Sixty years ago, it was still considered extremely indelicate to even speak of a pregnancy in public or to refer to a pregnancy in books any other kind of public arena. Pregnancy was a private matter - something to be disguised by clothing and only hinted at in conversation with your closest friends. Women couldn't count on learning very much about what was happening to their bodies from their physicians either. There were no ultrasounds, there was no decision to be made about finding out if you were having a boy or a girl, childbirth was even something too indelicate for women of means to participate in. Women of the middle or upper classes were expected to limit their activities in public during the latter part of their pregnancies and to give birth in the hospital - under sedation. Mother and baby were expected to spend a period of time receiving a limited number of visitors. Presumably, they would both be fresh and perky when it was appropriate to resume life in the public world.
Or is any of this really the case?
Everything I've said up above is what I've come to believe about pregnancy in the '40s, but I don't really know how much of it is true... except for the ultrasound and gender bit! What was it really like to bring a child into the world during the 1940s?
What are the statistics about pregnancy? How old was the American woman, typically, when she had her first child and her last? How often did teens become pregnant? What was the average interval between babies?
Did women typically visit the doctor very often during their pregnancies? Were tests really conducted where a woman was deemed pregnant if a rabbit died? What kind of information could they expect in preparing for pregnancy, childbirth, and the care of a newborn? What role did mothers and other women play in learning what to expect?
What kinds of maternity clothes were available? We got a little taste with Gina's jumpers and Anne's gigantic plaid blouses. Could women buy maternity clothes or did they really have to be made at home or by a dressmaker?
Were baby showers a thing of the '40s? I don't remember either Gina or Anne being treated to a shower. What kinds of things were included in the 1940s baby layette?
"She has her own room!" Gina told Charlie the first time he and Caroline visited the Sloans' house after Emma was born. Did babies typically get a nursery? Or were they usually given a corner of their parents' room or a sibling's room?
Did women really smoke and drink, etc. throughout their pregnancies, or were these kinds of things generally discouraged by the '40s? How did the new postwar emphasis on scientific methods impact the experience of pregnancy? Were women in their third trimester still "confined" to the home by the 1940s?