Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Not Buying It

It's easy to get sucked into the parenting world, to feel as if you should be doing yoga every waking minute and that everything you eat should be brimming with vitamins and nutrients. To feel as if you need to get rid of all the toxin-containing plastics and use only organic shampoos, to question the safety of everything from riding the bus to having a sip of wine.  Not that I've had any wine--my alcohol tolerance being what it is means that the baby would get much more alcohol than expected.

And while I'm all for being informed and making well-considered decisions, a lot of this seems like overkill. I mean, mankind has, for 50,000 years at least, managed to make babies and pop them out with a lot less knowledge and a lot more superstition than we have these days.  In Mongolia, where diets are something like 98% meat-and-animal based, children are born with eyes, ears, ten fingers and ten toes, much like everywhere else in the world.  And in the Amazon, babies are born and raised and become healthy adults in spite of the slew of unmentionable parasites and diseases that one can get in a tropical rain forest.  I'm not suggesting that new mothers-to-be adopt any of these, or that you should just eat potato chips for the next nine months (a bad idea, even if you're a guy).  Only that, if healthy babies can be born under these conditions, there probably isn't anything to worry about for someone like me:  where the water is safe to drink and all the comforts of civilization await my whims.  So, while I will not dye my hair or take other unnecessary and obvious risks, nor will I worry overly much about things like touching plastic or walking next to a busy road.

A lot of the worry and fears comes out of a need to stamp and seal the future, I think.  God knows, Karel and I have both fantasized about life with a Little It.  There's a need for certainty, or at least gaming the biology towards the most optimal outcomes.  Buying organic-slaughtered-by-your-best-friend-beef and using baking soda in lieu of shampoo allows us to feel that we are doing something about a process that, frankly, we can do quite literally diddly-shit about.  We can't "enhance" the development of the little brain (whatever that means), much as though we'd like.  We can't confer genes for athleticism that we don't have, nor can we guarantee that piping music into its womb will make it a muscial genius.  We do what we can--eat healthy, exercise, keep calm and carry on--and leave the rest up to that mysterious thing we call "Life".  


  1. I think you've got it exactly right: you'll need to extend that umbrella perspective to include the baby once (s)he arrives. The same concerns about what they eat/touch/see bubble up all the time in the first year, but I think that the body grows and strengthens through interaction with the environment (certainly the immune system does). So we tended towards pushing love, attention, and outings as the important bits to include.
    You've also got 30,000 years of instinct behind you: You'll both do great!

  2. I stopped reading pregnancy websites about 3 weeks in. I decided that constantly feeling guilty was probably doing a lot more harm than occasionally having a few potato chips.