Remember the scene in Monsters, Inc. where all the various monsters are getting ready to be scary? They each have their own style: One is a blob with many eyes, one has retractable spikes; some are sneaky, some are creepy. And then there is the one who makes his point by flailing his orange tentacles around and rushing forward with a hysterical shriek.
This is the approach taken by a blogger for the Register a few days ago, in a post called “The Advent of the Artificial Womb: Suddenly, it’s a braver, newer world.”
Currently, preemies must adapt prematurely to breathing air and receiving nutrition orally — an ordeal which sometimes saves lives, but still often leaves survivors with profound, lifelong disabilities. Rather than being intubated in an incubator, sedated and on a respirator, premature babies in an artificial womb would grow in a pouch filled with lab-made amniotic fluid, which would be gentler on their tiny bodies, and would allow their lungs and brains to develop more normally.
But this blogger calls the artificial womb a “travesty.” In nearly 3,000 words, he devotes only a few brief paragraphs to the idea that the invention, if successful, will keep premature babies alive, and he allows half a sentence for the idea that it’s a good thing to keep premature babies alive.
And the rest of his post is flailing tentacles, as he drags in everyone from Descartes to Dune to homeless schizophrenics to Simone de Beauvoir to Octomom, to the right to spank and homeschool, to (of course) the gays, and finally to – shudder – “feminists,” saying, “The artificial uterus is fraught with danger to the point of moral disaster on the par with abortion.”
He looks into his crystal ball and sees nothing but horrors:
Now that artificial uteri are to soon be a possibility, how many more made-to-order pedophile sex slaves are we to expect? How many of more will a liberal media refuse to shed a spotlight on?
Also, can a woman who has used an artificial womb truly bond with her child? Can the child develop normal feelings for the person who purchased its birth in a plastic Ziploc baggie?
Does he have a leg to stand on?
Well, it’s true that some folks will immediately scheme how to use this medical advance in ways that are harmful and contrary to human dignity — like incubating a child entirely and electively in an artificial environment, so that women no longer have to give birth, or so people can design and purchase a child to their specifications, with motives ranging from selfish to monstrous. I’m no fool: I know that there are people who desire these things. (It’s already being done, only we use poor Indian women rather than a plastic bag.)
But it’s also true, once artificial wombs are functional, that some of the tens of millions of babies born prematurely may live instead of die, and may be born closer to full term, with less trauma and more of a chance of avoiding life-long health problems. This is not nothing. This is not some negligible perk that we can easily decline for fear of potential abuse.
Artificial wombs are not intrinsically evil. They may someday be used for evil, but so may every other medical advance you can name. The medical syringe, for example, was invented to inject painkillers; now it’s also used to heal the sick, to administer vaccines, and to save lives. Syringes are also used for delivering heroin, and consequently are responsible for the spread of HIV and hepatitis, which is transmissible to unborn children of the infected. Bad, bad stuff. Things that make the world undeniably worse.
But that doesn’t mean that syringes are a travesty on par with abortion. It means that human beings are prey to original sin, and will immediately set to work perverting the use of everything they can lay their hands on.
The outraged blogger fails to draw a vital distinction between two kind of scientific advances:
- Things that are morally neutral, and may be used well or misused, and so should be approached with caution, and
- Things that are intrinsically immoral, even if they may be used for good ends.
IVF and abortion fall into the second category. The artificial womb falls into the first category. But he seeks to blend the two categories, essentially arguing, “Just think how very wrong this could go!”
And what if God the Father had made this very persuasive argument when He made our first parents? Lots of potential for abuse there. Should He have scrapped the whole project?
There should always be special caution when we see medical advances related to the conception and gestation of humans. Because human life is sacred, it is especially heinous when it is treated as a commodity, as a means to an end, or even, God forbid, as a trinket.
Because human life is sacred, it is wrong to use technology to create a human life in a petri dish, even if the parents of the child love him. It is wrong to use technology to deliberately end human life through euthanasia, even if the patient is suffering.
And there are some murky areas about which, as far as I can tell, Catholic bioethicists have still not made a definitive pronouncement. For instance, it’s possible that a theoretical womb transplant might be moral or immoral, depending on the object, the end, and circumstances surrounding the procedure. It’s uncertain whether it’s ethical to “adopt” a frozen embryo which would otherwise be destroyed.
So I have some grudging sympathy for the blogger. Medical advances and human gestation make uneasy bedfellows, and modern folks are not especially particular about which bedfellows they choose. It’s no use pretending that there are no dangerous possibilities when medical technology makes another leap ahead. It’s no use pretending that everyone who might use new technology will be pure and noble. Horror are all around us, and technology is advancing faster and more recklessly than we can keep up with.
But nothing will be gained — nothing but more horrors– by shrieking hysterically and wishing for the good old days when people just went ahead and died. “It’s a braver, newer world suddenly,” says the blogger. “It’s moments like this that make me long for simpler days.”
I was at a cemetery yesterday. One large grave plot included one man, his first wife with a string of child’s headstones, and his second wife with her own string of dead children.
Those were simpler days.
Babies died, women died, over and over and over again, because the medical technology available was a bowl of hot water, a poultice, and a prayer. Things were simpler then, and children flickered in and out of life like stars, too tiny ever to send their light all the way to earth.
Was it simpler? Yes, it was. Was it better? No, it was not. Evil ebbs and flows. It adapts to whatever the current age can offer. There was evil, and carelessness, and the devaluation of human life back in the old days, and there is evil, carelessness, and the devaluation of human life now. An artificial womb may look scary and dystopian to us. For perspective, maybe browse baby coffins.
I won’t lie: I’m horrified when I look into the future (or even the present) and see that science is separating us more and more from our humanity. But I’m equally horrified when I see Catholics retreating into a sort of sentimental brutality that sighs heavily, dons a cloak of false nobility, and grandly chooses death for others over hard choices for us all.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
A youngish mom with a bunch of kids goes to her doctor with a medical problem. Doesn’t even matter what the problem is: problems with excessive bleeding, problems with postpartum depression, problems with heartburn, problems with sleep. Problems with her knee, her skin, or the way her hair just won’t curl the way it used to.
Any problem, doesn’t matter. If she has more than a few kids, she already knows what comes next: A glance at the chart, the eyebrows go shooting up, and here it comes: “Ohh, I see you have [any number greater than two] kids.”
And that’s all they want to talk about from then on.
They certainly don’t want to listen to you when you tell them, “This isn’t about family size.” They tuck your multipara status into your buttonhole like a red poppy so you can never forget, never forget that you brought this on yourself in some way with allllll those kids, so let’s talk about that, then, eh?
You’ll think I’m exaggerating if it hasn’t happened to you; but ask around among women who have five, six, or seven, or even three or four kids, and you’ll see nods and eyerolls, or even tears. Because it hurts. Women with lots of kids have to prepare themselves mentally every time they step into a doctor’s office. Not only do they have to deal with whatever problem they’re actually there for, they have to defend themselves against insinuations, disapproval, patronizing jokes, and sometimes open scorn.
Now, sometimes, a woman’s maternal history is relevant. If a woman is trying desperately to stop having children, then it makes sense for her doctor to talk about how she can accomplish that (while being respectful of her religious concerns). If pregnancy and childbearing are damaging her health, it makes sense for her doctor to talk about her plans for the future. That is the doctor’s job, and a good doctor thinks more wholistically, beyond the immediate problem at hand.
But that’s not what I’m talking about.I’m talking about women with many children being treated as if their wombs are a pandora’s box from which all ills and troubles flow. I’m talking about doctors behaving as if we’re nothing but a walking, whimpering uterus, and there is no sense in even discussing any other medical issue until we figure out how to put a cork in it.
Here’s what happened to me in the last week of my last pregnancy:
I had already given birth nine times. I knew what it was going to be like. There was no maternal amnesia strong enough, and there was no new technique I was going to learn for pain control or emotional calm. I knew what was coming, and that it was going to be rough, because that’s what childbirth is like. I was weeks or days away from giving birth, and I couldn’t sleep, night after night, because I was nervous about the delivery. Naturally, my exhaustion only fed into the anxiety.
So I went to the doctor and asked if she could prescribe something safe to soothe my anxiety and help me sleep, just to tide me over.
She refused. Their policy said I had to visit their staff psychiatrist first. Okay, could I make an appointment? Oh, sure — there was an opening in three days.
Three days may not sound like a lot to you, but I was within five days of my due date. I hadn’t slept in maybe four days. Everything hurt, all the time. And I knew with all my heart that I wasn’t going to magically enjoy peace of mind just because, thanks to my doctors, I could look forward to talking to a complete stranger about my emotional state at 39 weeks. Could I maybe get a three-day prescription to get me through until then, just to take the edge off? No, that wasn’t their policy.
I WAS SO ANGRY. There was no reason for this. No reason at all. But they wouldn’t budge.
So I cooled my heels at home (actually, my heels, like the rest of me, were puffy, inflamed, and in constant pain) and turned up for the stupid appointment. The first thing she wanted to know, after introducing herself, was how I felt about having so many children.
Imagine there’s a building on fire, so you called the fire department — only to discover that, before they would even unroll a hose, they wanted to file a request for documents proving that the contractors who built it had been unionized.
Would that be reasonable? Maybe they were unionized and maybe they weren’t, and maybe the answer to that question would shed light on the current situation and maybe it wouldn’t. But right now, maybe let’s PUT OUT THE FIRE.
So I knew already knew I was being treated badly. But I also knew that, the more I protested, the more likely I was to be flagged as a drug-seeking patient, so I tried to speak calmly. I had already plotted out what I was going to say.
I told the doctor, “I am happy with my family size, and I do not need advice about family planning. That is not why I am here. My anxiety is not related to anything but childbirth. It is purely situational anxiety. When I give birth, I will no longer feel anxiety about giving birth. What I need is something to help me through the next few days, because I can’t sleep. That is the problem I need help with.”
And you know what she did? She kept me in that room for another fifteen minutes, probing and questioning me about my history, my long-term psychological state, my experience in past deliveries, and anything else she could think of, based on nothing but the number of times I had given birth. There were no other red flags in my history, nothing that would signal to any medical professional that I was being abused, that I was unhappy beyond normal pregnancy ills, or even that I was overwhelmed with my life in general. But she kept asking. And I just kept repeating: “That is not relevant. This is situational anxiety. I just need to get some sleep.”
Finally, with deep and obvious disapproval, she wrote out a prescription for a mild antihistamine, which didn’t work at all. I burned through the next week in a sleepless rage, angrily gave birth, and spent the next week remembering how to sleep, and calming the hell down.
Now, you tell me.
If I were, say, a topless dancer, and I told my doctor I was nervous about upcoming foot surgery, and I wanted a prescription to help me sleep for a few days until the big day, would I have gotten a slew of lifestyle questions, probing and digging for signs that I harbored some secret regret about how I spend my days?
If I were a trans man with AIDS, and was feeling tons of anxiety about an imminent job interview, would my doctor have given me a referral for next week with a psychiatrist who wanted to sit me down and have a chat about my past and future choices about my body, my family, my life goals?
If I were anyone at all, and I turned up in a doctor’s office with an obvious and solvable problem, wouldn’t the doctor just . . . help me solve that problem?
But I had lots of kids. Lots of kids, and I was in a long-term, stable marriage, and I was fully employed, a long-term patient with no criminal record, no history of drug or alcohol abuse, no smoking, no psych issues, no weird bruises, no nothing. I got regular exercise and took my vitamins. I had turned up at every appointment well-nourished and well-informed, with no panic, no hysteria, no delusions, no complaints about anything other than, “I am pregnant and my feet really hurt.” It was very easy to explain why I was feeling anxiety and dealing with insomnia. It was very easy to predict when I could conquer those issues.
But she didn’t want to hear that. She didn’t want to believe me, because I had a lot of kids.
Guess what? That experience of not being listened to was so frustrating and painful and infuriating, it made it ten times harder for me to make another appointment later, when I really did need help with larger psychological issues (also unrelated to childbearing!). I thought, “They’re just going to say, ‘Well, this is what you get when you have so many kids; sorry, we can’t help.'” Because that is what they have always said.
So I didn’t go, and I didn’t go, and I didn’t go.
That’s what happens when you treat women like they can’t be trusted: You lose their trust. And that means you’re not doing your job.
Doctors, this has to stop. When you see a patient with lots of children, she should be treated like any other patient. Keep eyes and ears open for signs of abuse and signs of distress, just as you would with any other patient, but do not behave as if the large family itself is a red flag. It’s offensive and disrespectful beyond belief, and it puts women constantly on guard. It’s okay to ask if she’s happy with her current family planning; but if she says yes, then you simply must let it go. Even if you don’t get it. Even if you don’t approve.
Believe her when she tells you what the problem is. Believe her, even if she has a lot of kids.
Here’s a cheering thought about 2017: It’s gonna be a banner year for comedians.
It’s also shaping up to be a surprisingly good year for pro-lifers. Not because Trump has done anything whatsoever to help save babies or protect women. Maybe he’ll take the trouble to reinstate the largely symbolic Mexico City policy, maybe he won’t; but so far, his pro-life credentials are exactly zero, if you’re generous. [ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy. Credit where it’s due.]
But never mind him, because people who are actually pro-life aren’t waiting for him to remember there’s such a thing as us. Women in seven continents turned out for the Women’s March, to protest his election and to support causes dear to women — causes like education, healthcare, racial justice, protection and respect for the disabled, and, well, everything else. Women are interested in all kinds of things; and even progressive women have more on their mind than abortion abortion abortion. That’s the nice thing about a protest: You show up and say what you want to say (even if you can’t even talk yet).
Yeah, the protest was organized and funded by pro-choicers. Yeah, “abortion rights” became one of the planks of their platform, after a stink was raised in some quarters. But tons of pro-life women showed up anyway, because pro-life is a feminist cause ne plus ultra. As the giant banner said — the banner that led the march, because Students For Life decided to run right out in front — “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN.”
So there were pro-life feminists there. In some venues, they were attacked and screamed at; in some venues, they were greeted with respect and support, even from women who didn’t agree with them. These are the reports from the women I know who were actually there.
Even more heartening than this reception is what happened on Saturday Night Life. You can see the entire segment here, but here’s the money part:
Did you catch that? The man just told his audience that pro-lifers are feminists, and that they absolutely belong in a pro-woman march, because a feminist is simply a reasonable person. He used the phrase “pro-life,” not “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion rights.”
Here’s the transcript of this segment:
It was an amazing show of support for feminism, but some feminist groups were asked not to march because of their pro-life views, which raises the question: “What makes a feminist a feminist?” It’s confusing.
My mother raised seven kids by herself and she’s the strongest woman I know, so I asked her if she was a feminist, and she said, “Boy, God made Adam and EVE,” I was like, “That’s not what that means.”
A feminist is really just someone who believes in rights for women, and that’s easy to get behind. Until you get behind a feminist wearing a uterus hat and then you’re like, “There are levels to this.”
I just think it’s weird to have a special name for just being a reasonable person, because that’s all it is. Believing in equality just means you’re not a dick, and for me, that enough.
Folks, Donald Trump is a dick. Not because he claims to be anti-abortion, but because he treats women and children, and anyone else who seems vulnerable, like dirt to be trampled under his feet.
Shall I tell you what I want, as a feminist?
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel that she has to have a sexual relationship she doesn’t want.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel pressured to act out the porn that’s shaped the desires of a generation.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to be mocked, pressured, or chided by her friends, her boyfriend, her doctor, or the culture at large for deciding not to have sex with someone.
I want every woman to know that, if she gets pregnant unintentionally, the father of the child will behave like an adult — not just ponying up a few hundred dollars and a ride to the abortion clinic to erase his mistake, but taking on real, shared, self-giving responsibility. I want women to know that the pregnancy is not just her problem.
I want rape victims to be treated with dignity and respect, not suspicion and blame and aggression from schools, from the legal system, and from their neighbors.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning stigma, shame, and horror.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman’s education must end.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman is doomed to poverty.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning the end of a career.
I want women carrying a disabled unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want women carrying a black unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want women carrying an unborn girl to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want a world where it doesn’t even occur to people to consider abortion, because there are so many, many alternatives. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can work together to provide these alternatives. And that’s what we have in common.
If pro-choice feminists agree with even part of this, then you’re damn right we are sisters. You’re damn right we belong marching together.
Don’t underestimate the power of popular culture to change hearts and minds. It’s already becoming more acceptable to be pro-life. It’s already becoming more evident that there is more to us than “no, no, no.” Today’s young adults are looking around at the cultural wasteland left behind after the sexual revolution, and they’re thinking, “Well, that didn’t work. What else can we try?”
Some of them are trying on pro-life feminism. I think it looks pretty good on them — and apparently, so does Saturday Night Live.
So, you folks who are stamping your feet and huffing and puffing over the scandal of pro-lifers turning up at a pro-choice march? You Catholics who are up in arms over pro-life women inflating the numbers of the march, and giving aid and comfort to our ideological enemies? Check it out:
Pro-life feminists who marched got Saturday Night Live to utter the phrase “pro-life,” and to call them reasonable people, to admit that they are feminists, too. Tell me how you were planning to achieve that by sitting at home in your MAGA hat, annotating your list of Catholics We Find Upsetting.
While you were busy taking incriminating screenshots of your neighbor to send to your priest, pro-lifers feminists were bringing their message home. And they’re changing the culture.
Keep marching, sisters.
On Wednesday, NH voted to withdraw nearly $650,000 of state funding from Planned Parenthood. Even the pro-choice legislatures of our state have long chafed against funding the top-heavy, corrupt, inefficient monolith of Planned Parenthood — not because we love babies, but because we hate wasting money.
Naturally, people concerned about the poor are upset about the vote to defund, because Planned Parenthood is like the classic abusive boyfriend: They’ve got us convinced that we need them, we’re going to be lost without them, we’re no goodwithout them, we’ll never make it on our own.
New Hampshire is actually a pretty good state to be a poor woman in (it’s rated 7th in the nation for the quality of its healthcare).
I should know, having been a poor woman in New Hampshire for the last forty years, give or take a few sojourns north and south. I have always gotten free, excellent prenatal care and postpartum care, free pap smears, free breast exams, free STD testing, and — well, I’ve been offered free birth control, if by “offered” you mean bombarded with non-stop, wall-to-wall, relentless harangues about how important it is for me to get my free birth control now now now. Even when I told them I didn’t want it, they put a bag of condoms in my suitcase at the hospital anyway.
I have gotten all of these things for free. And I have never set foot in a Planned Parenthood.
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
NH has offered free medical care to children, pregnant women and the elderly and disabled for years, and it recently expanded Medicaid to cover all poor people. Here is a pdf of the handbook that lists (starting on page 15) all the services which are free to poor people. It includes preventative care, including regular wellness check-ups, and all prenatal care, including nurse midwife services, pregnancy related services, services for conditions that might complicate pregnancy, lab work, birthing centers, family planning, medically necessary hysterectomy, prescription drugs, and a myriad of programs to help you have a healthy pregnancy. They literally pay you to take care of your baby, offering cash incentives for well-child check-ups.
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
New Hampshire will take the $600,000+ they were going to give to Planned Parenthood and instead will distribute it among the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast and Weeks Medical Center in the North Country.
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
women’s health exams, mammograms, pap test, and pelvic exams to women age 21-64 who have no health insurance or have insurance that does not pay for screening tests and with family incomes at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Here is the list of sites which offer free mammograms and pap smears:
Berlin Coos County Family Health Services – North 752-2900
Colebrook Indian Stream Community Health Center, Inc. 237-8336
Concord Concord Hospital Family Health Center, Concord 227-7000×2921
Conway White Mountain Community Health Center 447-8900 x305
Derry Women’s Health Associates 421-2526
Franconia Ammonoosuc Community Health Services 444-2464 x0
Franklin Health First Family Care Center 934-0177
Gorham Coos County Family Health Services – South 466-2741
Groveton Weeks Medical Center 788-2521
Hillsboro Concord Hospital Family Health Center, Hillsboro 464-3434
Keene Cheshire Medical Center 354-6679
Laconia LRG Healthcare 524-3211 x2940
Lebanon Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center 653-9321
Littleton Ammonoosuc Community Health Services 444-2464 x0
Manchester Catholic Medical Center 626-2626
Manchester Elliot Hospital 668-3067
Manchester Manchester Community Health Center 626-9500
Nashua Lamprey Health Care 883-1626
Nashua St. Joseph Hospital 882-3000 x67188
Newmarket Lamprey Health Care 659-3106 x7455
Newport Newport Health Center 863-4100
North Conway Memorial Hospital 356-5461 x2388
Peterborough Monadnock Community Hospital 924-1795
Plymouth Speare Memorial Hospital 536-1104
Portsmouth Families First of the Greater Seacoast 422-8208 x222
Raymond Lamprey Health Care 895-3351 x7390
Somersworth Goodwin Community Health Center 749-2346
Warren Ammonoosuc Community Health Services 444-2464 x 0
Whitefield Ammonoosuc Community Health Services 444-2464 x 0
Wolfeboro Huggins Hospital 569-7500
Woodsville Ammonoosuc Community Health Services 444-2464 x 0
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
Uninsured people can get STD testing, pregnancy tests, counselling, and ultrasounds at these clinics around the state. My daughter volunteered at one of these clinics. It’s a few blocks away from Planned Parenthood, and unlike Planned Parenthood, but like many of the other clinics around the state, it also offers things like free diapers and baby clothes, car seats and strollers, parenting classes, and help navigating social services.
Without $650,000 from the state.
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
Here is a list of FDA certified mammography facilities. It includes nearly 9,000 places where women can get mammograms. Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Not one. Because they don’t offer mammograms, but only referrals (i.e. a piece of paper with an actual doctor’s address on it) for mammograms.
But what would we do without Planned Parenthood?
The truth is, most of what Planned Parenthood offers is abortion. That’s their cash cow. The reason they say it’s only 3% of their business is because they count everything that goes along with abortion as an individual service: you go in because you’re pregnant, and they give you a pregnancy test, and an STD test, and an abortion, maybe some antibiotics, and a box of birth control pills. Guess what? Planned Parenthood just provided five services — and abortion was a mere 20%. Now mix in a bunch of teenagers who stop by to get free condoms, and it’s pretty easy to get that number down to 3%.
It’s a stupid game, but it works. And it makes people think,
What would we do without Planned Parenthood?
We would do fine.
We would do fine.
Many Americans call themselves pro-choice, but are uncomfortable with unlimited abortion on demand, and these videos could help tip the balance in their hearts. But even as we hope and pray that the videos accomplish this conversion, let’s not forget another large population of Americans, whose hearts matter just as much: the population of women who have had abortions.
1. You may know where the baby is going to come out, but your joints aren’t sure. So they alllllll relax, all over your body, just in case you need to prepare for, for instance, a mandibular delivery. On the up side, the spectacle of you trying to get out of a car with your useless, floppy puppet legs is hilarious, and will win you many admirers. Among jerks.
2. Doesn’t matter if it’s a penny, a pork chop, or the last existing original copy of the Declaration of Independence wrapped around the Koh-i-Noor diamond: if you drop it on the floor, it’s dead to you.
3. People can chatter all they like about “miracle drugs” that “cure cancer” or “save lives” or other trivial nonsense like that. You know what’s a miracle drug? Zantac. One dose, and your pantry shelves are suddenly full of food again, rather than leering, taunting lava grenades waiting to detonate in your esophagus.
4. Drool. So. Much. Drool. Don’t wait for baby; break out those rubberized sheets now.
5. Your body gets so excited about growing a brand new baby that it gets really ambitious, and starts growing all kinds of other things, too: skin tags; thick, glossy sideburns; a glowering, boundless resentment toward humanity in general.
6. Right this second, check if you can reach your toenails without blacking out. If you can, then trust me on this: trim them now.
7. I’ve never read any non-fiction by Chesterton. There. Whew. That doesn’t belong in this list, but it’s been weighing on me, and what if I die in childbirth and I never get a chance to confess it?
8. Turning over in bed becomes a 46-step process. The only benefit to this is that it gives the drool puddle on your pillow sufficient time to dry before you lay your cheek in it again. Also, your husband will enjoy the soothing sensation of having the mattress tossed around like a liferaft trying to get some distance from the Titanic.
9. Hey, remember round ligaments? REMEMBER THEM, YOU POOR SUFFERING SPECIMEN OF HUMANITY WHOSE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE OF LIFE HAS BECOME SEARING AGONY THAT GETS WORSE WHEN YOU DO EXTRAVAGANT THINGS LIKE BREATHING OR TURNING YOUR HEAD A TINY BIT? Yeah, me too.
10. Of course it’s all worth it blah blah blah miracle of life and so on. Where the drugs at?
If you’re new at being pregnant — if this, for instance, only your sixth or seventh child — you probably know how many weeks along you are. You will be able to recite exactly which fetal neurodendons are likely being formed at this moment, and can calculate to the minute how far away your due date is.
If this is, however, your ninth pregnancy or beyond, you take the longer view: all you can really be sure about is whether or not your water has broken yet. Not yet? Okay, then you gotta make supper again, darn it.
For those of us who have long ago abandoned our manuals and our pregnancy journals, here are some helpful tips for identifying whether you are in the third trimester:
1. Being pregnant is all you can think about. Say, for instance, that you’ve agreed to write three posts a week about Catholic culture, politics, liturgy, spirituality, and other matters of general interest to Catholic readers. The first topic that pops into your head is, “Have you seen my FEET?” Then, rather than thinking, “Wait, that doesn’t really have anything to do with Catholicism,” you go ahead and write about it.
2. You have totally relinquished anything like a sense of personal dignity. In theory, you know that you are one of the grande dames of the domestic church, the very mirror of Our Lady, anchor of civilization and hope of the future. But in practice, your one and only goal in life is finding the next bathroom as quickly as possible. There are only so many times you can walk into an exam room, find out how many elephants you could displace in a pool of water, and then let someone – erm, “take a look” at you in an exceptionally personal way, before it starts to take its toll on your avidity for decorum. “Hey,” you will find yourself barking at the guy in the toll booth, “Let’s speed this up! My cervix isn’t getting any less effaced!” He looks at you in a weird way, and you assume this is because HE has a problem.
3. You do an excellent imitation of efficiency, but are about as effective as a blindfolded duck. You make a doctor’s appointment, dream that you cancelled it, wake up and call a slightly baffled receptionist to reschedule, forget to write down the new date, notice the old date on the calendar at the “last minute,” show up ten minutes “late” in a frantic lather, and discover that you’re in the wrong building anyway. And wonder why the sheaves of “You and Your Colostomy” pamphlets in the waiting room didn’t tip you off. So as not to waste a trip, you stop at the supermarket at the way home, and then drop exhausted onto the couch, where you sleep through your real appointment, leaving four gallons of milk rotting in the sun the back of the car.
4. By 4 p.m., your aphasia is almost complete. You start out the day unable to remember nouns. By noon, verb and adjectives are on their way out. But by the time the kids come home from school, and you’re in charge of making sure they pack nutritious lunches, do their chores and homework, take showers, pick out clothes for tomorrow, and hand over all the important papers you’re responsible for as a caring parent, you’re reduced to standing in the middle of the kitchen pointing at their grinning faces and yelling, “You! That! Now, it! Oh, why can’t you!” Even God thinks this is funny.
5. In the immortal words of Lili Von Shtupp : Let’s face it, everything below the waist is kaput.
[This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011, which was the last time I was in the third trimester — during which, unlike this time, I could still come up with two words to rub together.]
Last week, the bishops of Kenya accused the WHO and UNICEF of secretly lacing a tetanus vaccine with a hormone intended to induce miscarriage and sterility in Kenyan women of childbearing age, in an effort to reduce the population. The bishops issued a press release, saying:
[W]e shall not waver in calling upon all Kenyans to avoid the tetanus vaccination campaign laced with Beta-HCG, because we are convinced that it is indeed a disguised population control programme.
We do know that the WHO and UNICEF do not take seriously the bodily integrity of poor families, especially women. The West has a shameful history of exploiting third world populations in the name of humanitarian efforts. So the bishops’ allegations are understandable, and if they are true, this is a dreadful crime against humanity. But if the allegations are false, then spreading the story could have disastrous results. Neonatal tetanus brings a prolonged and agonizing death to tens of thousands of children every year. If Kenyans are afraid to vaccinate against tetanus, people will die needlessly. That’s why I didn’t write about this story, even as it cropped up everywhere. All I could find was the same facts and sources in every story, no new information. Now we have some new information, and there is more on the horizon. The story is far from settled, but there are strong reasons to suspect that the bishops’ allegations arise from a misunderstanding and there has been no sterilization campaign. Catholic News Agency did an excellent job of reporting the story in a balanced way:
“There are aspects of this that need to be raising red flags because of history and because of the way it was all being done. But raising red flags doesn’t mean that there’s something that actually has occurred,” said Dr. Kevin Donovan, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University.
The red flags are primarily: (a) that the vaccination campaign targeted women of childbearing age, raising suspicions that the effort was tied to population control, and (b) that, when the vaccine was tested at the request of the Kenyan bishops, hCG was found. HCG, in high enough quantities, can induce miscarriage and sterilization. But these red flags can both be explained.
The WHO said that they decided to focus the vaccination campaign on women of reproductive age “because of the focus on eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus.” They also said that the methods needed to provide adequate protection against tetanus for unborn and newborn children require a different testing schedule than the one usually used for other forms of tetanus.
But what about the hCG detected in the vaccine? Why would it be in a tetanus vaccine at all, even in low levels “millions of times less than the amount needed to trigger this contraceptive response“? The WHO and Donovan both noted that the techniques used by the labs who tested the vaccines, and the reports they produced, are irregular and problematic. One likely explanation for the small levels of hCG detected? A false positive. Donovan explains:
“If these were labs that were using tips to test for pregnancy and such, they may not be the appropriate measuring techniques for picking up small amounts of hCG, leading to false positives.”
“I suspect that the tests that the hospital labs tried to do for the Catholic bishops weren’t really designed to test the way that they did, maybe giving them erroneous results,” he added.
For a detailed and rigorous explanation of why it is by no means certain that the tetanus vaccine is anything but a tetanus vaccine, Rational Catholic has once again done the legwork , sifting carefully through the possibilities of what may or may not have happened here, and explaining in detail how a false positive could have been found. Rational Catholic also notes:
I have seen the lab results from the tests performed at the request of the bishops in Kenya, and my understanding is that they will be published shortly in an online news source. I will update and link to them when that happens.
The main obstacle to finding the truth seems to be that the local government in Kenya did not initially take the bishops’ concerns seriously, but that may be changing.According to a Kenyan newspaper, (link courtesy of the Rational Catholic post)
[T]he Parliamentary Committee on Health ruled that a joint team of experts from the Ministry of Health, Catholic Church and other stakeholders would conduct a fresh round of independent medical tests to end the controversy on the safety of the vaccines.
There is mistrust and bad feeling on both sides, but it is clear that both the Kenyan bishops and the Kenyan government are eager to make sure that Kenyans are not dissuaded from protecting themselves from a vaccine that saves lives, so we can only pray that the new round of testing will be definitive and that the results will be shared in a clear and transparent way. In the mean time, I urge concerned readers with good intentions to stop spreading the story that the vaccine was deliberately and secretly contaminated. This has not been proven, and can only add to the general confusion about vaccine safety.
PIC Wallace on train
The train is whizzing out of control, and he can’t get off, slow down, or change course. In desperation, Gromit snatches a box of spare tracks and frantically lays them on the floor ahead, just split seconds before the train he’s on thunders over them.
This is more or less what it’s like to raise a child. Yes, you have to work frantically to stay ahead of that train; but no, you’re not exactly in control.
Read the rest at the Register.