When I was pregnant, I craved tons of fruit. Truly, I could not get enough of it. At my local Smoothie King, they started the blenders the minute I walked in. And I walked in at least once or twice a day.
I should have guessed it. I should have known. I was going to have a daughter. The fruit was the tell-tale sign.
As part of my day job, I research early medicine. By early, I mean pre-1800. A single theory of the body permeated both the learned and lay communities for nearly a millennium. Humoralism held that the body was a murky mess of fluids (humors). There were four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Good health happened when the humors were in balance. Ill-health when they were not.
This helps explain why there was so much bloodletting done in early medicine. Bloodletting was simply the most efficient way to rebalance the humors.
But the humors also had a lot to do with babymaking. Men and boys tended toward a warmer humoral “complexion” [balance]. Women and girls tended toward a cooler complexion.
Something major happened during the scientific “revolution” of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries. Telescopes, barometers, blood circulation, air pumps, vacuums, early calculating devices, discovery of planetary systems…yes, yes, we know all about that.
The discovery of the egg and the sperm in 1672 and 1677 changed the way people understood babies – and how. Heated debates took place about whether possibly, just possibly, humans existed preformed in either the egg or the sperm. Animaculists argued that shrinky-dink-sized beings lay wait in the head of each sperm.