Last year, I visited a sperm bank (was awash in a winter wonderland of frozen samples), watched a woman have her egg frozen, and sorted through websites of available egg donors. Would anyone really want an egg from a woman who put cheerleading under academic information in her donor-web entry? That was Donor 850991 in the Donor Egg Bank. This was all, of course, for book research. But even before I started my journey, I knew that for many couples, today, getting pregnant means marching through a whirlwind of conflicting advice and sorting through all sorts of low-tech and high-tech remedies.
What I didn’t know was that our great-great-great grandmothers, who may have been literally scared to death when pregnant, were bombarded with often contradictory words of wisdom. And they, too, had to pick and choose between an array of how-to-get-pregnant treatments.
Take Catherine de Medici, France’s sixteenth century Queen, for one. For years, the teenage queen (she married at 14) could not get pregnant. First, like so many women today, she tried folk remedies. But in her case, the Queen drank the urine of a mare and then soaked her “source of life” (vagina?) in a sack of cow manure mixed with ground stag’s antlers. The king was never attracted to his wife, preferring his mistress Diane de Poitiers. I can’t imagine the dung diaper helped get her back her man.
The teenage Queen then tried her own tactic. She had her servants drill a hole in the floor so she could watch her husband have sex with his mistress and learn a thing or two. Talk about an emotionally painful remedy. Finally, the two youngsters went to see a doctor who diagnosed the couple with physically deformed reproductive organs. We don’t know what he saw, what he did, or what he recommended, but shortly thereafter, they went on to have nine children.