INFLUENCES AFFECTING THE CHILD DURING GESTATION.
There is no time in the entire history of any life when deeper impressions for good or ill can be made than during the ante-natal period. The relation of the mother and child is so direct that any influence acting through her nervous system makes an impres sion upon its delicate living entablature.
Like a harp, whose strings vibrate in unison with a keynote touched upon an instrument tuned in har mony beside it, so is this wonder of human sympa thy. Is the mother peaceful or joyous, the tiny heart in her keeping, with its few drops of blood, is moved in quiet accordance. Is she cherishing feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, or revenge, or that subtle selfishness which is constantly so grieved and hurt because some one has not been kind and con siderate, a chill overshadows the precious soul of her child, more dark and depressing than that she feels herself.
I must mention first in my list of desirable things for the weal of mother and child, a restful heart, if not a happy one. Soul-quiet and abundant sleep seven or eight hours at the least — are the two great sources of nervous and bodily strength which are 50 oftenest overlooked; no amount of food or medicine giving vigor long without them. A heart restless, tossing, dissatisfied, wears the body and saps the energies as much as heavy mental labor or loss of sleep. A very common error in pregnancy is that of over-exertion. After the depressing influence of the first weeks it is not uncommon to see an exalta tion of the nervous and physical energies which is in itself a great blessing. It would seem as if Nature does her utmost during this season at general repair, changing and improving local and constitutional weakness, if she only has a fair chance. This good feeling and quickening of the vital functions brings with it almost certainly a temptation to overdo and exhaust the strength. A life of quiet but well directed muscular activity for several hours a day is by far the best for the mother. I will give one or two illustrations of the results of excessive overwork, which have fallen under my own observation. A young couple, strong and healthful, called me to see their youngest child, a girl of three years. Their two eldest children had never seen a sick day, but this little one had never been well, taking cold at every exposure, and having every prevailing illness. Seeing her very limited strength, I inquired in regard to her pre-natal antecedents, and found that during the year previous to her birth her mother had been greatly overtaxed by the care of a large family of ten or twelve, with only one young, inefficient ser vant. She said she was never so well in all her life, never felt so much like work. She was necessarily
up at four in the morning, and could not retire before eleven at night; and, in answer to my inquiries, said she was never rested in the morning, but after she was fairly engaged in her work she did not mind that so much. She was often so tired she could take little food but her tea and coffee, which helped her to keep up, as she expressed it. Her little girl, born puny and delicate, was covered with eruption, was nervous, sleepless, and fretful. Digestion and assim ilation were feeble, the life forces seeming too weak to assert themselves, yet the little patient showed such nervous intensity and tenacity to life as to indi cate clearly the richness of the original gift of vital ity; so that she will live possibly to advanced life, but can never have health. The parents are now well off, but the expenditure of all their hoard could not restore to the daughter the splendid constitution (so broken by her mother's overwork) which was worth a thousand-fold more than all she could have gained by the few months of extraordinary exertion. Another family, whose early history and antecedents are well known to me, illustrates the results of ex hausting labor on the part of the mother. The parents were strong and vigorous, both were hard workers, the mother being a marvel of thrift and incessant industry. Ten children were born, but not one was equal in strength to either father or mother. All inherited great ambition, nervous intensity, and will, but not vigor to. sustain the strain. There is imperfect physical development, the general outlines of form and feature are pinched and angular; there are few children in the third generation, and in some of the branches none, though much desired. Vital power cannot be fully used or wasted, and at the same time be directed with force and effectiveness into other channels. I am not sure that this rule applies more to one parent than the other before pro creation; but during the entire period of maternal support, quite to the close of lactation, the mother should give the best of her strength to her child. I know the routine of daily care and work is most pressing to many a mother in limited circumstances, and for this reason the most conscientious judgment of both paints should be used to secure a careful reserve and the wisest direction of the mother's forces. She should have at least the same immunity from care and labor that a good farmer would give to his choicest horse or cow. What both parents are thinking and doing in this important time is carving and shaping impressions on the child, which may reach out to many other homes beside their own.