A historical approach on childbirth and pregnancy

Somebody said, in a post on another site, about realistic pregnancy in historical context: “It would be pretty realistic for a pregnancy to end in a miscarriage, or for the child to die at birth or be stillborn – health care back in the early nineteenth century was pretty rudimentary, after all. To get pregnant and give birth carried HUGE risks for the woman and if the child was born safely, odds were good that it wouldn’t live past the age of five…”

While I do agree with her, this realistic approach is reflected, in my case, in the number of dead siblings/ mothers dead in childbed characters have. However, in a RPG, unlike in a story written alone, I think using this approach would raise other kind of critics: that it is a lazy approach, to have a character pregnant only for the drama and get rid of the baby when it could hinder the mother’s activity. I have read it on discussion sites so many times when pregnancy was mentioned.

So even when I got a pregnant character and her lover’s writer left the site, and I could resort to a miscarriage, I didn’t want to. I preferred to deal with all the tribulations of being an unwed mother in an unaccepting society and have my character develop through it.

At least, unlike Tess d’Uberville and that other girl before her that I can’t remember her name, who lived in the 1700s and was judged for having killed her baby, having the sentence changed in the last moment between hanging and transportation, Marina’s employer was understanding and accepted her. So, everything else she was confronted to, was interesting to deal with.

Some ideas came along in time. For example, I discovered the spousal de futuro legal provision, which allowed her to fight in court for her child’s legitimacy being recognized, and it gave the opportunity for more threads and more characters being involved. I think this is something good for the story.

I have also made proper research about pregnancy and I intend to promote realism in this context too. My character has the normal pregnancy-related problems, and mood swings due to worrying for the future, besides the society-imposed problems for an unwed mother in 1700s. I think I reflected them well, either in threads, or in the character’s journal.

Some discussions on resource sites say that approaching childbirth in the story is gross, others that it is an artificial glamourizing of childbirth. I don’t think either of it.

Realism might mean that not everything is going well, indeed, but it doesn’t need to be grossly described physically. It should be described more as the emotional experience of the mother, of the women around her, of the father if present, or in my character’s case on how the father’s absence impacts it.

And exactly how each of the 4 weddings we had until now “Before the Mast” was a differently written experience, highlighting various aspects and feelings and ceremonies, this will be the second childbirth in our story – hopefully some others will follow – and different than the others.

I am doing a proper research on the subject, and even if it will be reflected in the character’s journal more than in actual threads, as it is a sort of… private experience, it will be approached realistically.

Not all childbirths were going perfectly well, even if it doesn’t need to lose the mother or the child in the process. There will be pain and problems, even if not very difficult ones. There will be post-partum depression too. It happens to many women, and in her case it makes sense more than in others’. And there will be the surprise of waiting for a son and receiving a daughter…

Marina’s saga is continuing. Childbirth is just a step. Having a mixed blood child in her arms will be the next challenge to be overcome during their whole lives…

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