Health and beauty by Caplin/Chapter VII
HAVING spoken of the various phases of woman's life up to her maturity, in the preceding chapters, we have now to consider one of the most interesting of all the circumstances of her life, at once pleasing and endearing, when she is called upon to give birth to her offspring. In early life the distinction between the sexes was by no means marked: there was the same general outline, the same form and cast of features, the same feeling of isolation—each seemed to live for itself. As the softer passions, however, become developed, the man puts on that robust energy and daring which marks him out as the protector of the other sex; and his manly voice, the deepened tints upon his cheek, and the whole muscular system, show an excess of energy sufficient to qualify him for his position. At this period also a vast change takes place in the woman. The chest is expanded, the eye acquires a brilliancy peculiarly its own, and the frame takes that beautiful undulating form and proportion, which gives it its peculiar charm. The function of woman is now to be the preserver of the species, and the several stages of marriage, pregnancy, and maternity are the destiny which opens before her. It is through these that we have now to accompany her.
In discussing this period of her history, we must entirely set aside fashion and prejudice, and follow without reservation the laws which the Creator, in his beneficence, has stamped upon the frame. The putative mother should feel all the responsibility which attaches itself to the future life and happiness of her child, and ever study the conditions necessary to its healthy and proper development. But unfortunately it too often happens that the mother is as little acquainted with the first principles of physiology as the child, and the consequence is long suffering and affliction to both parties.
A minute study of the human frame shows us that the form of the female differs from that of the male on purpose that it may be adapted to the necessities of this interesting period. The breadth of the pelvis, the structure of the tissues, and a number of other phenomena, are all modified in her for the purpose of giving life and health to her progeny. Throughout the whole range of animated nature, there are no organisms so perfect and beautiful as those which, in their collected form, are adapted to this purpose; whilst their extreme delicacy renders them sensitive, and predisposes them to inflict severe pain on any who knowingly or otherwise do violence to them.
It is, however, a great mistake to suppose that there is anything dangerous or extremely painful in accomplishing the ends of nature. The natural elasticity which is given to all the organs concerned, the slow and beautiful process by which it proceeds, all prepare for the last and final effort. Immediately that this is effected, another set of organs come into action to supply the offspring with nutrition. The mammary glands begin to secrete a fluid which they have never yielded before, and the organs which have been distended during the previous nine months resume again their normal proportions, and it is to this ebb and flow of the vital force that we have adapted our Gestation Corset.
It will perhaps have occurred to the reader that the conditions which we have to meet in this matter have been neither few nor trifling. The great distension of the abdomen which must necessarily have taken place has severely tried the muscles which form its walls, and this evil is in too many cases aggravated by the use of corsets that, instead of supporting the body, add to the stress already upon it. The ordinary stays have an elastic steel busk, which, on being leaned upon, bends over the stomach and pushes down the contents of the abdomen, causing an additional burden upon a part already weakened. The result of this is a stretching of the whole envelope in such a manner as to endanger the figure for life, and lay the foundation for varicose veins, prolapsus uteri, and other complaints to which ladies are too often subject.
Our Gestation Corset, of which we here present an illustration, is specially adapted to the condition of the body during pregnancy. It will be perceived at once, that it is nothing more than a modification of our Hygienic Corset, adapted to the special condition of the body.
Two separate phenomena present themselves in the study of this case. The development of the abdomen is taking place from below, upwards, so that the viscera are pushed out of their normal position, and in consequence of this, the skin and other ligaments yield, in an enormous degree; and to this should be added the fact, that the weight of the body is tending constantly downwards, and hence we have two powers to overcome.
The most casual observer will, by bearing those two considerations in mind, perceive that what is required will be the elasticity of the upper and central portions of the corset, and the contraction of that part which supports the lower abdomen. In accomplishing this, we aid Nature in the performance of her operations; when less than this is done, we either labour in vain, or else inflict a positive injury.
The reason why the ordinary stays are so injurious may be demonstrated by tying a piece of thread tightly round the finger. Immediately that this is done, the circulation of the blood is impeded, and the finger becomes blue and painful, and this simply because an unyielding substance is pressing upon it. Now, although the waist is more pliable than the finger, it does not follow that the pressure is less injurious; but, on the contrary, as the organs which are deposited there are of greater importance to the health and strength of the body, so any undue pressure is sure to cause the most grievous injury. This injury is inflicted in consequence of its interference with the circulation of the blood, upon the proper action of which all that concerns our well-being depends.
It is generally known that the circulation of the blood takes place through two sets of vessels, the arteries and veins. The former come from the heart, and are employed in distributing the vital fluid over every part of the system, until they terminate in the capillaries, or vessels small as a hair, which are distributed over the whole of the internal and external surfaces of the body. When its vitality has been exhausted the colour of the blood is changed from a bright red into a very dark hue, and it is then taken up by the other set of vessels, and carried back again to the heart and lungs, to undergo another process of purification. Any interruption of this circulation by a pressure upon the soft pipes through which the fluid is carried, must, as a natural consequence, lower the natural action of the organs, and, by increasing the sensibility, give rise to pain and disease. Hence the headache, the giddiness, dullness, depression, and languor, the numbness of the extremities, the enlarged veins, and other painful sensations which too often accompany gestation; and when all these have passed away with parturition, it too frequently happens that the figure is spoiled for life. Now every one of the evils here spoken of may be avoided. Nature in her beneficence has given to every organ the inherent power to perform its functions without pain; and the organs of reproduction are no exception to this rule. There is no reason why the muscles should become soft, flabby, and relaxed, the pelvis diseased, and the figure spoilt, except it be in the want of adapting the external conditions of the body to the requirements of Nature.
In mentioning the above facts we desire above all things to impress it upon the mind of the reader that we have exaggerated nothing, as many ladies can unfortunately testify. We have, however, only pointed out the evil for the purpose of suggesting the remedy, which is to have the corsets specially adapted to every occasion in life. Any verbal description, however, would, in a great measure, be inadequate to a proper understanding of the matter: to be fully comprehended the thing must be shown, and it is for this purpose that we have added to our ordinary show-room an anatomical gallery, containing the most perfect and beautiful set of preparations ever exhibited. It is here that we are enabled to demonstrate what the real changes are which take place in the figure during the whole period of gestation-to point out the particular parts which have to sustain the burden, and the manner in which our external adaptations give support to the internal organs. It is here that we always take the sufferer, that she may see with her own eyes what it is that afflicts her.
From what has been already advanced, it will naturally follow that the manner of constructing the corset must differ with every individual case. A young, slight-built mother with her first child will require a very different adaptation from a lady who is the mother of several children and been subject to painful labour, and has perhaps met with some accident, or is suffering from some disorder or infirmity, in whom the muscular relaxation is great, the bulk heavy, and the abdomen pendulous. It must be obvious, at first sight, that particular adaptations are necessary to meet her case, and that no rule, except that of giving support where support is needed, can be followed here. And this indeed is the principle we adopt, and hence our invariable success.
Hitherto we have considered Gestation only; it remains now to follow the consequences which result from it. Those ladies who have already passed through the ordeal know by experience what the discomforts are that result from the old routine of bandages; how imperfect, clumsy, heavy, and heating they are: they know the inconvenience of pins, how often they require regulating, and upon the whole how loose, shifting, and disagreeable they are. But if it was only the discomfort of the moment, it might be easily borne, and would be of little consequence. The ordinary evil that follows is the spreading of the figure, which never should, and indeed never would, happen if proper care had been exercised. What is wanting is a regular and progressive compression, with an even, cool, and smooth surface; and if this be given during the inflammatory process, the muscular fibres will return again to their normal position, and resume their original firmness and solidity. Nor will this process cause the least injury to the particular parts under consideration, nor to the general health of the mother; for the muscles having again attained their state of health, will be prepared to repeat the same process without injury.
Every condition mentioned above has been met by our which is a perfect mould for the restoration of the figure. It is smooth, cool, elastic, and accomplishes every end which we had in view. The construction of this article has perhaps caused us more thought, care, and anxiety than any invention which we have ever submitted to the public; but it is a consolation to feel that we have attained the most absolute success. Our Belt has now been in extensive use for a long time, and the fact that it has won the patronage of the first medical authorities of the land, and been adopted by the highest personages of the empire, is a guarantee of its utility. It is indeed one of those boons for which mothers have long sighed.
The nature of our work, which is designed for the Public, compels us to exclude much that is interesting and important to the afflicted mother, as being unsuited to our pages. The reader must not, however, suppose that those matters have been neglected by us, We have, indeed, carefully studied every form of uterine disorder and deformity, and have special adaptations for EVERY PERIOD AND FOR EVERY COMPLAINT that woman is peculiarly liable to. The pathology of those stages in her life belongs to the physician; but the special insight into what should give her relief or restore the figure is our business, and where medicine either fails or is useless our work begins.
There is one other matter connected with this subject that we intend to mention, and that is Abortion—a thing which may be reckoned amongst the accidents of life, since it generally arises from some external cause. Among the numerous causes, however, of this accident, related in the works dedicated to this special subject, there is one which, although common, is unnoticed—the tendency of the corset to press downwards! This fact we will briefly explain. Abortion generally takes place between the eighth and twelfth week, which is the time when the fœtus is increased so as to rise above the edge of the pelvic cavity, and begins to elevate itself in the abdomen, and is then liable to meet with external obstacles created by the corset, which as a consequence compresses the body more closely. The wisdom displayed during these changes is manifest. For as the development progresses there is an extraordinary action by which the increasing bulk goes on, moving in every direction the abdominal organs, which yield under the pressure. The natural weight of the intestines is overcome, the habitual connection is destroyed, and the locality of the viscera changed; while at the same time the muscles are elongated, and the integuments distended. It is unwise to tamper with, or to attempt to interpose or interrupt these sanatory proceedings; for in the operations of Nature, as well as in the productions of man, there are limits to the special power applied for a given purpose. In the marvellous arrangements of fœtal gestation there is no waste of power, but every process is calculated with unerring certainty, and definite proportions regulate the amount of strength required; therefore any foreign agent which would prevent the abdomen from expanding must be a cause of pain, suffering, and disappointment to the incipient mother; and if she survives the trial, she may be left the remainder of her life permanently injured. It is a very simple problem to comprehend why these results are induced; for if the resisting agent is greater than the organic power supplied by Nature, the latter succumbs, and the consequences we have indicated must follow. The vital power inherent in the organs of gestation tends to push upwards, and if a greater resistance prevents its development by pressing it on all sides, it must distend the parts where there is the least antagonism; we have, therefore, a frequent cause of miscarriage in the injudicious application of ill-fitting corsets! And we would impress on the minds of our readers, that corsets are always injurious during the period of gestation, unless they are constructed on sound scientific principles, and capable of being accommodated to the various changes contemplated.
As a matter of experience it is admitted that pressure on the chest interferes with the great vital processes of respiration and circulation, even under the ordinary states of health: how great then must be the injury sustained during gestation under such circumstances! Whatever affects the mother's health must exert a deleterious influence on her future offspring; and as ill-fitting corsets not only induce these sad consequences, but press on the abdomen and tend to displace its important contents, they cause complex suffering to her, whose health and mental calmness are important conditions to the child's future health.
It is a very pleasant task to point out errors when we have the power to prevent their recurrence, and a long experience based on an accurate knowledge of the subject has qualified us for this task. We have had mothers to consult us whose sufferings were very great prior to their doing so, and who have expressed to us, in language of the warmest gratitude, the ease and comfort they have derived from our adaptations. Various have been their exclamations, such as "There is a magical difference in the ease I now feel. How can I sufficiently thank you, dear madame?" Others have declared that the corset had metamorphosed them completely; for instead of a restlessness and constant discomfort, they had experienced an immunity from all inconvenience. What, then, it may be asked, is the peculiarity of our corset? We answer, that it is made on such accurate scientific data, that it fits the body and chest of each individual; that, to quote the words of a medical gentleman when speaking of it—"Madame, your corset is more like a new layer of muscles than an artificial extraneous article of dress!" And this is practically the case.
For example, in the instance of the expectant mother, it must be important to give her support without any undue pressure in any part, and at the same time to insure the perfect exercise of the vital organs.
In our corset the wearer can breathe freely, and the pulsation of her heart is not the least interfered with, whilst the various motions of the body can be performed without any extra exertion or fatigue. If she take a walk, she derives important support from the closely-fitting corset; and when she reclines, the elastic nature of the materials and their accurate adaptation prevent every kind of inconvenience; for at the advanced stages of this interesting period, when it is imperative for the comfort and health of both mother and child that the corset should be enlarged, this is effected by a simple contrivance, by which an increased space can be obtained at the will and pleasure of the wearer, without in any way rendering it less valuable as a support, or less efficient in preserving the figure, whilst a perfectly free action of the whole body is the result. A provision is therefore made for every exigency; so that, under every circumstance, there is effected the great desiderata of perfect ease, freedom, and safety.
It is always gratifying to have one's labour appreciated, and in maturing the corset, so important to the mother, we have had no small share of the public approbation awarded us. It has cost us many years to bring it to its present state. of comparative perfection, but we have succeeded at last. To realize this, we had to note many instances of failure in others, evidently the result of ignorance of the structure of the body to which it was to be applied—they were mere "fancy sketches," compared with our more rigid copy from Nature!