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T H E E S T A B - L O I D --------------------------------- Issue #5 2-25-86 --------------------------------- A weekly electronic magazine for users of The Establishment BBS (894-6526) owned and operated by Thane Smith Editor - Gene B. Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . You may share this magazine with your friends under the . . condition that the magazine remain complete and intact, . . with no editing, revisions or modifications of any kind, . . and including this opening section and statement. . . If you like the magazine, the Sysop and I would appre- . . ciate it if you would let your friends know where they . . can log in to find the magazine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (c) 1986 THIS ISSUE: Okay, here we go. Due to all the kind and wonderful comments I feel free to indulge myself and talk about the birth of my child, and birth in general. I might suggest that you flick on the capture mode. I got a bit carried away this week, and a long one is coming. As was suggested, consider this first part as a disclaimer. This week's topic concerns that taboo topic of sex and the creation of life. (Oh, horrors!) There's just a little blood, and no death or dismembered bodies, so if you're one of the die-hards who is trying to protect our morality, you'd better skip this issue. (As a personal comment, it has always seemed strange to me that movies showing people getting blown to shreds can be rated G or PG, while movies about LIFE are kept hidden away. I've been on both sides in real life, and believe me - the creation of life is much more humanistic than taking of it.) With the disclaimer aside: I'm not a doctor. And I have no special knowledge, other than the fact that I've been through it - and, as a writer, my natural curiosity drove me to learn more about it than the norm. Feel free to ask questions or to start a discussion (including one on the insanity of having violence sanctioned while sex is forbidden). If you feel embarrassed, or just want to talk about it personally, contact me via the mail section. I'll do what I can. THE FAMOUS "BABY ISSUE" At 6:03 AM, February 12th, 1986, my first child was born. He weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and measured in at a length of 19 1/2 inches. That's just slightly large for a baby, but is nothing all that unusual. What was unusual was that he came *exactly* on the due date, despite what the doctors had been telling us. In fact, Tuesday morning on the 11th we went to see the doctor. He said that the baby wouldn't be coming for another week. We fooled him. By 10 PM that night the cervical plug came out, and labor was well under way. We checked into the hospital at about midnight. Six hours later there was a new life in the world with the name of Daniel Gorden Williams. I've done many things in my life. Again, stirred on by a natural curiosity, I've been lucky enough to experience more than most. But, from start to end, this *has* to rank as the single greatest thing ever. Conception You know the scientific part of it. Keeping it clean, during intercourse several millions of sperm are released. Most of these die almost instantly due to the acidity of the female. More get themselves zapped out of existence because they were never formed right in the first place. A few thousand manage to survive and start the long swim. Kinda like the picture many people have of the salmon spawning. In any case, a few of the testy little buggers manage to make it all the way to the egg. Immediately they start burrowing in. Only one makes it. The odds for an individual sperm are much worse than the odds of any particular person becoming president. Think of all your friends, and all their friends, and all the people across the United States you don't know and never will. Of all of that, everyone is going to try, but everyone is going to fail except for one. That single sperm works its way through the egg casing and the DNA is shared. Another miracle. Here we have a handful - and a small handful at that - of chemical structures that kinda hang onto the side of a one-sided ladder. Each is like a key, and will fit into only very specific other keys. Think of that ladder again, and one that is, say, a mile in length. The Jolly Green Giant has stamped his foot down through the center of the entire ladder, and all the rungs are shattered to bits. You have all the parts, though, and it's your job to take a bottle of Elmer's Glue and stick it all back together again so that the repaired ladder is idental to the original. You have to do it just right. The thing is, each rung of that massive ladder also contains a secret clue for the greatest treasure ever imagined. Screw up just one rung and you'll never find the treasure. All that happens automatically. You don't have to think about it, and you certainly don't have to get out any glue. Growth The two halves of that ladder come together. That triggers a cycle that won't stop for about another 80 odd years. Two half cells combine to make a single whole cell (sorta). The first that cell wants to do is to split into two more whole cells. Now you have two whole cells. Each of those also wants to split - and now you have 4 - which want to split - and now you have 8 - which want to split - and now you have 16 - and so on. Let this go unregulated and what you end up with is a huge pot of shapeless oatmeal. But that doesn't happen. It's not often that a woman gives birth to a bouncing bowl of hot breakfast. Instead, at a certain point there are an almost countless number of sub-cellular executive meetings down inside. The cells begin to specialize. Some turn into eyes (with additional specializations happening, with some of those turning into rods, others into cones, others into the cornea, etc., etc., etc.). Some make up the muscles and some blend in to make up the nervous system to work the muscles. Some of it turns into the hundreds of various parts that are needed to make it possible to do the whole things all over again in about 15 years. It goes on and on that way. From a sperm and an egg - neither of which is complete in itself - comes a whole cell. From that cell comes all the specialized cells that make up the human body. And they all end up in the right places. (How often have you seen someone with a part of an eye growing out of his big toe?) The thought of all the things that can go wrong within all that complication and specialization can be scary. And nature *does* make mistakes now and then. Birth defects exist - but they are relatively rare. Especially when you consider what has to happen. Considering what has to happen, it's amazing that any of us are anything other than those pots of oatmeal. (Think about it for a while!) Pregnancy Not all that long ago, and still to be found in some parts of the world today, the whole thing went something like this: Mr. Big Honcho got horny. But that was okay. God in His infinite wisdom had created an animal that was just perfect as both a slave and as a "vessel of pleasure" for the one TRUE creation of God - man. The woman would get pregnant as a result. But life had to go on. The man had his work, and the woman had hers. Quite often, neither job was all that pleasant. It wasn't unusual for both to work HARD from before the sun came up until after it went down, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The fact that the woman's body was going through changes didn't matter. The diet wasn't much good, either - what diet there was. The result was that a high percentage of the new babies that came into the world never made it to see their first birthday. About half of them didn't live that long. (Think about that next time you're sitting around the family dinner table - or at a party with some friends. Until relatively recently, about half of them wouldn't be there.) And more than a few women died giving birth, or died shortly thereafter from massive bleeding, infection, etc. In short, if you wanted a family of husband, wife and 3 kids, you just about had to go through more than one wife, and at least a half dozen births. All that has changed, at least in America. Infant death rate is very low in our country, and most of the infant deaths occur among the poor and underprivileged who are still living in conditions that are about as bad as those of our ancestors. I bring all this up to make a point. When your own time comes, something strange will happen in your brain (or should!). All of sudden you find yourself becoming concerned for the safety of the mother and baby. Think back at what has to take place for that baby to form. All that complexity has to click along flawlessly. Even a small mistake in there along the genetic chain and the billions upon billions of cells deivisions and specializations can mean that the child isn't going to be "whole," or perhaps won't even be alive. Yet somehow it all *does* take place flawlessly. At least it usually does. If the mother eats well, avoids all the bad stuff, takes care of herself in general, everything is going to be just fine. Regular visits to the doctor cost, but not all that much, really. And they make it possible to monitor the progress all along the way so as to spot any problems before they really become problems. Labor When most of us were born, the tradition was to run the wife to the hospital at top speed, shuffle her into the icy delivery room - and shuffle the husband off into a waiting room. And to make matters worse, momma would often get knocked out with huge doses of anesthesia. Don't let anyone fool you. Giving birth HURTS! And it's a bloody mess. The doctors thought they were doing right to keep the father out of the way, and the mother unconscious to the pain. Think of what is taking place. A little body of somewhere around 8 pounds is trying to squeeze down through a tunnel that normally resists the passage of even a finger. For intercourse to take place without pain for the woman, lubrication is needed just so the penis (just slightly over an inch thick) can enter. Now all of a sudden a head and shoulders has to pass down through that same vagina. To use an analogy that many others have used, imagine "trying to shit a watermelon." (Excuse me.) At the top of the vagina is the cervix. This is a very small hole that leads to the uterus. After conception the cervix gets corked up tight with a plug of mucus. The uterus then becomes a completely sealed bag. At the beginning of labor the cervix softens, begins to expand, and the plug comes out. (It looks like just what it is - a hunk of gooey mucus.) As labor progresses, the cervix continues to expand until it is about 5 inches wide. (Hold your fingers up.) The uterus itself is actually a muscle. It's the involuntary flexing of this muscle that makes up what are called "contrac tions." That's just what they are, afterall. And they hurt, too. Imagine a major set of muscles in your body having a huge charley horse every minute or so and you'll get the idea. Those contractions dilate the cervix and also help to push the baby out of the uterus and down the birth canal. (The rest of the push comes from the mother.) For the reasons explained above, this time isn't real fun for mom. Here comes that watermelon. The cervix has expanded enough to allow a fairly passage for the baby. The opening of the vagina hasn't. And if it doesn't open up far enough, the flesh can be torn - literally - by the baby's head coming through. To prevent this, and especially on first births, the doctor will probably perform an episiotomy (I hope I spelled that right). This is kinda like artificially making the opening larger. A cut is made beneath the vagina and down towards the anus - the area called the perineum (and I hope I spelled that right, too). This is where the tearing will take place if it's going to. There's a lot of argument as to the need for this minor operation. Less than half of women giving birth will tear. The other half will be just fine. Trouble is, the doctor's skilled incision is a nice, clean cut - easily stitched up afterwards. A tear isn't so clean and *can* present problems later on. To cut, or not to cut. . . that is the question. When your own time comes, this is something you'll have to decide for yourself - although the doctor may take the decision out of your hands anyway. If it looks like there will be tearing, he may even go against his promise not to cut and do the incision - as a semi-emergency operation. Whichever way it goes, it's no big deal. Most women never even feel the cut; and it virtually always heals up without difficulty, other than the little itching that comes with the healing of most wounds. Back to the birth: The final stage - called transition - is fairly quick. It's almost always less than 2 hours in length, and is quite often as little as a half hour. This is also when things get real messy. Through the labor, the woman has been bleeding. The placenta (the bag that holds the baby) has often broken open. The fluid may have been trickling out, or may have come out in a gush. Hopefully, it is a clear liquid, and should have no odor at all. At the end, if the placenta hasn't already broken open, it will then. Or the doctor will break it. No matter what, it has to break. Although it isn't always the case, the most common birth is head first. The head pushes its way through the wide-open cervix and the pelvic bones and slides down through the vagina - lubricated by blood and placental fluid. When the top of the head first peaks out through the vagina (called "crowning") it's almost over. The mother pushes like crazy, and eventually the doctor can get his hands on the baby's head to assist - and to protect the baby. Delivering the head is the worst part. Once that pops out, delivery of the shoulders is a breeze. The vagina has been forced wide open by this point. Generally it is a matter of seconds between the head and the shoulders. And suddenly there he or she is! At this point many women report a sense of near euphoria. The pain suddenly stops and the body is washed with relief. The Newborn When Danny came out, he was the strangest sight I'd ever seen. He, the doctor and the table were covered with blood and goo. (Again - no odor; just messy.) There was a general grayish cast to him, and his head looked like it was larger than all the rest of his body, and horribly misshapen. I was prepared for this, but I can imagine the thoughts someone would have who wasn't prepared. "My God! I have a deformed baby!" Bill Cosby did a skit on childbirth. In it he describes the doctor sitting there "like Johnny Bench." Then when the child is born he turns to his wife and says, "You just gave birth to . . . a lizard." Very funny - and very accurate. The umbilical is gray and green and red and blue and purple and yellow and . . . it looks almost as bizarre as does the baby. But look fast. At this point everything happens quickly. As soon as the head comes out, everything shifts into high gear. Turn your head away for a few seconds and you'll miss something very important. In a matter of minutes after the head comes out, the birth is complete, the umbilical is cut, and the baby is shuffled off to be cleaned and checked. All that's left is for the doctor to make sure that the entire placenta has come out (or he has to go in and get it!) and for him (or her) to patch up and clean up the woman. Once again, she is barely conscious of this. Even the stitches don't hurt. Back to the baby's head: Due to the pushing and pulling and crushing it received, the baby becomes what is called a "conehead." A very apt description. The baby's head has been squeezed and molded into a very strange shape so as to make passage down the birth canal easier. It doesn't hurt the baby, and doesn't last all that long. (A baby's skull is actually quite soft.) Danny's birth was a hard one. Consequently, his wasn't just squeezed into a strange shape. It was actually injured. Two pockets of blood - like massive bruises - formed on the two sides of the top of his head. ("He's going to be a little devil," the doctor told us. "He already has two horns.") He has been with us for 2 weeks now, and the bumps are still there, although considerably smaller. If the birth of your own child is vaginal, it's head *will* have a strange shape. (The only babies that have well-shaped heads are those that are delivered by Cesearian.) Be prepared for it. In a month or less - and possible within a few hours - it will take on its normal shape. Meanwhile, it doesn't affect the baby in any way, so don't worry about it. Involvement It used to be that the father was shuffled off into a waiting room, and mom was knocked out. This has been shown to be the worst way to give birth, and fortunately things are changing. (Building a family is . . . well, a FAMILY thing! It's not a doctor thing, or a hospital thing.) With the mother fully conscious, she can provide the pushing needed for an easy and safe birth. Unconscious, the doctor has to rely on the involuntary contractions only, which often means that he has to go get the baby, rather than letting the baby come to him. That can cause damage to the mother, and to the baby. Worse yet, the drugs that knock out the mother also get into the baby. And those are potent drugs. The baby in this case is born stoned out of his mind and with all systems heavily depressed by the drugs. His respiratory system, for example, has to struggle enough to get working. If the anaesthesia makes it more difficult for that to happen, the baby is going to need some help to breathe. As vicious as are the pains, most women can take it quite well. Get rid of that macho image. By point of fact, the average woman is actually stronger internally and more resilient than the average man. If our society didn't train us from birth to think of women as "the weaker sex," the hang-up wouldn't exist. Even so, there are drugs and techniques available that can take the edge of the pains without affecting the mother's consciousness in the slightest, and which don't affect the baby at all. This allows the mother to be completely aware of what is going on, but without quite as intense pain. And just minutes after the birth, she's ready to give the child his first taste of food. The shuffling off of the father has always been a sore point with me. Just before entering college I had a choice to make. I was a chaffeur and body guard for a prominent judge, and he wanted to get me into law school. I had a scholarship offered to me to enter any engineering science I cared for. My real dream was to go into obstetrics. Trouble there was that the girlfriend at the time hated the idea of me examining women as a profession. I abandoned that dream, but never abandoned the interest. Being a close part of having a child was a way of reviving that interest to a peak. To me, the perfect marriage is one in which your wife and lover is also your best friend. And who is better to have standing next to you at such a critical time as your best friend? Even if I was totally lacking in medical knowledge, my being there with Cindy throughout the pregnancy and birth gave her the support and strength she needed. Any husband can do the same, if he wishes. Early in the pregnancy I made it a point to take my wife in for her regular visits with the doctor. We were even together during the examinations. Many guys I've known have strange ideas of what takes place in the examination room. I've known some guys who even get insanely jealous, and take that out on the woman afterwards. But it takes just a little effort to figure it out. The woman bares herself, literally, and is up there on the table with her legs spread-eagled to a stranger. It's true that the doctor is coldly professional. There's nothing sexual about this for him (or her), any more than a mechanic gets turned on after he has changed out his 10,000th carb. Intellectually the woman knows this - but it's still an embarrassing thing. Our female users know what I mean. For you guys who don't, think of yourself bare-assed at the next GT, sitting up on a picnic table with your legs spread wide open and strapped down while everyone walks by and pokes and prods and discusses. That's an exaggeration, but should give you some idea. Having the husband and best friend standing there sounds like it would make it all the worse. Not so. The two of you were together for the conception. Hopefully you'll be there together for the birth. So, why not be there through everything? If nothing else, you'll quickly learn how little there is to it. Listening to the baby's heartbeat inside the womb is something NO ONE should miss. If you've never heard it, think of any of the old WWII movies with submarines. The chugga chugga chugga shoosh shoosh shoosh of the underwater engines describes the sound very well. In fact, if you were ever to make such a movie, and used a baby's heartbeat for the sound effects, nobody in the audience (other than a doctor) would know the difference. The birth itself is messy, as I've said. It's also possible that the pushing will cause the woman to take a dump (excuse me again) on the table. No big deal. The doctor and nurses have seen all that before a thousand times and will clean it away without a second's hesitation. There is a steady flow of blood throughout the last stages. The vagina is magically transformed to something of sexual interest to something different. It's just not the same. And for perhaps the first time, you'll see things as the doctor does. Admittedly, I'm a bit tougher than the average person when it comes to dealing with blood and messes. But I honestly feel that all but the weakest will be able to stand the sight - and will, in fact, not think anything of it at all. If the time comes, and the sight of blood, etc. is getting to you, keep in mind that she's not hurt. She's in pain, sure - but she's not hurt. This isn't an accident with injuries, but the coming of a new life in the world, and a life *you* are responsible for. When things get at the messiest, it's just about over. If you still can't stand the sight, then just stay at the head of the delivery table and give her all your moral support. Let her squeeze your hand through the pain; give her some crushed ice to quench her thirst; give her words of encouragement; take her insults and yelling without response if it comes to that, knowing that she doesn't mean it when she calls you names; make it easier for her. Simply be there, and don't watch anything. But BE THERE! You won't regret it. UNTIL NEXT TIME I got a little carried away with this issue. Sorry. But I could have gotten even more carried away. It's even tempting to do up something like, "A New Father's Reflections" or something along those lines. Maybe one of these days I will. It *does* concern me that there is so much misunderstanding of all this. Sex is dirty, while killing is "clean" and fun. That's backwards. As I started out saying - I'm not a doctor, and am certainly no great authority on the subject, but I'll do what I can to answer questions or to support a discussion. If you don't feel that your question or comment is appropriate to the board, leave it to me in mail. Next week: This was a very long and very serious issue. Maybe next time around I'll go back to the lighter side again, or at least do up a piece of fiction. Keep in mind that this board exists strictly for YOU. It really does need your continued support. And we really don't want to remain as an exclusive little group. The word needs to be spread across the Valley. The magazine is here! And there are no successful imitations to it anywhere in the country that I know of. We're something special and unique in the world. Let's share that with as many others as possible. (It's the only pay I get for this.)
Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.