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Letter From a Pregnant Person on Atul Gawande

Filed under: Letters & Challenges   Tagged: ,

My friend Hillery Stone, waiting to go into labor in the spring, found herself reading the May 1 New Yorker with Daniel Raeburn’s harrowing memoir about his and his wife’s stillborn baby. She left the magazine in the hospital while otherwise occupied, then tracked it down weeks later after her (healthy, luckily) baby was born so she could finish the story she’d been so mesermerized and moved by. Another pregnant person I know—my sister Kate, like whom I wish I could shimmy—found it hard to avoid Atul Gawande’s story about modern childbirth this week:
Was that NYer story on childbirth scary or what? I’m trying to block it out, now that I’ve read it and obsessed over it for 24 hours. When it comes to public discussion about the possible perils of childbirth, we’re not much further than we were in Jane Austen days, where women just disappeared upstairs for a few months and came back down with a baby. Now there’s WAY more discussion of the pregnancy itself (weight gain, nutrition, whether to have your baby listen to Mozart in the womb, etc.) but still almost no conversation—even private conversation—about the scary parts, the high miscarriage rates and the multiplying C-sections and the childbirth mishaps. It’s almost a taboo subject, and when you do try to bring it up wtih other pregnant women, they become offended and upset.
So it was nice to read something that actually lays it all out there in an honest way, saying both that there are dangers and also that medical science has countered many of them through increased C-sections. Also to read the detailed description of the C-section, which everyone talks about as no big deal, but which is actually serious surgery!!! Still, as a pregnant woman intent on a vaginal, no-drugs delivery, it was scary to think about how little I know about what will actually happen when I go in, and how few options remain for modern doctors other than cutting me open. Eep.


After reading that article, I congratulated myself on my decision to never get pregnant, not ever ever ever. No, never. Nuh-uh. No-o-o-o.

All I can say is that whenever I find a pregnant woman annoying (and my pregnant friends admit to being rather narcissistic and, well, annoying, for a few months), I’ll try and be nicer and more tolerant, knowing what she’s in for.

BTW, I notice how you anticipate future evolutions/mutations in human reproduction by choosing to refer to a pregnant “person,” as if perhaps someday a pregnant man will read this post and thereupon not feel slighted. Very prescient of you!

Thank you for your interesting post!
I thought perhaps you may find this related post about new article by Atul Gawande interesting to you:
Longevity Science: The Way We Age

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