t’s noted in the book that Gethenians remain female for the duration of pregnancy and a six-to-eight-month lactation period, then revert to androgyny, which eliminates any “possessive” maternal instinct. How did you envision this shortened experience of motherhood for Gethenians? The hormonal bond between a nursing mother and her baby could be considered as powerful as that between kemmerings.
Wow, did I only give them six to eight months to nurse? How stupid! A clear reflection of the strange and universal American ethnic practices concerning childbirth and early maternity, to which I was fully subjected as a three-time mother.
In the fifties and early sixties, breastfeeding was not expected; the bottle was the norm. Doctors and nurses and books all insisted that if you were so lower-class as to breastfeed, your milk must be “supplemented” by formula, and even by water. (If you want an angry baby, just give her a nice bottle of lukewarm water—here, honey, isn’t it yummy?) And the baby was supposed “go off the breast” within a few months.
By 1964, when I had No. 3, I was paying no attention to all that nonsense, and nursed him as long as he and I wanted, about two years....But I went and made the Gethenians act like good American girls of 1960?! I am so sorry!