Birth: Sacred or Clinical?

B is for Birth...
B is for Birth…

Stopping by for the first time for the A-Z Challenge? Read a short intro to the A-Zs of Worldbuilding here!

Next up in the world-building alphabet, we have birth. The birth of a child is a defining moment, and if you have a birth that happens in your story, you can use it to add a richness and depth that you may not have realized before. 

Birth has only become a medical event as we know it now in the past couple of centuries. Before that, children were born at home, possibly with a midwife attending – but not always. A birth can also mean an impending celebration – especially if the new child is the heir to some sort of inheritance, power, or prophecy. Or it could be an event to be mourned for those same reasons.

Here’s some questions to consider about births in your world:

Prenatal

Are there any rituals performed at the onset of pregnancy, at the birth of the child, or any time in between? What significance do they hold?

Who cares for the medical well-being of the mother and child – is it a midwife, a doctor, or a robot? (No, seriously, robot. Remember Star Wars?) Something else entirely?

For the very bizarre fantasy worlds or sci-fi with aliens: which gender carries and gives birth to the child? How does gestation differ from human gestation?

The Birth

Is birth a communal event, or a private one? Or, basically, who is present? The entire family, or just the mother and one or two attendants?

Is birth viewed as a sacred event, something commonplace, or something taboo? Why?

What happens when something goes wrong during delivery? (The baby is breech, the baby is stillborn, a need for a cesarean section comes up… or, you know, your world’s equivalent of a c-section. Or perhaps the procedure hasn’t been created yet.)

PostNatal

Who cares for the child after birth? Does this vary by status in society, or the gender of the child?

Is one gender preferred over another? If a child born is the ‘wrong’ gender, which parent shoulders the blame for not giving birth to the ‘right’ one?

How are infants with perceived abnormalities dealt with?

  • Birthmarks: Are these viewed as the marks of a deity? Blessing or curse? Or just a random mark? Does it change depending on the shape of the birthmark?
  • Deformities: Spina bifida, cleft palates, hands/feet/limbs that are misshapen, brain development issues, etc. Are children born with any of these revered, or shunned? Are they killed, or given a place of honor in society?

Depending on the technological advancement of the society, are any of these issues (gender, deformities, etc.) dealt with in utero?

Draw inspiration from your own ancestry.

How did the mothers from your family’s past give birth? Ask your mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother (if you can). Or do some research into the cultures that have shaped who you are today, whether by blood or simply by exposure.

Original photo used in header image by VeggieGretz.

My intention is to turn the A-Zs of Worldbuilding into a workbook after the Challenge is finished. If you’d like to stay notified about that, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Please make sure and select the A-Zs of Worldbuilding option!

24 thoughts on “Birth: Sacred or Clinical?

  1. Fortunately, I have yet to handle birth in my stories but thanks to you if/when I do it won’t be a trivial minor point but a way to share more about the world in which my characters live. I’m loving your series!

    *~MAJK~*
    A-to-Z Challenge 2014
    Mighty Minion of Co-Host Nicole Ayers
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  2. Once again, you’ve shared some good points. I’m working on a story at the moment which involves, in fact, revolves around conception and birth, and it involves an alien race as well as humans, so I’m having to make some of these decisions now, in the planning stages. One of the things I hadn’t got to is post-natal yet, so thanks for the check list, which I hope will kick off some thinking on my part.

    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

  3. Huh. I’m trying to think of the last time I had a story I was working on that HAD a birth in it. It was…a long time ago. LOL! And the two children–twins–were born to a prophecy in a prologue which I then cut. Yes. Very good points, though! Very good points!

    1. Not every story will use all of the different themes I’ve chosen for the A-Zs of Worldbuilding – I’ll confess that the only story I have right now where birth plays a major theme, the baby doesn’t actually make it to the birth. It’s… complicated, lol.

  4. Hmm..I’m going to have to work on this on my own blog and see what I can work out for my world. 🙂 I need to get back to regular updates anyway. Seems like a good enough way to do it.

  5. Funny, I never really thought about it, but my first major novel endevour (the one I’ve been working on for a decade now) starts with a birth. It’s not a full-on descriptive scene, but there is a baby being born, in a hospital, and there are complications.

    Interesting post!

    1. Birth, when it does sneak into a story, really affects the entire tone of it – and especially how the birth is handled by the characters. Good luck with your novel! I have a decade-long venture as well. >_<

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Awesome! Another thing those writing a birth scene who’ve yet to experience one firsthand could do is talk to parents they’re close to. Something that intimate and life-changing can really mess with a person’s emotions and responses, and in ways you might not think of unless you’ve been there.

    I’ll be straight up with you–my husband, who is normally super even-keeled and used to be TERRIFIED of babies, was far more emotional at the birth of our daughter and I think bonded with her a lot more quickly than I did. I, however, who am fairly competent with kids took one look at the baby and thought “Ew” and “What on earth am I supposed to do with this thing???” 😉 Obviously I love our girl to pieces now, but initially I was a little at sea. It pays to find out what different people have experienced when it comes to something as big as birth!

  7. Another birth question to consider: How crazy does the parent get after he/she is sleepless for an extended period of time? (Amusingly crazy like, say, a Muppet or somewhat less amusing like, say, “The Shining” crazy.)

    1. Hahaha, indeed! Lack of sleep is not fun. This is also why it’s vital my husband be able to drive before we have children – I’m not safe to drive on less than 6 hours of sleep. We learned that when I worked fast food, and it was very nearly deadly.

  8. Timely post as world building at the moment. Birth is something that can be overlooked and yet can be fundamental. Strangely, for my post today went for a related topic, Blood-marked – a birth related rite in my created world in progress. So useful extra thoughts – thank you.

  9. Excellent post and I love the premise you’re using for the A to Z challenge. Really looking forward to your next posts. I’ll be taking notes, trust me…

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