In the XVIIIth Century, it was believed that a woman sleeping naked on her bed could be fecunded by the South-West zephyr.

The whole History of procreation seems to have been marked by great misogyny.  Over two or three centuries, a completely specialized literature develops it, inspired at the same time by Scripture, scientific observation and philosophy.  Speaking of Woman, eminent Sorbonnards affirm:

“The humidity of her constitution renders her inapt for tasks which demand character”,

and,

“on top of which, one is not totally sure that she has a soul”…

It is for this reason that, out of prudence, the first human dissections are practised on women.

In 1595, an opuscule in Latin by the German philosopher Acidalius proclaims:

“Mulieres non esse homines”;  women are not part of humankind…

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It is therefore understandable that parents are not ecstatic about the birth of a little girl…

In the XVIIIth Century, it was starting to be said that women carried eggs from which children were born.

From the IVth Century before the present era, since Aristotle, the woman is only the receptacle of the embryo deposited by the man.  She is a reproduction tool accorded to the man to relieve him of the burden of having to nourish this embryo and give birth to it.

This is why L’art de procreer des males, a book by Morel de Rubempre, still has, in 1824, great success and numerous re-editions.  It essentially takes up the elucubrations of Millot in 1802, of which the following is a sample:

“The husband must always lie on the woman’s left.  At the moment of the ejaculation, he must quickly pass his left hand under his spouse’s right buttock, and lift her up until her hip forms, with the suface on which she is lying, an angle of twenty-five to thirty degrees.  This is not all, things such as the height of the bed, the position of the husband, whether he is standing, and the wife lying down, for example, must be taken into account.  If he is himself lying down, he has to modify the firing angle of the “cannon of life” in function of the width of the opening of his spouse’s hips and the depth of the dent that they make in the mattress.”

The great Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in his Histoire des anomalies, recounts seriously, in 1832, that sentiments can have a strong influence on the child before its birth.  For example, a little girl is born in Year III of the French Republic with, on her left breast, the mark of a Phrygian bonnet.  The Directoire also rewarded with a pension of four hundred francs a mother so patriotic as to have given birth to a female child bearing on her buttock a patriotic brevet and a revolutionary emblem.

The first serious refutations of the role of the imagination or fears, or of “cravings”, only go back to the middle of the XIXth Century.  In English maternities, pregnant women are then asked what has impressed their minds during their pregnancy and it is perceived that:

(1) – children are born without anomalies;

(2) – that if there are any anomalies, it is only after the birth that the mothers find any explanations.

However, these fears of another age still last today.  In 1971, a report on pregnancy and birth, established by Marie-Therese Miehe (collection “Diagnostics”) notes the following questions asked by young women:

“I saw a black man and I had a shock.  Will my child be born black?”

“I listened to a lot of music for nine months.  Will my child be a musician?”

“Do unsatisfied cravings cause malformations?”

We are far from having left the age of magic.

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