Ironically, while waiting for my first child to be born I am accompanied by thoughts of the finality of my own life. Having a baby is such a huge milestone, such a life-changing event, that my mind skips decades ahead to when my kid will graduate high school, to when I will be a grandparent, and ultimately, to my inevitable passing into eternity. In my mind, all those big events are strung together like bubbly Christmas lights from 1988.
My wife and I have this agreement that concerning our own inevitable deaths, we will die healthy but of “natural causes” in our sleep, both at age 92, holding hands. And I would assume that most happily married people would wish for the same thing- to be able to raise their children with their spouse, to grow old with their family, and to pass this life in our right minds – not lonely and suffering in a nursing home. I don’t consider a sudden brain aneurism, a car accident, or being mauled by a bear while hiking through the woods. No, you see, I have carefully planned out my own “natural causes” death in a romantic and perfect way.
And that’s the only way I can think about the end of my life- with optimism. Assuming I will live a long, happy life, giving all I can to my family. It’s the only way I can think, because even now, two months before Baby Jack is scheduled to arrive, I am responsible for another life. I have to be here to take care of him. And my wife.
I truly am incapable of trying to fathom how so many people in the world don’t have a solid understanding (or at least some kind of basic perspective) of what happens after this life, and that they don’t think about it on a daily basis like I do. How the afterlife is completely something to be considered, how beyond heaven and hell issues, this dream of life is the prequel to eternity. And now, already, a new soul has been created, and I had something to do with that. I have changed the course of eternity.
This baby is not just a body; he’s got a soul. A soul that will need guidance for this life and the eternal one. And I have to be here for that. Even if these thoughts may seem dark and depressing to some, I refuse to ignore the reality that life and death are intertwined. As much as I “try not to take life too seriously” like all those stupid bumper stickers and annoying e-mail forwards tell me, I still take life seriously enough to think about this stuff.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
Twenty-eight weeks. (The beginning of the 7th month.)
I’ve been thinking how it’s kinda weird that in order for two people to reproduce, there’s no paperwork involved before things can get started. Giving birth to another human being is one of the most life-changing events that can happen to a person. And not just to the family of that new baby, but also to the world-wide network regarding that human interaction of that person’s present and future life. For example, in 1981, my parents had me, and now 29 years later there’s a guy at Aflac getting a commission off my paycheck every week because he sold me an insurance policy three years ago. I am affecting that Afflec guy’s life simply because I am alive. And that’s the slightest of examples!
In the back of my mind, I question why God is okay with the fact that it’s so easy and natural for human beings to be born. If I was God, I would be pretty tempted to prevent certain people from being born, like Adolf Hitler (a pretty obvious choice). And not let future serial killers and rapists be born either. Instead, God allows all kinds of people are allowed to be born into this world, under the best and worst circumstances.
But God doesn’t prevent “ignorant people” from having babies, nor does He keep “bad people” from being born into the world, nor does He prevent unwanted pregnancies. Ultimately, every time a person is born, it’s another opportunity for someone to bring glory to Him, whether they ever do or do not. Not every child who was abused in their youth grows up to repeat the vicious cycle and by becoming an abuser themselves, even if most do. And what about all the babies who were born into this world as a result of rape? What about all the orphans throughout the history of the world who were born destined to die young of starvation or disease?
It’s pretty easy for babies to be born, given that that the father and mother physically can conceive. No paperwork and background check required. So as I tame my wildest fears regarding all the ways I can mess up this kid who is planning to arrive in two months, I have to remind myself, millions of babies have been born into this world under the worst of circumstances and actually turned out okay. My future is as unpredictable and uncertain as anyone’s. Yet I must daily resist thoughts of financial concerns and pointless worries regarding my own conceived incompetence. But all I really can do is enjoy this new life and remind myself of all the countless times God has provided for me before.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
For the past several weeks, my wife has been toying with the idea of “going natural” for the birth. In other words, no pain medication. And I’ve been impressed just by her willingness, because I know if it were up to the men of the world to continue the human population by giving birth instead of women, the human population would have died off thousands of years ago.
I had been seeing The Business of Being Born keep popping up on my Netflix as a recommended title that I would enjoy. Then recently, a writer friend (http://www.meetmissjones.com/) also told me I should see it after she read about our disappointment with our first two appointments at a standard hospital. (Of course, we ended up switching to midwives and are so happy, though I had no idea what a midwife really even was when we first met with them.)
So last night we watched the documentary, The Business of Being Born, directed by Ricki Lake and produced by Abby Epstein (yes, they are both Jewish). I went into it thinking it would be a tiring movie telling how much money is made off of strollers, cribs, daycare, etc.
Instead, it is a one-sided film about the importance of the long-lost tradition of natural births. And we loved it!
I took notes:
-Induced labor increases the chances of C-Section by 50%
-In Japan and Europe, 70% of births are delivered by a midwife. In the US, only 8%
-The US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world
-The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries
-Since 1996 the C-Section rate in the US has risen 46%; In 2005, it was one out of every 3 American births
While there are obviously certain situations where a C-Section is absolutely necessary (like the baby being “breach”), it is a major surgery that has become the new norm.
Interestingly, in the movie, a group of young doctors are asked how many live births they have witnessed. Basically, none of them had.
And to me, that’s scary. That it’s easier, less time consuming, and more profitable to induce labor and perform a C-Section that it is to let the baby born naturally.
In the documentary they explain how the peak times for American babies being born is at 4pm and 10pm, the times at the end of the work shifts so that doctors can go home.
For me, the desire to have a natural birth all comes down to observing the downward spiral of having a baby in a hospital, with a doctor, the American way:
The mother is given Pitocin, to induce labor. Which causes longer, more intense contractions and cuts off oxygen to the baby, putting both the mother and the baby at risk, as well as potentially causing birth defects (even ADHD or Autism in the child later on, though not enough evidence can back this yet, but I won’t be surprised when it can).
So inducing labor increases the chances of having a C-Section by 50%, which puts both mother and child at greater risk. And the epidural slows down the birthing process- which in addition to the Pitocin, is another drug that may also affect the health of the baby.
Until last night, I had never witnessed a live human birth. But now I’ve seen at least four or five. All of them natural.
It’s pretty interesting to watch. I didn’t think it was gross, and I’m not artistic enough off a person to go on and on about how beautiful it was. It just seemed natural and normal. Like watching someone poop. But a baby came out instead.
The Business of Being Born does contain a large amount of nudity, as most of the mothers are nude while giving birth. But we were so intrigued by watching the births, that it didn’t register, “hey, this is porn”. It was just a woman giving birth. The documentary is not rated, because if it was, it may have to be rated NC-17. But to that I say, What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?
One of the major reasons I now support natural birth (and denounce induced labor by a doctor, with certain exceptions) is the fact that in a hospital, the mother lays down flat on a bed. Common sense tells us that gravity will naturally help pull the baby out. Plus the fact that by having the mother lay down flat, it gives the baby less room to come out.
I also learned that when a baby is born naturally, “a love cocktail of hormones” is released by the mother, causing a unique bond to occur between the mother and the child.
This is where we’re headed. This is what we will attempt. A natural birth overseen by midwives. Yet just down the hall from an M.D. in case something goes wrong.