Jan 30, 2005

sleepless in seattle

Part two of the baby chronicles: After my wife was all stitched up and both her and the baby were poked and prodded a few times, they whisked us off to a very nice suite where we recuperated for 5 days (more than usual because of the C-section). I must say that our hospital was incredible. In fact my wife wants to go back for our second child even though we'll be 3,000 miles away.

Things calm down a bit now which is the idea. The hospital was very good at having people come by periodically to suggest things and do their checkups on everyone. But in general, you get to sit around and stare at your child. And stare was about all we could do. Even though my wife and I had been up for a full 28 hours at this point you are buzzed with adrenaline. You couldn't possibly go to sleep. And we didn't for at least another 40 hours or so. 'You go to sleep.' 'No no I'm fine you go to sleep'. Evolution must be working her magic here to make sure the baby has at least a few hours of complete protection. The baby is just plain helpless. You don't feel like you can leave for one second because if they need anything, you are their only hope. It's not a stressful feeling. In fact it's a warm feeling.

In addition to the inability to get to sleep, you also sleep very lightly. I am a notoriously deep sleeper. My wife realized after a while that she literally needs to shove me hard to get me up. I research and test alarm clocks extensively before purchasing. They need to have a double alarm, and they need a radio option as a last resort that is always set on full volume. I don't get up easy. But now I sleep light as a feather. The baby hiccups and I'm up. Actually I didn't realize I was getting up so quickly at first and I would apologize profusely to my wife that it took so long to get up. She had not idea what I was talking about. 'You got up as soon as the baby moved.' The other thing I realized was you can't fall asleep on your baby. I worried about this because I was such a deep sleeper. But I've watched my wife and I've slept a couple times with the baby next to me and my wife has watched me. We don't move. Not a twitch.

I had always wondered why babies are so helpless when they're born. Most animals that jump up and bolt off after birth. I forget where I read about this (probably Gould) but the reason babies are helpless and the reason that childbirth is such a pain, is because we walk upright. Ever watched a monkey walk? It's awkward. They have to roll their legs around their hips to get a leg out in front. They waddle more than walk. In order to walk efficiently legs need to rotate inward (consider the femur the axis of rotation). The only way to do this is to rotate what is holding the femur; namely the hip. Rotate the hip in and the birth canal shrinks. Add to this the fact that more weight now needs to be supported by the hip and the bones need to thicken; again shrinking the birth canal. Add to this the fact that our brains were probably growing larger while this was occurring (australopithecus genus). Smaller birth canal and a larger head doesn't leave a lot of options. There is a clever solution that worked though. Pop the baby out before it's fully grown. Our baby for all practical purposes is still a fetus. Can't walk, can't move, can't support her head. Some estimates put the true birth time at 9 months later. Can you imagine gestating for 18 months?

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