Birth in Italy1500-1600

Birth in Italy1500-1600

As with courtship, betrothal, and marriage rituals, those attending the arrival of children were accompanied by gift-giving. Prescriptive literature emphasized the importance of family and, specifically, children for maintaining the health of the civic body. In Book Two of Leon Battista Alberti's I libri della famiglia, the author's interlocutor Lionardo discusses fatherhood: "It will serve our purpose, also, to remind the young of the dignity conferred on the father in the ancient world. Fathers of families wore precious jewels and were given other tokens of dignity forbidden to any who had not added by his progeny to the population of the republic. It may also help to recall to young men how often profligates and hopeless prodigals have been restored to a better life by the presence of a wife in the house."

Many contemporary objects manifest the attendant risks and potential joys of bearing offspring.
Timelines (6)
Primary Thematic Essays (7)
Other Thematic Essays (22)
Maps (6)
Index Terms (31)

The dialogue also addresses issues concerning the mother's pre- and postnatal care. After admitting that it is best to leave specific instructions to the doctors, Lionardo tells Battista: "The woman, then, who thinks she is pregnant should live discreetly, contentedly, and chastely—light nourishing foods, no hard, excessive labor, no sleepy or lazy days in idle solitude. She should give birth in her husband's house and not elsewhere. Once she is delivered, she must not go out into the cold and the wind until her health is fully restored and all her limbs have fully regained their strength."

Doctors were probably less in evidence in the birthing room than midwives, whose knowledge comprised superstition as well as an intuitive understanding of childbirth greater than most male doctors would have had at the time. Many contemporary objects manifest the attendant risks and potential joys of bearing offspring.

Responsible parenting began even...

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