The Works of Aristotle - HOW A CHILD LIETH, AND HOW IT GROWETH UP IN THE WOMB OF THE MOTHER AFTER CONCEPTION.

HOW A CHILD LIETH, AND HOW IT GROWETH UP IN THE WOMB OF THE MOTHER AFTER CONCEPTION.

Sec. I. How the Child is formed in the Womb after conception.

As to the formation of the child, it is to be noted, that after coition the seed lies warm in the womb for six days without any visible alteration, only the womb closes up itself to prevent it issuing forth again, and for the securing it from any cold, and all this time it looks like butter, or coagulated milk. And it would be very necessary for her who has conceived to forbear the embraces of her husband all the time, lest the conception should be spoiled. In three days after it is altered from the quality of thick milk or butter, and it becomes blood, or at least resembles it in colour, nature having now begun to work upon it. In the next six days following, that blood begins to be united into one body, grows hard, and becomes a little quantity, and to appear a round lump. And as the first creation of the earth was void, and without form, so in this creating work of divine power in the womb, this shapeless embryo lies like the first mass. But in two days after, the principal members are formed by the plastic power of nature, and these principal members are four in number, viz., The heart, the brain, the liver, and the testicles, or stones. Three days after the other members are formed, and are distinguished from the shoulders to the knees; and the heart, liver, and stones, with their appurtenances, grow bigger and bigger. Four days after that, the several members of the whole body appear, and as nature requires, they conjunctly and separately do receive their perfection. And so in the appointed time, the whole creation hath that essence which it ought to have in the perfection of it, receiving from God a living soul, therewith putting into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus have I shown the whole operations of nature in the formation of the child in the womb, according to the energy given it by the divine Creator, Maker, and Upholder of all things both in heaven and earth.

By some others more briefly, but to the same purpose, the forming of the child in the womb of its mother is thus described; three days in the milk, three days in the blood, twelve days from the flesh, and eighteen the members, and forty days afterwards the child is inspired with life, being endowed with an immortal living soul.

Sec. II. Of the Manner of the Child's lying in the Womb from the Conception to the Birth.

I COME now to show in what manner the child lies in the womb of its mother, whilst it is confined in the dark recesses; first giving the reader the testimony of two or three of the most learned on that head.

The learned Hippocrates affirms that the child, as he is placed in the womb, hath his hands upon his knees, and his head bent to his feet; so that he lies round together, his hands upon his knees, and his face between them; so that each eye touches each thumb, and his nose betwixt his knees. And of the same opinion in this matter was Bartholinus the younger. Columbus is of opinion that the figure of the child in the womb is round, the right arm bowed, the fingers thereof tinder the ear, and above the neck, the head bowed that the chin toucheth the breast, the left arm bowed above both breast and face, and propped up by the bending of the right elbow; the legs are lifted upwards, the right of which is so lifted up that the thigh toucheth the belly, the knees the navel, the heel toucheth the left buttock, and the foot is turned back and covereth the secrets; the left thigh toucheth the belly, and the leg lifted up to the breast, the back lying outwards.

Thus the readers may see how authors differ herein; but it ought to be noted, that different positions which the child has been seen in, hath given occasion to the different opinions of authors. For when the woman is young with child, the embryo is always found of a round figure, a little oblong, having the spine moderately turned inwards, the thighs folded and a little raised, to which the legs are joined; that the heels touch the buttocks, the arms bending, and the hands placed upon the knees, towards which the head is inclined forwards; so that the chin touches the breast; the spine of the back is at that time placed towards the mother's, the head uppermost, and proportionable to its growth it extends its members by little and little, which were exactly formed in the first month. In this posture it usually keeps till the seventh or eighth month, and then by a natural propensity and disposition of the upper parts of the body, the head is turned downwards towards the inward orifice of the womb, tumbling as it were ever its head; so that the feet are uppermost, and the face towards the mother's great gut. And this turning of the infant in this manner with his head downwards, towards the latter end of a woman's reckoning, is so ordered of nature that it may be the better dispose for the birth. The knowledge of these things being so essential to the practice of a midwife, I could not omit them.

 

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