregnant and who are therefore w i l l i n g to t a l k about t h e i r own expe r i ences . Between such i n d i v i d u a l s , a mutual feedback of i n fo rma t ion permits the p a r t i c i p a n t s to o r i e n t them-se lves regard ing the exper ience and to assess how t h e i r own ex-per ience f i t s i n t o the u n i v e r s a l phenomenon o f c h i l d b e a r i n g . Among t h i s group may be f r i ends known before the pregnancy, as w e l l as persons met at p r e n a t a l c l a s se s who share i n common noth ing more than the pregnancy; of course, s ince best f r i ends and s i s t e r s may a l s o be i n t h i s ca tegory , there i s o b v i o u s l y some o v e r l a p p i n g w i t h the prev ious group. Exigency — Med ica l pe rsonne l — doc to r s , nurses , and p r e n a t a l c l a s s teachers - - comprise the t h i r d group, def ined by the p h y s i c a l ex igenc ies a r i s i n g from pregnancy. T h e i r r e l a -t i o n s h i p to a pregnant woman i s based on (-exchange o f knowledge and i n f o r m a t i o n needed to insure the p h y s i c a l w e l l - b e i n g o f mother and c h i l d . She goes to these persons seeking i n fo rma t ion and c a r e , and they respond by o f f e r i n g a s e rv i ce based on the accepted body o f medica l knowledge. In t h i s group, t he r e fo re , the communi-c a t i o n i s seemingly one-s ided , w i t h the woman always t a k i n g and the doc to r , nurse , or teacher always g i v i n g . However, t h i s ex-change i s ba lanced w i t h the payment o f a fee f o r the s e r v i c e . Thus, the exchange i n t h i s group i s more impersonal than i n the o ther two groups . This f a c t o r e x p l a i n s why, a l though there may be over -l a p p i n g between persons i n t h i s group and the choice group - -50 i . e . , a f r i e n d may also be a nurse -- or w i t h persons i n the o b l i g a t i o n group -- i . e . , a f a t h e r may also be a doctor , i t i s nevertheless true that when overlapping occurs i n t h i s area, the person involved.does not serve both functions at once. That i s , he or she e i t h e r serves i n a p r o f e s s i o n a l o r a personal c a p a c i t y , not both. Under these circumstances, i n f a c t , such a person i s almost c e r t a i n to opt f o r the personal r e l a t i o n s h i p , f o r i f a f a t h e r i s also a doctor, he w i l l , of course b r i n g -special knowledge to the r e l a t i o n s h i p , but r a r e l y would he attempt to e x e r c i s e i t , l e a v i n g t h i s f u n c t i o n instead to non-kin. This i s p e r f e c t l y c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the n o t i o n that medical personnel must not become p e r s o n a l l y involved with p a t i e n t s . By the same token, pregnant women have to look to persons i n the other groups f o r the support and confirmation they need. Thus, true overlapping between t h i s group and the other two i s not p o s s i b l e ; i t may merely touch them: FIGURE 2 F i v e spheres of communication during pregnancy and t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p to each other. 51 The two remaining ca tegor ies - - r e c o g n i t i o n and commer-c i a l p r o f i t i n v o l v e f l e e t i n g contac ts which leave no l a s t i n g e f f e c t . Recogn i t i on by s t rangers o f a woman's pregnant c o n d i t i o n may or may not evoke s p e c i a l behavior on her b e h a l f . Por i n s t ance , o ther women may smi le i n a s p e c i a l "knowing" way when eye con tac t i s made, o r s t rangers may o f f e r c o u r t e s i e s which would not be extended to non-pregnant women, such as o f f e r i n g a seat on a bus . Thus, r e c o g n i t i o n , whi l e of no l a s t i n g consequence, p lays a r o l e i n d e f i n i n g pregnancy as a s p e c i a l c o n d i t i o n . Commercial p r o f i t - - i s made from pregnant women by s tores which s e l l mate rn i ty and in fan t wear, and by insurance companies which s tand to ga in by p r o v i d i n g a d d i t i o n a l coverage to p rospec t ive pa r en t s . Should a pregnant woman r e c e i v e s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n from these o r g a n i z a t i o n s , i t i s probably m o t i v i t a d by p r o f i t i n c e n t i v e s . Therefore , i t i s the f i r s t three of these ca t ego r i e s - -o b l i g a t i o n , c h o i c e , and exigency — which Impinge most d i r e c t l y on the l i f e of a pregnant woman. I have d i s t i n g u i s h e d between these groups on the b a s i s of three dimensions: p a r t i c i p a n t s , content of exchange, and f u n c t i o n . In a diagram, the parameters look l i k e t h i s : Group | O b l i g a t i o n > Choice » Exigency  P a r t i c i p a n t s : K i n > Best Fr iends —> Fr iends — • M e d i c a l Personnel Content of Exchange: A f f e c t ^ Exper ience —r>Informat i o n F u n c t i o n : Support * * O r i e n t a t i o n —^Physica l care FIGURE 3 Parameters which d i s t i n g u i s h between spheres o f communication du r ing pregnancy. 52 Prom t h i s , i t i s evident that each of the dimensions forms a continuum (indicated by the arrows) going from personal to impersonal, from closeness to distance. It i s possible, there-fore, to use this diagram to map relationships on the basis of any or a l l of the dimensions, and to assess the relationship a person is l i k e l y to have with a woman accordingly. On the basis of this continuum, i t is .rreadily apparent why behavior which is appropriate to some relationships is inappropriate to others and so on -- why, for instance, the closer the friend, the more d^.ei'b- '':) obligation she may be asked to take, or why a nurse V can o f f e r a d i f f e r e n t sort of comfort than a good friend can. Pregnant women i n our society thus can function within a communication network which is p o t e n t i a l l y extensive and poten-t i a l l y capable of answering a variety of needs. From this point of view, the power of the network is i t s a b i l i t y to unite the uniqueness of each i n d i v i d u a l experience with the universal phenomenon of procreation. 53 APPENDIX QUESTIONNAIRE 1. When d i d you announce y o u r p regnancy t o o t h e r s ? 2. Who was the f i r s t p e r s o n you t o l d ? fflho was n e x t ? 3. Do some p e o p l e have a r i g h t t o know b e f o r e o t h e r s ? Who and Ii. What d i d p e o p l e s a y when y o u t o l d them? I f y o u can remember, what worsts d i d t h e y use t o e x p r e s s t h e i r f e e l i n g s ? 5. A r e m a r r i e d women e x p e c t e d t o become p r e g n a n t ? 6. D i d anyone q u e s t i o n you about y o u r p l a n s t o have a f a m i l y ? Who ? Were t h e s e p e r s o n s a l s o c u r i o u s about y o u r methods o f b i r t h c o n t r o l ? Who? 7. What s o r t o f q u e s t i o n s d i d p e o p l e a s k ? 8. D i d you f e e l any p r e s s u r e t o conform t o someone e l s e ' s e x p e c t a t i o n s i n t h i s r e g a r d ? 9. Were y o u more w i l l i n g t o d i s c u s s t h e s e s u b j e c t s w i t h some p e o p l e and not w i t h o t h e r s ? Who and why? 10. Is anyone u r g i n g y o u t o l i m i t the s i z e o f y o u r f a m i l y ? 'Why? Thank y o u v e r y much. GENERAL INFORMATION Age: Number of c h i l d r e n : Number of pregnancies : Year of marr iage : E d u c a t i o n : Occupat i o n : Are you working now: Do you p l a n to r e t u r n to work a f t e r you have the baby? Husband's occupa t ion : Husband's educa t ion : Your e thn ic a f f i l i a t i o n : Husband's e thn ic a f f i l i a t i o n : Approximate income (combined, i f you work, t o o ) : Under $5,000 $5,000 to $10,000 $10,000 to $15,000 $15,000 to $20,000 Over $20,000 55 BIBLIOGRAPHY The f o l l o w i n g l i s t comprises a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e sample of ethnographies and monographs c o n t a i n i n g data on customs r e -l a t i n g to pregnancy i n o ther c u l t u r e s ; t h i s l i s t i s by no means exhaus t i ve , iforks marked with, an a s t e r i s k ( *) o f f e r s p e c i a l treatment of the sub jec t , whi le i n a l l o ther cases , d e s c r i p t i o n s are b r i e f and o c c a s i o n a l l y pe r func to ry . Ardener , Edwin . Divorce and F e r t i l i t y , An A f r i c a n Study. London: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press , I962. Ashley-Montagu, M . F . Coming Into Being Among the A u s t r a l i a n  A b o r i g i n e s , A Study o f the P r o c r e a t i v e B e l i e f s o f the  Nat ive T r ibes of A u s t r a l i a . London: George Routledge and Sons, L t d . , 1937. Berndt , Ronald M. Excess and R e s t r a i n t . Ch icago : U n i v e r s i t y o f Chicago Press , 1962. D i c k Read, G r a n t l y . No Time f o r Fea r . London: W i l l i a m Heineman L t d . , 1955. DuBois , Cora . The People o f A l o r . M i n n e a p o l i s : U n i v e r s i t y of Minnesota Press , ltykk* Forbes, Thomas. The Midwife and the W i t c h . New Haven: Ya le U n i v e r s i t y Press , 1966. Ford , C l e l l a n S t e a r n s . A Comparative Study o f Human Reproduct ion . Y a l e U n i v e r s i t y P u b l i c a t i o n s i n Anthropology, No. 32. New Haven: Y a l e U n i v e r s i t y P re s s , 19^5. Forde, D a r y l l . Mar r iage ' and the Fami ly Among the Yako i n South- eas te rn N i g e r i a . London: Percy Lund Humphries and C o . , Gee r t z , H i l d r e d . The Javanese F a m i l y . New Y o r k : Free Press of Glencoe, 1961. G r a n q v i s t , H i lma . B i r t h and Chi ldhood Among the Arabs . He l s ing fo Soders.trom and C o . , 19^7. ~~ 56 BIBLIOGRAPHY Continued * Har t , Donn V . ; Rajadhon, Phya Anuman; and Cough l in , Richard J . Southeast A s i a n B i r t h Customs. New Haven: Human Re la t i ons Area F i l e s Press , 19bi?. H i l g e r , S i s t e r M. Inez . F i e l d Guide to the E t h n o l o g i c a l Study  of C h i l d L i f e . New Haven: Human Re la t ions Area F i l e s Press , l ybO. Junod, Henr i A . The L i f e o f a South A f r i c a n T r i b e , Volume I,  S o c i a l L i f e . New Hyde Park, New York : U n i v e r s i t y Books, I n c . , 1962. Kaberry , P h y l l i s M. A b o r i g i n a l Woman, Sacred and Profane . New Y o r k : Humanities P ress , 1 9 3 0 . M a l i n o w s k i , B r o n l s l a w . The Sexual L i f e of Savages. London: Routledge and Kegan P a u l , L t d . , 1929. ^ . Sex, Cu l tu re and Myth. New York : Harcour t , Brace and Wor ld , I n c . , 1 9 5 2 . Mead, Margare t . From the South Seas . New York , W i l l i a m Morrow and C o . , 1939^ . The Mountain Arapesh, Volume I I . Garden C i t y , New Y o r k : N a t u r a l H i s t o r y P ress , 1 9 7 0 . . New L i v e s f o r O l d . New Y o r k : W i l l i a m Morrow and C^ TT 195h~. Raum, 0 . F . Chaga Ch i ldhood . London, Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press , 19^0 . Reyher, Rebecca Hourwich. Zu lu Woman. New Y o r k : Columbia U n i v e r s i t y Press , 19I48. S h i r o k o g o r o f f , S . M . S o c i a l Organ i za t i on o f the Northern Tungus. The Nether lands : Oosterhout N . B . , 1900. Smith , M.G. K i n s h i p and Community i n C a r r i a c o u . New Haven, Ya l e U n i v e r s i t y P re s s , 1962. S t a y t , Hugh A . The Bavenda. London: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s . 1931. ' 

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