Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tomorrow is a research day

So I’ll get my research day tomorrow. Will help with the hurt of losing my kitty :-( I find losing myself in the bookstacks at a big library to be very therapeutic. I’m not sure if anyone else finds this, though.

I guess it’s because I get so engrossed in what I’m doing, I forget about everything else going on. Days in the library always just fly by – half the time I forget to eat lunch!

The day starts with me clutching a list of books to collect from various shelves, then I pile them in a cubicle, sit down and read through to find what I need. Discarded books go in one pile, while those from which I need to make copies go in another. Sometimes I make notes as well, depending on what it is I’m researching.

Generally my AlphaSmart goes with me, so I can make electronic notes – very convenient. And with WriteWayPro, I can store all those notes with my story – even MORE convenient.

Last, but not least, I lug my pile of books to the copy room and set to work there – keeping the copyright act in mind. It’s also way expensive to make too many copies!!

Of course tomorrow’s will be a shortened day as I’ll be going down with my dh for his picketing hours (he and is CBC coworkers are still locked out) – easier to carpool with him than deal with a long bus ride home when I’m still feeling upset and teary.

So, do YOU find doing research helps when you’re upset? And what tools do you take with you when you go to the library?


Monday, August 22, 2005

Notes from Reno

As promised, below are my notes from Elena Greene's most excellent workshop on the history of pregnancy and childbirth. As you will see, I take notes in point form - hopefully they'll prove at least somewhat useful. If I had time (ha, ha) I'd go through and write them up in a more coherent manner, but with my kitty still so sick, and other stuff to do...

Ms. Greene is aware I've posted these notes :-) Her next book will be out in September 05!

Elena Greene - Pregnancy and Childbirth Through the Ages

- wandering womb theory - cure, weigh it down with sperm or a baby

- early bias against mid-wives, Ancient Greece - women colluding to bring in bastards

- baby controlled labour, not the woman - she had it happen to her, didn't participate
- wore stones to keep baby and help with childbirth

- change in all these rituals depended on location - ruraly women were usually the last to change

- births assisted by midwives - Egyptians, Greeks, Romans

Medieval - no wandering womb
- menstruation very important, balance of bodily humours paramount
- gynecological issues dominated anything wrong with a woman
- birth was a natural event, worked if woman was healthy, trust in nature and God that all would be well
- men weren't permitted into the birthing chamber
- conflicts between ancient practises and the church - midwives might be witches because of use of herbs etc. they had to be of good character so that if they baptized a dying baby they weren't cursing it
- older superstitions being replaced by religions ones - intercession of saints, + belief that labour pain was a woman's lot, punishment for Eve's mistake

Midwives - the most experienced women among those in the community who helped with childbirth
- low caseload
- often an inherited position from mother to daughter
- often paid in kind instead of with money
- eventually became more of a job with regular fees
- recorded when baby was born and what gender - helped with inheritance
- bibliography on Elena's website with primary sources listed
- birthing stool came back into use during the middle ages
- difficult for the birth attendant
- male doctors wrote treatises to help the midwives and were fairly respectful
- treatises very frank about sexuality
- euphemism for penis - the yard!!!
- how to simulate virginity using leeches

Birthing Ritual
- husband midgeted - gathered the midwife and the gossips
- keyholes, winndows, doors, cracks everything closed off and kept warm - ward of evil spirits and contributed to bonding, would be soothing
- drank coddle, spiced wine
- birthing positions varied - against a fireplace, in an attendant's lap
- very few women gave birth in bed
- once baby was born, it was swaddled and protected from evil spirits until it was baptised
- some babies were fostered out completely, otherwise the wetnurse was brought in, though many also nursed themselves
- month long lying-in recovery period - men might sometimes move out
= then the woman was churched - some elements of purification, but it was mostly a giving of thanks
- in difficult cases, they had methods to speed things up - ergot of rye, a mold that can be deadly, but in proper doses would help
- would induce vomiting
- could deal with breech using manual version
- woman who were poor and had poor nutrition there would be horrible problems, call in a surgeon and have him help - decision made between woman and child, woman was saved
- if man was called it was last resort because it usually meant one or both might die
- husband might help, if it was an obstructed birth he might help pull, hold her in his lap or even help her if there was no-one else around
- midwives were usually married women who had had at least one baby - NO virgins

Eighteenth Century
- BIG change - men became involved
- rise of scientific method, observation, rational practise rather than just theory (though superstition didn't disappear altogether)
- forceps became publicized - 1733 - Chamberlin family - a major advance as it meant that the baby didn't HAVE to die - decreased the fear of a man's involvement
- as more men became involved, things changed so birth came to be seen as a dangerous process
- midwives looked down on by some
- men weren't well trained and didn't disinfect
- childbirth attendant usually blamed when things went wrong
- status symbol to have a doctor attend you
- theory of humours still prevalent
- fertility issues - change of diet, cold baths
- physically active peasant women had an easier time than the aristocratic women who ate too much and didn't do exercise
- put them on a "lowering regime" - cut out meat, cheese, eggs etc and had fruits and veggies - not the best thing as women needed protein, though veggies themselves weren't bad.
- childbirth fever - problem with birthing chamber - open it up, no coddle, ruined the bonding ritual
- birth chairs designed by men - semi-reclining, higher off the ground - helped the doctor rather than the patient
- position - on her side, knees curled up and facing away from the doctor - away from gravity
- husband might attend - if the doctor was there it seemed wrong to exclude the husband
- customs changing so husband and wife were in love rather than convenience partner
- less fostering out, women nursing themselves far more often - might also get character traits from the wetnurse
- concept of motherhood changing, caring for the baby was just as important as giving birth
- girl children more welcome than they had been
- month-long lying in (not so common in lower classes, though they'd have support)
- women of wealth had a month nurse
- still churched
- lower classes still might be using old ways or a combination of both
- still a form of social childbirth
- doctors complained that women were causing trouble - might have been true at least half the time

Late Georgian and Regency
- continued a lot of earlier developments
- end of 18th/early 19th - the men started to see that childbirth really did work well most of the time - back to nature, back off with use of forceps, more conservative in how they interfered - just support the woman and let nature take its course
- then Princess Charlotte died in childbirth after 50 hours of labour
- the accoucheur had used a natural approach, was demonized by society - he committed suiced a few months later
- opponents to men in birth got stronger - call for more midwives
- it seems Charlotte might have had underlying medical problems that complicated her birth - likely Sir Richard Croft couldn't have saved her
- medical community went back to being intrusive - use of forceps

Victorian Era
- pain relief became acceptable, though some still opposed it
- James Simpson used ether in 1847, Victoria used it in 1853 for birth of Prince Leopold
- used especially for upper classes - they wanted to be delicate and needed the relief
- those women became completely passive
- overused and abused, some would self-dose or have friends give it to them - no regulations
- upper class/middle class American women believed it was indelicate to appear in public while pregnant
- this didn't happen in Britain
- some women were corsetting at this period so they could still appear in public
- birth was in bed by this point - for all of labour - before that they used to walk around
- most people banished from room, almost complete breakdown of social ritual
- some breastfed, some used wetnurses
- wean or not breast feed if there was a girl baby so she could regain her fertility to produce the heir
- first C section successfully used in 1882



Thursday, August 18, 2005

Some cool sites to explore

Some of my favourite sources of research come from links I find through a number of research newsletters. The ones I find most useful are:

LII (Librarians' Index to the Internet)
Neat New Stuff I Found this Week
Research Buzz

From LII's Aug 11 issue, I give you these links:

Before and After the Great Fire of London



Worst Jobs in History, a hilarious and educational show with Time Team's Tony Robinson (Blackadder Fans will recognize him as Baldrick!)

For those of you with gardens, or very curious children *g*, Marylaine had a great site in her Aug 12 issue of NNSIFTW:

What's That Bug?

Meanwhile, in her Aug 4th newsletter, Tara at Research Buzz, which lists a combination of online research tools and cool research sites, linked to the 1911 Canadian Census Online - read her full review.

That should keep you busy. More later :-)


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

So, WHY do I love research?

Some of you who don't know me may be wondering about the title of my blog.

It's simple, really. I'm a research nut. Yep, can't help it. Have no idea where this comes from, but I love researching almost as much as I love writing. Sometimes more!

How did this happen? Couldn't tell you. Only remember being in love with finding things out since I was a wee one. Spent a lot of my time poking around the books in the school library, then moved onto the university ones in our town (there are two good research libraries here).

It's both a challenge and a thrill. Nothing feels better than going searching for a fact, digging through tons of material then finding it. I can lose myself for hours in a library or archives. Really, I'm not kidding. The time just flies by and only when my stomach growls and the sun begins its final daily descent do I clue to the fact it's time to go home.

I love pawing through books and documents, poring over details and images, following leads from one source to the next. One of my best research experiences was finding out that the local uni archives had acquired the research notes of medievalist Margaret Wade Labarge. Yep, I got to see ALL her notes. Spent several days there, days I barely remember now, though I took copious notes. My eyes were really sore by the end of that experience *g*. But it was worth it.

Hmm, still not sure I've explained WHY I love research. Other than it's something I've always done, something that comes naturally to me (unlike, say, MATH!) - the drive for knowledge.

So, do YOU enjoy research? Or see it as a necessary evil for writing?


Sunday, August 14, 2005

More research links

This first one comes courtesy of the RWA conference in Reno. I went to Elena Greene's wonderful workshop on Pregnancy and Childbirth for the Historical Author. She made her handout available at her website.

Also in Reno I went to Julia Ross's wonderful workshop, Heroes to Die For. At her website, you can find out lots of info about Julia's second passion - horses. She has a page dedicated to Julia's Horse FAQs.

Meanwhile, Regency period fans should check out Candice Hern's Collections - she has great pics and info about extant items she's collected over the years.

Regency Author Cara King has written several articles on the period - you can read them at her website.