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When you stop and think about it the entire process of pregnancy and birth, and everything that comes with it, is pretty mind-boggling. I mean really—who grows in your what and comes out of where? Whoa.


But looking back at the history of birth is even more fascinating.

Take a look at these facts, and then let us all collectively thank the stars we were born when we were.

1. Pregnancy tests have been around for a long time

The first urine-based pregnancy test was recorded in Ancient Egypt in 1350 B.C.—more than 3000 years ago. A woman would urinate on barley and wheat seeds for a few days, and if they grew it meant she was pregnant. If barley grew, she was pregnant with a boy, and if wheat grew she was pregnant with a girl.

And get this—the Office of NIH History reports that in 1963 this was tested...and found to be true 70% of the time (just the pregnancy test part, not the gender reveal)!

In the 1550’s, people known as, wait for it... “piss prophets” claimed they could look at a woman’s urine and determine if she was pregnant.

The concept of hormones was discovered in the 1890s, and in the 1920s the pregnancy hormone HCG was detected. In 1927, scientists would inject a woman’s urine into an immature rat or mouse—if she was pregnant, the rodent would become in heat.

2. Gender selection

Until fairly recently, people believed that a baby’s gender was determined at birth (not at conception). So as you can imagine, many theories have existed regarding how to control the baby’s sex.

For example, women were encouraged to stay in bed for the weeks leading up to birth to improve their odds of having a boy.

In 1059, Dr. Trotula wrote, “If they wish to have a male child let the man take the womb and vulva of a hare and have it dried and pulverized. Blend it with wine and let him drink it.  Let the woman do the same with the testicles of the hare and let her be with her husband at the end of her menstrual period, and she will conceive a male.”

Aristotle introduced the theory that girl babies were the result of abnormalities—boys were superior, so when a girl was born, it was because something had gone wrong. He also believed that one was more likely to have a boy if sex occurred when the winds were blowing north and not south and that men with “thicker” sperm were more likely to produce males.

In the 1700s, it was believed that a man’s right testicle and a woman’s right ovary were responsible for making boy babies—so people sometimes had their left testicle or ovary removed.

3. The first baby showers

Before giving birth, a royal woman would receive a blessing and be paraded through the streets as the public wished her well. She then spent about a month confined to her bedroom, a period known as lying-in. Her chambers were covered with tapestries and made dark and warm to replicate the environment of the uterus. Regular women did retreat from the public as well, though they usually had to find other work to do until the moment they gave birth.

BTW, she wasn’t allowed to return to society until six weeks after the baby—because she was too dirty, both physically and morally. She, therefore, missed her baby’s christening.

4. When royalty gave birth, it was a public event.

In The Raven Report, Jennifer Jeffers writes, “The birth of a monarch was not just any old day—it was a political event that could have deep implications for an entire nation... As such, it was not regarded as a private affair, but rather as a moment of significant public concern... As a future ruler, the offspring belonged more to the people than to the queen herself. And as a result, she gave birth in front of many spectators, all of whom watched the process carefully to confirm the sex and health of the baby… and to avoid any foul play.”

When Marie Antoinette gave birth in 1778, two-hundred people were in attendance—that is not a typo. 2-0-0. It is rumored that the overwhelm of that experience caused her to faint during her birth. I am almost fainting just writing about it so, yeah—I believe it.

5. Pain relief

The pain of childbirth was believed to be a result of Eve’s transgressions in the Garden of Eden. The Bible reads, “I will multiply your pains in childbirth. You shall give birth to your children in pain.”

An English will from 1508 indicates that women wore girdles stitched with silver and jasmine to help relieve the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth. Women held religious items during birth, put amber and other stones on their bodies, and wrapped themselves in special cloths to diminish the pain.

When Queen Victoria gave birth to her 6th child, Prince Leopold, in 1853, she inhaled chloroform from a kerchief for pain relief. She later wrote of the experience stating, “that blessed Chloroform...soothing, quieting and delightful beyond measure,” and thus began the universal desire for pain medications during labor. Chloroform was also widely used during medical procedures such as amputations. Cocaine was also used for labor pain medication.

Until the mid-1800’s, women drank caudle, a mixture of alcohol and oatmeal (sometimes flavored with cayenne or nutmeg) while in labor. It’s reasoned that this was partially to do with pain management and postpartum recovery, and partially to do with preventing infection—more on that in a minute.

Women might also bake a cake while they were in labor called a groaning cake—the smell of the cake, along with the work of baking it, was thought to ease the discomfort of labor.

6. Midwives

The history of midwives will have to be its own article entirely. But here are a few little nuggets to leave you with:

Midwives have been around forever. They are, for example, in the Bible. A midwife attended Jesus’s birth, and in ancient Egypt, midwives were told by the Pharaoh, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him. But if it is a daughter, she shall live.”

Midwives, in fact, attended all births—doctors were almost never present. Birth was considered just for women, and men did not start attending births until the 1800s. Even then, they were instructed not to look at the women they were caring for.

When a midwife attended the birth of a royal or well-to-do person, she had to take an oath that she would not steal the placenta or umbilical cord, and use it for witchcraft.

7. Death—and a major improvement

The sad truth is that many, many women died during childbirth—as many as 1 in 34. Women often made wills before going to labor, because the chance of mortality was so high.

Midwives often performed baptisms because the rate of infant mortality was so high, they wanted to ensure the babies were baptized immediately. Cesarean sections were performed, but only after a mother had died with the hope of saving the baby.

In the 18th and 19th century, women were dying of Puerparel Fever, or childbed fever, in large numbers—women who got the infection had an estimated fatality rate of up to 80%. The reason behind this is, well, upsetting—so maybe don’t read this next part while you’re eating lunch.

Ready?

During this period, while many women were still giving birth at home, some women started giving birth in hospitals. Their births were attended by doctors, who didn’t start to specialize in various fields of medicine until the 1850’s. This meant they did everything—including surgeries, autopsies on cadavers, and delivering babies. Without washing their hands in between.

In 1846 Dr. Ignaz Semmelweism made this discovery and announced it from the rooftops—but no one listened (and eventually, he was fired). It wasn’t until 1875 when instrument sterilization and routine hand washing was common-place in hospitals.

So, to our great many ancestors who paved the way for us to have markedly improved birth conditions, thank you. Now please excuse me. Writing this really makes me need a glass of caudle.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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