The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 38 of 76

Though this is accounted by many but as a trifle, yet great care is to be taken about it, and it shows none of the least art and skill of a midwife to do it as it should be; and that it may be so done, the midwife should observe: (1) The time. (2) The place. (3) The manner. (4) The event.

(1) The time is, as soon as ever the infant comes out of the womb, whether it brings part of the after-burden with it or not; for sometimes the child brings into the world a piece of the amnios upon its head, and is what mid wives call the caul, and ignorantly attribute some extraordinary virtue to the child so born; but this opinion is only the effect of their ignorance; for when a child is born with such a crown (as some call it) upon its brows, it generally betokens weakness and denotes a short life. But to proceed to the matter in hand. As soon as the child comes into the world, it should be considered whether it is weak or strong; and if it be weak, let the midwife gently put back part of the natural and vital blood into the body of the child by its navel; for that recruits a weak child (the vital and natural spirits being communicated by the mother to the child by its navel-string), but if the child be strong, the operation is needless. Only let me advise you, that many children that are born seemingly dead, may soon be brought to life again, if you squeeze six or seven drops of blood out of that part of the navel-string which is cut off, and give it to the child inwardly.

(2) As to the place in which it should be cut, that is, whether it should be cut long or short, it is that which authors can scarcely agree in, and which many midwives quarrel about; some prescribing it to be cut at four fingers' breadth, which is, at best, but an uncertain rule, unless all fingers were of one size. It is a received opinion, that the parts adapted to the generation are contracted and dilated according to the cutting of the navel-string, and this is the reason why midwives are generally so kind to their own sex, that they leave a longer part of the navel-string of a male than female, because they would have the males well provided for the encounters of Venus; and the reason they give, why they cut that of the female shorter is, because they believe it makes them more acceptable to their husbands. Mizaldus was not altogether of the opinion of these midwives, and he, therefore, ordered the navel string to be cut long both in male and female children; for which he gives the following reason, that the instrument of generation follows the proportion of it; and therefore, if it be cut too short in a female, it will be a hindrance to her having children. I will not go about to contradict the opinions of Mizaldus; these, experience has made good:—That one is, that if the navel-string of a child, after it be cut, be suffered to touch the ground, the child will never hold its water, either sleeping or waking, but will be subjected to an involuntary making of water all its lifetime. The other is, that a piece of a child's navel-string carried about one, so that it touch his skin, defends him that wears it from the falling sickness and convulsions.

(3) As to the manner it must be cut, let the midwife take a brown thread, four or five times double, of an ell long, or thereabouts, tied with a single knot at each of the ends, to prevent their entangling; and with this thread so accommodated (which the woman must have in readiness before the woman's labour, as also a good pair of scissors, that no time may be lost) let her tie the string within an inch of the belly with a double knot, and turning about the end of the thread, let her tie two more on the other side of the string, reiterating it again, if it be necessary; then let her cut off the navel-string another inch below the ligatures, towards the after-birth, so that there only remains but two inches of the string, in the midst of which will be the knot we speak of, which must be so close knit, as not to suffer a drop of blood to squeeze out of the vessels, but care must be taken, not to knit it so strait, as to out it in two, and therefore the thread must be pretty thick and pretty strait cut, it being better too strait than too loose; for some children have miserably lost their lives, with all their blood, before it was discovered, because the navel-string was not well tied, therefore great care must be taken that no blood squeeze through; for if there do, a new knot must be made with the rest of the string. You need not fear to bind the navel-string very hard because it is void of sense, and that part which you leave, falls off in a very few days, sometimes in six or seven, or sooner, but never tarries longer than eight or nine. When you have thus cut the navel-string, then take care the piece that falls off touch not the ground, for the reason I told you Mizaldus gave, which experience has justified.

(4) The last thing I mentioned, was the event or consequence, or what follows cutting the navel-string. As soon as it is cut, apply a little cotton or lint to the place to keep it warm, lest the cold enter into the body of the child, which it most certainly will do, if you have not bound it hard enough. If the lint or cotton you apply to it, be dipped in oil of roses, it will be the better, and then put another small rag three or four times double upon the belly; upon the top of all, put another small bolster, and then swathe it with a linen swathe, four fingers broad, to keep it steady, lest by moving too much, or from being continually stirred from side to side, it comes to fall off before the navel-string, which you left remaining, is fallen off.

It is the usual custom of midwives to put a piece of burnt rag to it, which we commonly call tinder; but I would rather advise them to put a little ammoniac to it, because of its drying qualities.

SECT. III.—How to bring away the After-burden.

A woman cannot be said to be fairly delivered, though the child be born, till the after-burden be also taken from her; herein differing from most animals, who, when they have brought forth their young, cast forth nothing else but some water, and the membranes which contained them. But women have an after-labour, which sometimes proves more dangerous than the first; and how to bring it safely away without prejudice to her, shall be my business to show in this section.

As soon as the child is born, before the midwife either ties or cuts the navel-string, lest the womb should close, let her take the string and wind it once or twice about one or two fingers on her left hand joined together, the better to hold it, with which she may draw it moderately, and with the right hand, she may only take a single hold of it, above the left, near the privities, drawing likewise with that very gently, resting the while the forefinger of the same hand, extended and stretched forth along the string towards the entrance of the vagina, always observing, for the greater facility, to draw it from the side where the burden cleaves least; for in so doing, the rest will separate the better; and special care must be taken that it be not drawn forth with too much violence, lest by breaking the string near the burden, the midwife be obliged to put the whole hand into the womb to deliver the woman; and she need to be a very skilful person that undertakes it, lest the womb, to which the burden is sometimes very strongly fastened, be drawn away with it, as has sometimes happened. It is, therefore, best to use such remedies as may assist nature. And here take notice, that what brings away the birth, will also bring away the after-birth. And therefore, for effecting this work, I will lay down the following rules.

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