The title pretty much explains it all.

Theoretical background: There is a psychologic concept called automatic thinking. Those thoughts can be either functional or not. We assume here just that this automatic thought I am asking about is not unadjusted with the normal human response, given the constraints.

What might a female that is entirely uninformed about the existence of procreation, pregnancy and birth think, after giving birth all by herself? Will she, if she doesn't guess what it was that was coming out of her, actually care for the baby properly without the social knowledge that she should care for it in a given way?

P.S.:For the purposes of this question "a uninformed female" is NOT a character.

P.S.S.: No manner of fecundation happened, so she can't relate the birth to any prior event, be it traumatic or not. Read that as: There was NO abduction, NO sexual intercourse, NO weird interaction with anything she wasn't used to before being pregnant.

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    $\begingroup$ The optimal answer would do well to include a rather significant interim condition: the pregnancy itself. The unexpectant mothers (haha, geddit?) would most certainly think something was a wee bit quirky when she begins gaining weight, craving food, and ceases to menstruate. If a few on this island develop similar symptoms, and others do not, — et c. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 4:50
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    $\begingroup$ You know, though, there is an old adage: “Write what you know.” I would recommend that you hold off a while on a project like this until you've been around a few more pregnant mothers. A world like the one you describe would be an excellent platform on which to explore the diverse emotions and psychology of pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, I doubt that the information you'd get here would be enough so as to thusly enrich your story: If you really want to include something like this in that world, I'd recommend you move it out of the spotlight or something. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 5:08
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    $\begingroup$ This question is being discussed on meta: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5014/… $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 3, 2017 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ I suspect that a large part of the poor reception related to the weak premise. It seems a little underdeveloped on the surface. Your​ question may fair better if you separate it from the cause and simply directly ask about the effects. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ Fyi you're one vote from reopening. It's not a terrible question apart from the unnecessary information. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 5, 2017 at 4:27

4 Answers 4


Believe it or not humans still​ have some basic maternal/paternal instincts. Very basic things like protective and nurturing instincts kick in during pregnancy even without cultural exposure. From what I've observed as a dad, women begin bonding with their offspring while they're still in the womb. Obviously some of that may be cultural, but it's kind of hard for them to ignore it when it's moving and seeming to react to certain foods, sleep cycles and so on.

When you couple the physical sensations with the hormonal changes it's at least very likely to expect a somewhat typical maternal response. Even before birth.

The actual birth is likely to be hard without knowing what to expect, but keep in mind that women have been delivering healthy babies into the world for a really long time. I mean we survived as a species after all. Humans were giving birth long before language or medicine.

Directly after birth I strongly suspect that the young women will recognize that this is the thing that she's been getting to know for the last several months. The thing that likes tacos, but kicks her bladder if they're too spicy... The basic bonds have already been developing.

Another thing to know is that, generally speaking, we arrive preprogrammed to cling and nurse. Infants will usually grab and hold on to your fingers right​ away. If the young women holds the infant close to her the infant will instinctively start feeling around for a nipple to nurse from. Once nursing, women get a rather pleasant dose of oxytocin that can reinforce the behavior and may help further develop the bond.

*Disclaimer I am not a mother, nor do I pretend to know everything about that experience. I know what I've observed and what the women in my life have kindly explained to me.

  • $\begingroup$ Oops. I guess I didn't need to offer that comment of mine on the question. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ @apaul34208 That is a good answer, thank you! I did ask some of the women in my life about the issue and they answered basically the same, except some of them said that "maternal love" is not the same as marketed in the media, and that many mothers go in post-pregnancy depression because they don't love their newborn as much as they think they should, so that sould be a good hint that maybe our vision of motherhood may be a little skewed. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Note bonding to a fetus in womb generally requires knowing it is a baby which this woman may not know. There is no reason to suspect she will bond with the child prior to birth. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 6, 2021 at 21:36

I'd say yes. There are certain things that aren't passed down by other humans. A mother's urge to care for this tiny human would be in the fact of her being human. In her bodily functions and genes. The female would likely figure out that she needs to breastfeed the baby fairly quickly because her body would be urging her to do so. She'll probably know that this thing is a human, especially if there are no other human-look-alikes out there.

Her Thoughts

At the request, I will try and explain what her thoughts would be. This will obviously depend on her personality, so I will address this on a larger "group-scale."

  • You'd have some women who kill or abandon their child out of fear or from a jerk reaction, but grieve endlessly for it. Picture a mother abandoning their child and you know what I mean. From personal experience, this only happens in the most desperate cases.
  • You'd have some women who try to do this, but can't quite put themselves to do it.
  • You'd probably have most women care for their wrinkly, tiny fleshbag without knowing why, only to understand at a later date after things develop.
  • The smart or more instinct-trusting women would guess what was going on and understand nearly from the start.

In general, I'd imagine a lot of confusion. She may just go through the instinctual motions of caring for her baby without understanding why or how. You don't question why you have to go to the bathroom and decide not to do it. You just do it because your body compels you to do it. The same thing applies (at least moderately) to this situation.


Most of basic mothering isn't passed down by others. It's passed down by genes. Many girls would be confused, but they'd do it anyways by instinct.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, but what would she think? She's a human, she has human thoughts, what will she think in that situation? What kind of automatic thoughts follow that automatic hormonal response? $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ @WaltherWennholzJohnson Added a section for that question. $\endgroup$
    – Elvesflame
    Jun 3, 2017 at 6:11

Yes. Disregarding the bizarre circumstance in which this happens, I'd say "Yes." She will take care of it because she will pretty readily see that it is a small human and she understands that it needs food and sleep and protection just like all humans do and that it clearly can't handle those things on its own. She may have to figure it out, but hey, don't all parents?

  • $\begingroup$ but how? What will be the train of though that will lead to her thinking "oh my, i should care for this thing i never seen happening to anyone and that slightly ressembles myself, and that just hurt me a lot by coming out of me." $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2017 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Oh, this little wrinkled creature is strangely cute! It's a miracle!" $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 2, 2017 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it's just my opinion, but I think she would just understand that it had to hurt due to the difference in size of the child and the opening. Plus don't forget she's physically attached to the child even after the birth. That's a pretty good hint that she is responsible. It's also pretty obvious that it's helpless, so unless she's cruel (which does happen too) I think she would literally just sense it. Just my opinion. Also, if she picks it up, it will at some point probably try to suckle so she'll figure out what the breast milk is for. I'm not a parent, maybe a parent can explain. $\endgroup$
    – ozone
    Jun 2, 2017 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ You said 'baby females' so she knows what growing up is. I don't think it's a huge leap of intelligence for her to make. "Hey, I got big because this was inside me. Then it came out and looks little like my friends used to look only smaller. Look, it's still attached to me, so it must be mine." So on. Sure you could make an argument that some won't 'get it' and maybe they won't. Some babies don't survive. But mostly, I think mother nature is this way because we wouldn't be a species otherwise. We'd die out. Something has to be obvious. $\endgroup$
    – ozone
    Jun 2, 2017 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is merely my recommendation, but why not add those comments to your answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 4:53

The pregnancy and birth would most likely be traumatic incidents. With no further reference of what is going on with her, the girl might very well have spend the last few months thinking she was mortally ill and interpreted the birth as the process of dying. Don't forget about the pain here.

What she thinks afterwards would depend on a few things.

  1. Has she been around babies, especially newborns, before? Is she aware that they are very young human children?
  2. What was the birth like? How long did it take? How much pain was she in, how much blood is there, has she already passed the placenta?
  3. Does she know what the fluid coming from her breast (breast milk) is and what it is for?

If she recognizes the infant as human, realizes that she is not going to die and will physically recover, and figures out what kind of food the baby needs, then she is in the mindset most likely to let her accept the infant.

But these three are not necessarily guaranteed, and depend on her upbringing - so you decide wether she has that knowledge ready to come to these conclusions.

Compared to other species, humans don't have many instincts, including around childcare. For example, we don't know instinctively how to hold them, or what foods they can and can not eat. These things need to be learned in a social setting. And more instinct-driven animals than us abandon perfectly healthy young at birth. Just look at female elephants in zoos, especially if they haven't been around nursing mothers of their own species.

An uneducated female might streight up not recognize the baby as human, think it's a parasite (especially if she's from a place with bot-flies and similar), kill it, abandon it, have a nervous breakdown thinking she's about to die, etc.


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