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Hands Off My Belly: The Pregnant Woman's Survival Guide to Myths, Mothers, and Moods
     

Hands Off My Belly: The Pregnant Woman's Survival Guide to Myths, Mothers, and Moods

by Shawn A. Tassone
 

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Expectant mothers are virtual magnets for unsolicited advice. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law, new mothers, friends, and even strangers offer what seems to be an endless supply of supposedly authoritative opinions on every aspect of pregnancy: A craving for spicy food denotes a boy. Carrying the baby low denotes a girl.
Besides gender

Overview

Expectant mothers are virtual magnets for unsolicited advice. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law, new mothers, friends, and even strangers offer what seems to be an endless supply of supposedly authoritative opinions on every aspect of pregnancy: A craving for spicy food denotes a boy. Carrying the baby low denotes a girl.
Besides gender predictions, a pregnant woman is also apt to acquire an earful of advice about miscarriage, dietary habits and cravings, hair growth, weight gain, and childbirth. And, of course, everyone wants to touch her belly.
In this engaging, humorous, and very informative book, Drs. Shawn A. Tassone and Kathryn Landherr—experienced obstetricians and gynecologists, a husband-and-wife team of physicians, and parents of four children—explore the most common superstitions and myths surrounding pregnancy.
From their combined twenty years of work in a clinic, as well as their own parenting experience, the authors review the anecdotes and beliefs, from the slightly unusual to the stranger-than-fiction, and compare them with the scientific evidence. Moving through each stage, from the early weeks of pregnancy to delivery, they examine the legends about diet, gender identification, preterm labor, the umbilical cord, initiating labor, and the size and movement of the fetus. As they detail the scientific perspective on these varied and often amusing beliefs, the authors not only entertain but provide a great deal of practical information, which will ease the fears and anxieties of expectant parents as well as clear up many confusing notions. If you are pregnant, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Better yet, suggest it as the perfect shower gift to all those well-meaning advice givers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In our information-glutted age, the great task is separating truth from fiction. Where pregnancy is concerned, this problem has been solved with Hands Off My Belly. This is the best book I know that guides women on one of the most meaningful journeys of life. If I were pregnant, this would be my bible." —Larry Dossey, MD, author of Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words

"Hands Off My Belly is an absolutely delightful exploration of the myths that every woman—pregnant or not—knows she's influenced by at some level. It's great fun finding which one's are yours."
—Caroline Myss, author of The Creation Of Health and
Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781615929542
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
09/01/2009
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
680 KB

Read an Excerpt

Hands Off My Belly!

The Pregnant Woman's Survival Guide to Myths, Mothers, and Moods
By Shawn A. Tassone Kathryn M. Landherr

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2009 Shawn A. Tassone and Kathryn M. Landherr
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59102-753-9


Chapter One

Superstition and Myth

* * *

Myth: a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially: one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society.

Superstition: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. An irrational, abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition.

It is natural for a book related to the different myths and superstitions of pregnancy to discuss what makes a myth and why societies have developed them; what makes a superstition and why we practice them.

Humans have been involved with myth since before there was organized language. Creating myths has always been a way for people to cope with and make sense of their surroundings. Even in the twenty-first century, when we no longer need to hunt or gather, we still need to understand life. We continue to rely on myths in this day and age not so much to survive physically but to survive spiritually. Mythology is based in rituals. Rituals keep us on a certain path by pure repetition and familiarity. When a woman becomes pregnant for the first time, she is entering a new chapter of her life, an unfamiliar one. This new chapter can be overwhelming and can cause feelings of inadequacy, as well as fear and excitement.

Myths are usually drawn from a life or death experience, and pregnancy is certainly considered a life experience. Occasionally we field questions from a patient that may seem somewhat strange, like "Will I deliver my baby this weekend because it is a full moon?" However, many of these questions are more than likely the remnant of some mythical story from many centuries past that at one time was more detailed and complex. A myth is not a story told for its own sake; it shows us how to understand our world and how to behave in it.

When we look at pregnancy, we see that modern medicine has removed many of the rituals and replaced them with the more up-to-date office setting and delivery room. Today we have a much better medical understanding of the birth and death process and thus we no longer have as much need to create myths to understand these concepts. We do, however, live in a society that places increasing demands on our time and makes us ever involved, or uninvolved, in the life experience. We really do not have the time anymore to just sit and feel the baby move or wonder about the mystical process of being pregnant. I think it is a fundamental human thought to wonder where we came from, and even when the answer may be literally sitting under our noses, we are simply too busy to understand it. Our ancestors, however, were very concerned with the process of pregnancy and created mythical stories to help them cope with their experiences. For instance, in medieval times a pregnant woman who had a stillbirth was thought to have conceived the child out of wedlock and was therefore being punished. People in those days lacked the medical knowledge to realize that the infant actually had a fatal birth defect and it was not the mother's fault at all.

In this book, and in our society, we use the word myth to define something that is most likely false but helps us look at something in a certain way. We speak of a myth as something that has been confabulated. We have to understand that myths in the truest sense are not based on fact. In the example above, the explanation of a stillbirth was not thought of as a myth but rather as a universal truth. Reason and knowledge enter the human psyche and it becomes clear that the myth is not plausible, but we can still wonder "what if" and thereby create a superstition.

A myth is true because it is effective, not because it gives us factual information. If, however, it does not give us new insight into the deeper meaning of life, it has failed. In the example above, the myth involved placing an ethical standard on sexual relationships of the time. If people thought they would be punished for having sex out of wedlock, then perhaps they would be less likely to do so. In this example, the myth works as a way for that society to establish boundaries in its world and possibly bring order to a chaotic situation.

In our current day, and in our modern clinics, we have come to realize that trying to grapple with myth and superstition is not easy and at times is better left alone. Science and medicine will replace myths in the Western world, in some ways, unless we all continue to perpetuate them. Life would be much less interesting without our myths, for they are the stories we heard as children; the fables our grandmothers told us as we lay in bed in twilight sleep.

The Salem Witch Trials are an example of an apocalyptic time in human history when myths were challenged by scientific fact. Many of the myths surrounding women and the devil resurfaced, and individuals involved thought they had the science available to prove whether these fears were true. Our goal here is not to try to convince the patient that the questions she asks have a right or wrong answer, for they are what they are. We want to delve deeper into the origin of the question and figure out what each patient fears in order to understand the patient better and hopefully help her more. For example, why is she afraid that reaching over her head will wrap the umbilical cord around the baby's neck? We also feel it is our duty to provide patients with the most accurate information and let them come to their own conclusions. We jokingly stated earlier that we had learned not to argue with grandmothers, but this is no joke. Many families are structured in a matriarchal pattern, and we have no desire to convince a patient that the beliefs of her familial leader are false, for this could undermine her feelings of family as well as the good that the myth was trying to achieve.

Superstitions are those practices that we avoid in order to avert some sort of bad luck or ill will. Sayings such as "step on a crack, break your mother's back" seem meaningful when you are a child, but once you test this superstition and it does not hold up, it no longer has you in its grasp. Superstitions have even entered the labor and delivery unit at our hospital. We currently have twenty labor and delivery rooms, but the last room is numbered "21," not "20." This is because there is no room number 13. Haven't you noticed that many high-rise buildings do not have a thirteenth floor? Many mothers would be reluctant to have their baby in room 13 of a labor and delivery unit. Do any of us even remember why the number 13 is considered unlucky? More than likely we do not, but the fear is strong enough that a hospital would not number a room 13. Interestingly enough, the reason for unlucky 13 originates in the history of the menstrual cycle. One of the early calendars was the lunar calendar that had thirteen 28-day months. These 28-day lunar cycles were consistent with the normal menstrual cycle. The 28-day calendars were used by peasants, while the Church was utilizing a different solar calendar that had only 12 months. In general, the matriarchy was associated with the number 13 and the night, while the patriarchy was represented by the number 12 and the day. As our societies changed from a goddess structure to the Christ model, the number 13 was demonized. Fear of the number 13 grew to such heights that people were afraid to even speak the number out loud. As a result, we see such terms as "a baker's dozen."

As you can see, superstitions are associated with a behavior, or an aversion to a behavior, in response to a certain myth. They are rampant today and at times are just as powerful as they were hundreds of years ago. There are also many superstitions that have survived even though the meaning behind them has all but disappeared.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Hands Off My Belly! by Shawn A. Tassone Kathryn M. Landherr Copyright © 2009 by Shawn A. Tassone and Kathryn M. Landherr. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Caroline Myss
"Hands Off My Belly is an absolutely delightful exploration of the myths that every woman - pregnant or not - knows she's influenced by at some level. It's great fun finding which one's are yours."--(Caroline Myss, author of The Creation Of Health and Why People Don't Heal And How They Can)
Larry Dossey
"In our information-glutted age, the great task is separating truth from fiction. Where pregnancy is concerned, this problem has been solved with Hands Off My Belly. This is the best book I know that guides women on one of the most meaningful journeys of life. If I were pregnant, this would be my bible."--(Larry Dossey, MD, author of Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words)

Meet the Author

Shawn A. Tassone, MD, FACOG, and Kathryn M. Landherr, MD, FACOG (Tucson, AZ), are the co-owners of La Dea Women’s Health in Tucson, AZ, where Dr. Tassone is the medical director and his wife, Dr. Landherr, is a practicing physician. Both Drs. Tassone and Landherr completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and are board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Each is also an Associate Fellow of Integrative Medicine under Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona.

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