The Miracle of Birth? Not Really
This is one of life’s great misplaced expressions. There is nothing at all miraculous about giving birth. Just about any woman can do it, and it’s happening every second of every day. Birth is a natural function of the body, and is thus really no more miraculous than the organismal feats of turning food into energy, or using oxygen as a catalyst for life. Yet no one speaks of “the miracle of breathing,” as mystifying as that process actually is, because it is completely commonplace and explicable by science — just like birth. Sorry to be harsh, but there ain’t nothing special about getting knocked up. In most cases, it’s easier than getting a driver’s license.
The miracle, if you ask me, comes afterwards. The miracle isn’t in the act of birth, but in the commitment of parenting — the heroic promise you’ve made to ride this thing out until either you or your kid is dead, no matter what. Parenting goes against every one of our naturally selfish instincts to maximize pleasure and minimize stress. It defies lots of science’s rules, but we do it anyway. In spite of all the unpredictable, unfixable, unthinkable things that happen in this world, parents forge ahead and sacrifice over and over, driven by a genuine desire to make today better than yesterday for this very needy, demanding little person that costs a fortune. That’s way more incredible, right?
Not only that, but somehow, after the doctors just let you walk out of the hospital with your infant, most of us find a way to make it work. That’s a miracle too. The average person can’t assemble an Ikea coffee table without instructions, but we instinctively know how to raise a baby into adulthood without totally screwing up our lives or theirs. Parenting not only comes naturally, but most of us actually desire this tremendous undertaking. That’s the kind of strange divine gift that science can’t explain, and a miracle we should celebrate more often.
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© 2012, Ian Mathias
Are we talking giving birth or the actual creation and development of the baby?
I’m pretty sure the act of giving birth is a miracle in and of itself. A miracle that every husband isn’t strangled in the delivery room.
Go ask your mother if it’s a miracle or not. She’ll tell you.
Someone on reddit said, “Miracle may not be the right word. But a ‘feat’ may be better. Childbirth is motherfucking crazy. And amazing.” I think that’s just about right.
You’re splitting hairs with your definition and perspective of the word miracle. And, although I understand your opinion- I disagree. That being said, I also like your comparison- reminds me of that Hallmark stuff- something about the difference between being a father and a daddy. Cute.
Seriously though, I will say that this time around (I have had two VERY different birthing experiences) I went au natural. Biologically speaking this time- my body took over and performed all of the creation and birthing reflexes. It was cool. Aside from making a conscious decision to chart my schedule and do the deed (romantic, eh?) I was a mere bystander. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my ego was bruised/relieved “whoa- I really had very little control/to do with this!” after it was all said and done.
Juxtapose that with my last experience- the doctors got a baby out of me who was stuck in my hips. All reflex? Nay.
Maybe the miracle is that the human body, at full maturation, can be fairly self sufficient.
But from a conception standpoint…Tread lightly who you suggest this to- couples who cannot conceive, specifically. These people spend thousands of dollars, countless years and when or even if they create life…it’s a fucking miracle. Please believe that…and maybe apply your chapters 3, 4 and possibly this part of 6 (depending on if you have children) “I have no actual perspective on this matter.”
Great comment, really. Thanks!
My pleasure! Good, thought provoking stuff here. I’m about to turn 32. I can relate.
great post, just wanted to say in response to “Parenting not only comes naturally, but most of us actually desire this tremendous undertaking. That’s the kind of strange divine gift that science can’t explain” that while science can’t fully explain it, we do have a fairly good understanding of it. I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on the subject, but I think the desire to become a parent can be explained pretty well by maternal instinct and certain chemicals in our bodies that make us ‘broody’. As for teaching our kids, it’s a bit more complicated, but not all baby animals know how to survive through instinct, some of it is observational learning. So animals know how to be parents too in some way, leading me to be inclined to believe there is some instinct about the whole thing.
I think you should watch the great sperm race (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAnMymnJiLM) this is just part one. It is pretty miraculous (biologically) that babies are formed considering all the crap a sperm has to go through.
After 3 miscarriages, and a fourth pregnancy about to result in a baby being born in 2 days I can finally understand why someone would use the term “miracle.” You watch people all around you “effortlessly” get pregnant and pop out a baby, only to find out that they had a hard time conceiving, or they too suffered miscarriages after seeing their babies’ heartbeat in an ultrasound, or their baby was born premature without a heartbeat and needed resuscitation. The miracle of childbirth is a result of this crazy act of a sperm and egg colliding, and then an unfathomable series of snowballing events results, and if a human life is born 40 weeks later and the mother survives the process, it is easy to see how it can be seen as a “miracle.” Maybe miracle isn’t the right word, because life itself is a pretty amazing event, but from what people have told me and the emotions I have been facing I feel like brushing off this phrase so callously in a way ignores point number 10 and strips emotion and empathy from the perspective of why this phrase was ever uttered to begin with. No one who never had a child came up with this phrase by observing it as an outsider. Ok im ranting now. Sorry.
Great comment. It’s probably safe to say every viewpoint we have is molded by our own experience. Someone with MS, for example, might consider walking a miracle, though you and I don’t. But I hear you loud and clear… thanks for sharing that.
You say that “Parenting not only comes naturally, but most of us actually desire this tremendous undertaking. That’s the kind of strange divine gift that science can’t explain, and a miracle we should celebrate more often.”
Sorry to point this out, but science explains this “divine gift” perfectly. It is a evolutionary advantage to want to become a parent, because that means you get to pass down your genes. Similarly, it makes sense that we “know” how to raise a baby, at least to some extent (not nearly everyone knows how to do it well).
That may be true, but it makes little scientific sense to raise kids past their teens. Might make lots of emotional sense, but we generally treat our kids way better than what would just be required to pass down genes.
Raising them past teens increases their success rate exponentially. Putting an underdeveloped human brain to compete with other grown adults would result in the teens having a lesser rate of survival, and passing on their genes, than would caring for a child until he reaches maturity, both mentally (brain dosent stop developing until 21 or more) and financially.
When I first started reading this chapter, in regards to the birth-ain’t-nothing-special remarks, I thought: “Oh no, he’s a total hater. Blah, blah.” But you managed to segue into an amazing summary of why good parenting is so special and SO important. Bravo.
After reading this, what resonated a lot in me is that, as a young woman in professional school, I have had the option of getting pregnant and giving birth for 10+ years now (if we’re talking puberty and so on) but I’m nowhere NEAR the age, or rather proper mind-set, of being a parent. I’m okay with that. I would rather wait, grow more mentally & spiritually, find the right person to experience this part of my life with and be confident in my instinctual abilities, than wing it and see what nature (or “God”, etc.) has given me to work with.
Everything is a miracle and all science can do is ‘describing’ processes and applying them to a certain degree. Quantum physics shows us how silly it is to think life is something that can be ‘understood’, let alone ‘controlled’. I’ve stopped trying to put everything in a box, including myself, and it feels wonderful. I believe that I am consciousness itself, that what precedes thoughts and other stuff appearing in it, and ‘life’ is unfolding in me. Maybe I’m a mystic (just another attempt to put something in the box – hey, I’m still human, so it happens 🙂
It’s a miracle for the baby mostly because he or she almost didn’t get here, for the parents not so much, they will probably end up having babies regardless, whether it’s you or another baby.
birth is a miracle given the right conditions, just as Earth and life on earth are a miracle. If you think that everything is just coincidence or not a miracle because thats the way it should work, you are just a scientist-wannabe-religionhater. Yes birth and life needs perfect conditions which dont happen just anywhere although we have lots of women giving birth every second, yet there is no life on any other planet nearby. You get the whole big picture? so yes it is a miracle if you do the math.