Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Nature Is Not Benign

Most of my day revolves around my pregnancy. I am in the 9th month, and I have run afoul of a few complications. While no one has actually ordered me on bed rest, the implication is clear and so I spend most of my day inside, with my beagle, Marty, waiting for an appropriate time to eat again. My baby developed an irregular heartbeat around the 32nd week which has landed me in 2x a week Non-Stress Tests [NSTs] (the most misnamed test around). Then, just when my baby's heartbeat started to sound great, my blood pressure started climbing, so I continue to get the NSTs twice a week until labor begins. The only hitch is that I fear a bad BP will result in induction, which I don't want.

In any case, I spend a lot of time thinking about biology in these hours where I am propped up on my left side, sipping lots of water, and whiling the time away. I think back to how intense the pressure during my pregnancy has been for me to "go natural" and I bemused that very smart, well educated, critical thinkers continue to think that nature is benign. I had a much needed and lovely lunch with my colleague yesterday. I was filling her in on the odd dynamic I found myself in all year with people advising me to avoid medication, avoid my local hospital because of the C-section rate, get a doula, etc. She too is a student of biology and couldn't help but critique the naive way in which the natural childbirth movement ascribes all that is good and right to nature.

What I think is interesting is how natural childbirth folks--at least the ones I know--are the same people rolling their eyes over the Dover fiasco and sticking Darwin fish on their cars. These are not "intelligent designers," but rather great supporters of evolution. And, if you are a supporter of evolution, then you should know that nature is not benign and that so much can still go wrong . . . hence, my complications that leave me lying around like a lump, hoping that my BP doesn't go up or that my baby's heartbeat stays strong.

My lunch companion also reminded me how incredibly fortunate we are to have access to all of this good medical care. While I get irritated that I spend a good portion of my week in the Maternity Ward, I should remember how many women out there still die from childbirth, are deprived of any prenatal care, and have no relief for long, difficult labors. At the end of the day, I am just grateful for the resources available to me and I try to focus on the end product: a healthy baby girl.

Just as we were about to leave a friend with a newborn came in and started to ask about where I was going to deliver . . . I smiled a my lunch companion because she was just about to witness the officiousness that I had been describing. When the new mommy left, my lunch companion was just floored at the way in which parents--perhaps new parents?--feel compelled to assert their experience, their viewpoints on the uninitiated. This is, however, the life of a pregnant woman in the midst of highly opinionated, educated and frankly ideological parents.

What my lunch companion reminded me that I need to fend off next is parenting advice--especially from these same folks. Eek. While nature is not benign, surely nurture-and nurturing advice--is just as threatening.