How can HIV-positive women be good mothers?

Sasheenie Moodley // We are told that a “good mother” is the trope of a mother who is loving and nurturing (Chess, 1982; Mercer, 1985). She prioritises and protects her infant. This mother has a good relationship with her “happy” infant (Benedek, 1959). It is a good mother’s job to understand her child’s behaviour and…

Existential Research Notes, Or Pregnancy in the News

Livia Arndal Woods // For the better part of the past decade, my scholarship has focused on representations of pregnancy in the Victorian novel. This focus has often resonated with 21st century pregnancy narratives, and I’ve written about that. I’ve written less about the ways in which my scholarship has resonated with my lived experience…

Free Indirect Diagnosis: Reading Alongside the Doctor in Middlemarch

Livia Arndal Woods // One of the techniques par excellence associated with the nineteenth-century novel is free indirect discourse, a literary device in which the cadences of a character’s interior, subjective voice are mapped onto an authoritative, third-person narrative voice. For example,”Ella thought Susan’s dress was silly” rendered in free indirect discourse might read more…

The Then and There of Transmasculine Pregnancy

The first epigraph above is taken from the climactic scene in Thomas Middleton’s play, More Dissemblers Besides Women (1614), in which a Page swoons and calls out for a midwife after rigorous dancing lessons. Cinquepace, the speaker, assumes a miracle, an upside-down world, a strange case, and that a woman must have impregnated the Page—all of which allow for the possibility a young man could be pregnant (5.2.224-29). The audience has more insight into this moment, however. In the first scene of the play, Lactantio recognizes the Page as a former lover in disguise, and the Page informs Lactantio they are “with child” (1.2.142). (Because the Page is given no names other than Page or Antonio in the play, I refer to them throughout this piece with they/them pronouns). Over the course of More Dissemblers Besides Women, the Page waits in vain for Lactantio to marry them, while the other characters perceive the Page as “sweet a breasted page as ever lay at his master’s feet in a truckle-bed” (1.4.100-3). Even after the Page goes into labor, Cinquepace is none the wiser and exits the stage “supporting the Page” (1069).

A Few Thoughts on EVE: Danger, Desire, and Reproductive Control

Livia Arndal Woods // The possibility of divorcing reproduction from the maternal body fascinates and haunts the human imagination. The dangers of and desire for such separation – for ectogenesis – has been of particular interest in science fiction. Indeed, the oxforddictionaries.com definition of ectogenesis reads: “(chiefly in science fiction) the development of embryos in…

Hints to Mothers, 1837/2018

Livia Arndal Woods // Last month, there was some popular coverage of a recent article in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Nathan S. Fox, MD’s “Dos and Don’ts in Pregnancy: Truths and Myths” frames its intervention as evidence-based common-sense pregnancy-best-practices in an “age of the internet” in which women are “bombarded” with more information…

Flayed Animal Bodies: Cats and Pregnancy from 16th Century—Present

Alicia Andrzejewski // “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.”—Douglas Adams In The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008), Derrida writes of “seeing oneself seen naked under a gaze”—his female cat’s gaze, in particular—“behind which there remains a bottomlessness, at…

Two Babies, Two Fathers, One Pregnancy: Superfetation in Myth and Medicine

According to early modern gynecological manuals, superfetation is “a repeated conception”—a rare but real medical phenomenon when a woman who is already pregnant becomes pregnant again. The anonymous author of The English Midwife Enlarged (1682) responds to those who dispute superfetation, explaining that when a woman is “animated with an earnest desire of Copulation,” the “overheated”…

Monstrous and Mindful Births: Policing the Pregnant Imagination

Aristotle’s Master-Piece, or The Secrets of Generation, was first published in 1684 and quickly became the most popular medical book about “sex and babies” from its publication through the 19th century (Fissell 114). The frontispiece in many editions of this text depicts a black infant and woman covered in hair, alongside a description: “The Effgies…