MOTHER IS A VERB An Unconventional HistoryBy Sarah Knott
The other day, a woman stopped me to ask if I had been eating watermelon seeds. I looked at her blankly until she pointed at my very pregnant belly. “Oh!” I said. In 1753, I might have turned to her and agreed that “I am as Fleshy and Fresh that you ever saw me!” Or a hundred years before that, I might have clarified that actually, I was bagged, bound and teeming with child. But such bodily, lusty terms went out of fashion in the Victorian era, the historian Sarah Knott explains in her new book, “Mother Is a Verb.” Privileged women of the 1800s preferred to elevate rationality and sentimentality — their minds, not their flesh. Out went all the physical descriptions. Now women with rising aprons experienced “the first pledge of matrimonial love,” and awaited their “little stranger.” Even the working classes preferred euphemisms, though theirs were decidedly better: “in the pudding club,” or “up the duff.” Given the watermelon comment, not a lot has changed.
But of course, so much has changed, especially if you look back hundreds of years, tracing the origins of contemporary mothering. Knott, a professor at Indiana University, uses her own path to motherhood, which includes a miscarriage and two successful pregnancies, as the scaffolding for her engaging and pleasingly radical “unconventional history” of this subject. She’s not interested, really, in what patriarchal culture has historically envisioned motherhood to be. Instead, she seeks out a truer, detailed set of accounts: the micro-histories. She combs through letters, diaries, anthropology field notes, doctor’s notes and memoirs to create a “trellis of tiny scenes” that illuminate what mothering truly entailed throughout the last four centuries. “Conceiving, miscarrying, quickening, carrying, birthing,” she writes. “And then, cleaning, feeding, sleeping, not sleeping, providing, being interrupted, passing back and forth. These make up the visceral ongoingness, the blood and guts of being ‘with child.’ The verbs.” So these are the subjects she covers.
Simply put, the book is a joy to read, borne of raw curiosity and intelligence, nurtured into the world to fill a gap in understanding. I tend to toss mom books into the Goodwill bag faster than my daughter’s outgrown clothes. I want to know everything about the complete physical and spiritual metamorphosis I went through when I had my first daughter, and that I am soon to undergo again, as well as everything about how best to parent, but so many books confidently opine about subjects that barely apply to real life (my real life: a NICU baby with reflux who wouldn’t nurse or sleep), or they elevate someone’s idea of mom humor, or they leave a mother wondering why so many of the books geared toward her assume childbirth came with a partial lobotomy.
Of course, there are exceptions, books that take the intelligence of mothers seriously, including Emily Oster’s overview of seminal pregnancy studies, “Expecting Better,” Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell’s “Parenting From the Inside Out” and Anne Enright’s sharp and witty essay collection, “Making Babies.”
Knott’s book sits among these spicy, smart selections in my bedroom now. It’s a deeply human book, imperfect by design. There’s a richness to some details, a paucity to others, and the unevenness highlights an essential fact about the history of motherhood: It has not been methodically recorded. “The richest records, such as letters and diaries, often stop exactly as they are getting interesting,” she notes. “A piece of correspondence is left off, midsentence, the letter writer called away by a cry, or a diary suspends, because both hands are needed to hold the baby.”
Knott revels in the details she strings together, imagining the “quickening” of Lady Castlemaine, King Charles II’s mistress. (Quickening, another term for the first “signs of life,” used to be the first real indicator of a viable pregnancy.) She sets Castlemaine in London in winter, in a “teeth-rattling carriage that conducts her along … filthy pebbled streets,” describing the buildings, the clothing. She imagines a minister’s wife in 1640s East Anglia, hearing her husband cough through the thin walls as she labors (men were not allowed into the birthing room), knowing that he believed her labor was “punishment for Eve’s sin … to be patiently borne.” She describes the birthing osi of Cherokee women in the 1700s, wattle-and-daub cabins where laboring women heard maternal myths while held by other women as their babies came. She offers these images and scenes with limited editorial direction, her implicit trust in her readers a mercy in itself.
Often the details provide a stark reminder of how much has changed. In the 1600s, wet nurses were frequently recommended to women who could afford them. Poor women might take in several babies at a time, living with and nursing them for months, until Victorian ideas took hold about nursing and mother-child bonding. Then, wet nurses became domestic servants, living among the wealthy and frequently leaving their own children behind. Knott tells the story of one Irish wet nurse, employed by an upper-class Victorian woman in Massachusetts. Her own baby, left in the hands of someone else, became ill, and she sought to resign. The panicked employer arranged for the nurse’s baby to live with them. But she provided subpar servant’s quarters, and the wet nurse’s milk dried up from stress. She lost her job. We have no idea what became of her baby.
Such stories can help readers place their own beliefs and customs in cultural and historical context. The hardships and ethical impurities of the past complicate any rosy notions of how motherhood used to be. Yes, Cherokee women could rest assured that their female family would take the baby in immediately and breast-feed it should they die in childbirth. On the other hand, it was much more likely in those days that they would, in fact, die in childbirth. And no, those long-ago mothers didn’t always nurse their babies effortlessly, basking in the oxytocin and dispensing immune-system benefits with ease. They frequently exploited poorer women to do the hard labor for them. Knowing the complexity of our collective history might empower new mothers who, like me, struggled mightily with things that were supposed to be “innate” and “natural.” Mothering, Knott’s project suggests, has always been a distinctly cultural act, both noble and flawed. Using formula may not be ideal in today’s “breast is best” landscape, but it beats trying to keep a baby alive on a diet of fish roe and liquor, or exploiting a wet nurse who must abandon her own children to feed yours.
But Knott doesn’t glorify the present, either. British herself, she longs for her mother, far from Indiana, and notes with painful precision the pitfalls of modern mothering: isolation and lack of support. She mentions the women in her community group with only six weeks of leave, struggling to find care for their tiny infants. She longs for the N.H.S. and reflects, after reading of all the sisters, nurses, tribes and “othermothers” of yore: “In this small American city, we are left to our own devices. Who watches our upheaval, makes sure we survive and thrive?”
With this excellent tribute to the past, complete with dispatches from her very raw, real postpartum present, Knott provides a partial answer to that question: We have to contribute our own intellect and gifts, in order to look out for one another.B:
【车】【轮】【滚】【滚】，【李】【俊】【和】【宗】【爱】【柔】【握】【手】【而】【坐】，【在】【这】【个】【浪】【漫】【的】【春】【天】，【他】【终】【于】【做】【出】【了】【一】【个】【惊】【天】【动】【地】【的】【决】【定】。 【他】【要】【让】【位】！ 【那】【日】，【从】【大】【明】【宫】【走】【出】【来】，【当】【他】【看】【到】**【基】【咄】【咄】【逼】【人】【的】【眼】【神】【的】【时】【候】，【他】【就】【知】【道】，【一】【旦】【他】【登】【上】【皇】【位】，【一】【场】【争】【夺】【就】【立】【刻】【会】【拉】【开】【帷】【幕】。 【他】【不】【愿】【再】【看】【到】，【兄】【弟】【相】【争】，【相】【残】【的】【景】【象】，【既】【是】【如】【此】，【不】【如】【趁】【着】【你】【好】【我】
【风】【卷】【沉】【沙】【起】，【云】【化】【雨】【落】【地】。 【地】【面】【上】【狂】【风】【吹】【散】【水】【汽】【席】【卷】【两】【岸】，【天】【空】【中】【已】【有】【水】【滴】【落】【下】，【黑】【云】【压】【顶】，【银】【龙】【翻】【腾】，【奏】【响】【大】【自】【然】【的】【战】【鼓】，【照】【这】【趋】【势】，【不】【出】【一】【分】【钟】，【佐】【助】【就】【会】【举】【手】【高】【喊】【一】【声】【宇】【智】【波】【遗】【孤】【请】【求】【支】【援】，【然】【后】【麒】【麟】【洗】【地】，【水】【解】【氢】【氧】，【被】【火】【点】【燃】【又】【变】【成】【水】，【战】【场】【弥】【漫】【起】【氤】【氲】【的】【臭】【氧】【之】【息】。 【鸣】【人】【是】【不】【会】【给】【他】【这】【个】【机】【会】【的】。和尚心水报彩图201714【司】【机】【的】【话】【音】【还】【没】【落】【下】，【他】【就】【看】【到】【宋】【明】【一】【把】【把】【那】【扇】【木】【门】【举】【到】【了】【头】【顶】，【健】【步】【如】【飞】【的】【走】【去】【车】【里】，【轻】【轻】【的】【放】【下】。 【司】【机】【愣】【了】【愣】，【咽】【了】【咽】【口】【水】，【摸】【了】【摸】【身】【旁】【的】【那】【只】【炼】【丹】【鼎】，【给】【自】【己】【找】【台】【阶】【下】。 “【这】【个】【鼎】【这】【么】【结】【实】，【少】【说】【有】【五】【六】【百】【斤】【重】” 【宋】【少】【宗】【不】【知】【何】【时】【来】【到】【了】【炼】【丹】【鼎】【的】【面】【前】，【悄】【无】【声】【息】【的】【搬】【走】【了】。 “【我】【去】！【鼎】
“【是】【吗】？”【听】【到】【韩】【公】【子】【的】【话】，【元】【龙】【也】【是】【大】【吃】【一】【惊】，【赶】【忙】【俯】【身】【蹲】【下】。 【这】【树】【丛】【狭】【小】【仅】【能】【容】【一】【人】【藏】【身】，【没】【有】【办】【法】【元】【龙】【只】【得】【再】【次】【蹲】【在】【了】【韩】【公】【子】【身】【后】，【探】【头】【探】【脑】【的】【隔】【着】【韩】【公】【子】【向】【山】【下】【望】【去】。 【山】【下】【一】【众】【蛊】【人】【在】【面】【具】【巫】【师】【的】【带】【领】【下】，【正】【在】【慢】【慢】【向】【山】【上】【靠】【近】，【但】【似】【乎】【他】【们】【并】【没】【有】【详】【细】【确】【定】【元】【龙】【两】【人】【的】【所】【在】，【只】【有】【一】【个】【大】【概】。 【巫】
【从】【东】【吴】【那】【边】【调】【来】【的】【一】【支】【军】【队】，【大】【约】【有】1【万】【人】，【这】【一】【万】【人】【算】【是】【暂】【时】【借】【给】【孔】【明】【的】，【但】【这】【并】【不】【是】【孔】【明】【捡】【了】【一】【个】【大】【便】【宜】，【随】【行】【的】【还】【有】【周】【瑜】、【吕】【蒙】【两】【人】。 【这】【两】【人】【也】【是】【监】【视】【孔】【明】，【避】【免】【孔】【明】【让】1【万】【人】【当】【了】【炮】【灰】。 【虽】【然】【孔】【明】【从】【未】【这】【么】【说】，【但】【不】【代】【表】【他】【不】【这】【么】【想】，【反】【正】【死】【道】【友】【不】【死】【贫】【道】，【这】【么】【合】【适】【自】【己】【真】【没】【来】，【虽】【然】【多】【少】【有】【些】【龌】【龊】
【没】【想】【到】【有】【一】【天】【也】【会】【这】【样】，【以】【一】【个】【作】【家】【的】【身】【份】，【敲】【下】【这】【四】【个】【字】。 【虽】【然】【吧】，【现】【在】【其】【实】【还】【远】【远】【配】【不】【上】【作】【家】【这】【两】【个】【字】，【但】【就】【趁】【着】【这】【完】【结】【的】【奇】【妙】【心】【境】，【这】【么】【自】【我】【标】【榜】【一】【次】【吧】。 【海】【贼】【之】【曜】，【其】【实】【一】【开】【始】【写】，【目】【的】【就】【很】【明】【确】，【一】【是】【出】【于】【对】【海】【贼】【王】【这】【个】【故】【事】【的】【热】【爱】，【想】【留】【下】【感】【动】【自】【己】【的】，【并】【按】【照】【自】【己】【的】【设】【想】，【写】【出】【新】【的】【感】【动】，【二】【嘛】