A 100,000 Year History of Pregnancy, Childbirth and the First Six Months Of Life

Posted on December 27, 2010

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For those of you who live someplace other than the bottom of my clothes-to-be-ironed basket, you are aware that the world is always changing.  And pregnancy, childbirth and young motherhood have changed along with it.  I am aware of this because I have an 18 month old grandson, Jonah.  Although he looks remarkably like the three babies I have already raised to adulthood (my ex’s family in possession of a superhuman genetic stock that, in my case, created beautiful babies who LOOK NOTHING LIKE their mother or grandmother), his life in utero and his life since have differed from that of my own three children and from the generations that preceded him.

There are five main categories in which differences have occurred:

1. Pregnancy, i.e.:  Is there a baby in your belly or are you just happy to see me?

100,000 years ago: Women didn’t know they were pregnant because they were too busy running from dinosaurs mastodons and other cavemen with clubs

My generation: Scientific achievement had advanced pretty far but it didn’t generally allow us to know the sex of the baby that would pop out.  And, if we carried non-human babies like Rosemary did, nobody knew until it was too late.

My daughter’s generation: Thanks to private healthcare in the UK, my daughter had seven ultrasounds while she was pregnant.  I think the rule was to have an ultrasound everytime the baby changed position.  But most women now have two or three ultrasounds during the course of a pregnancy, thereby allowing the baby to create his own fan page on Facebook while still in gestation phase.

2. Labor and Delivery

100,000 years ago: Babies dropped wherever, were picked up (hopefully by the mother and not by an animal strolling by), then carried for a couple years, strapped to the mom.  This eliminated the need for rooming in, co-sleeping, and dragging Pack n Plays across the tundra.

My generation: After thousands of years, scientists rediscovered natural childbirth in ancient texts concealed in caves in modern day Israel.  The key to this was to breathe  correctly, assuming we were able to count to four while howling like hyenas and begging for narcotics.

My daughter’s generation: Childbirth now goes to the extremes of natural and touchy feelie.  Midwives and doulas are more popular than shamans at a Sun Dance. And, thanks to Ricki Lake, home births are climbing steadily, along with chanting with wolves.

3. The Announcement

100,000 years ago: Announcing a new baby was usually not necessary, since everyone who would ever see the child was already there when the baby was born and most didn’t respond favorably. (“Was giving birth now really necessary, Mabel, when we are about to confront the Little Ice Age?”

My generation: We sent cute cards in the mail, with all pertinent information.  This did not include photos, since we believed that all babies basically looked alike and we preferred to publicize our offspring after their heads became recognizable as such.

My daughter’s generation: In an attempt to get back to dawn-of-time community birth sharing, the actual delivery is now videotaped, Facebooked, Twittered, texted, Skyped, and uTubed.  The only people not aware of the birth when it occurs are those family members who are incarcerated and must wait until it is available on DVD.

4. The Name

Except for The dawn of time, before names were invented, all generations have come up with perfect names for their babies, a lot of which are then changed by siblings and peers to nicknames like Weezer or Lil Butthead.

5. The First Six Months

100,000 years ago: The first six months of the baby’s life were spent nursing and being permanently attached to the mom.  Nobody knows if babies cried, because any sounds of crying would be blocked out by roaring dinosaurs mastodons.

My generation: We threw any items into the crib that would shut the baby up and make him go to sleep.  This included mobiles, music boxes, blankets, plush toys, and heavy machinery.

My daughter’s generation: Scientists have now discovered that all items normally thought cute, cuddly, and baby-friendly are, in effect, scary lethal weapons.  After the period of swaddling and Miracle Blanketing ends, babies must wear skintight clothing and lay on their backs on bare mattresses, approximating incarcerated deep sea divers.

There’s lots more, but this kind of research will cost you.  Let me know what it’s worth to you.

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