Birth

No, this isn’t a review of the 2004 Nicole Kidman film, which, BTW, sounds super-creepy.

Actually, this is a review of the literal process of human birth. Of course, I can’t comment on the physical sensations (which my wife assures me were significant) but I can comment on how we go about a “modern” birth.

Those scare quotes around the word modern weren’t just a joke. It’s kind of amazing how primitive and unscientific the whole thing is.

Pregnancy — There are a million diet supplements out there, but many of them have too much of this, or not enough of that. Some guides tell you to avoid spicy foods. Others say to eat what you want. There’s no consistency. Ultrasound is a remarkable tool… to generate images that look like someone is trying to cook eggs in a pitch dark kitchen. Even the due date is remarkably imprecise. “Mrs. Lutz, your due date is December 3… plus or minus two weeks.” That’s a four week swing on a forty week pregnancy. Amazing.

Labor — Here the imprecision reaches ridonculous levels. “You’ll be in labor for 6 to 36 hours.” “You’ll have to push for 30 minutes to three hours.” And if you have to induce, it’s even worse. “Here’s a treatment (misoprostol) that may work immediately… or we may need to repeat it three more times before we move to treatment number two. That second one (oxytocin) we’ll give you intravenously… but we’ll have to change the dosage based on how well it works. We’ll start you on a 5. We may go as high as 36.” And this isn’t even touching on the whole “should you go natural or use drugs” craziness.

Birth — God forbid the birth itself is challenging in the slightest, because then you find out if your doctor is a fan of using the vacuum (not nearly as scary as it sounds) or the forceps (exactly as scary as it sounds).

Baby — Then, once the baby is out, the controversies really begin. Should you breastfeed? Should you breastfeed immediately? I swear, inside of six hours, we had two nurses tell us pretty much opposite ways of swaddling the baby. There are swaddling controversies.

Now, I realize that medicine is far from an exact science. But I would expect a birth to not feel like an episode of House. If there’s one medical procedure which we have plenty of empirical data to work with, you’d think that having a baby would be it. It’s happened over seven billion times, for Pete’s sake! We were in a state of the art facility, surrounded by consummate professionals, and I still felt like we were all flying by the seat of our pants. This isn’t what “modern” feels like. We are still animals, it seems, in so many ways.

I sound like I’m complaining, and I am, I guess. I thought it would be a simpler, more straightforward process. But, when all is said and done, I certainly can’t argue with the result.

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