Earlier this week was a short news item about a lady who gave birth to a 23 week old baby. My niece was also born at 23 weeks. I remember how tiny and shrivelled she looked, with puckered flesh that looked as though she’d been skinned. Her body hadn’t had a chance to go through the fuzzy stage. She was so tiny she was no longer than the length of my hand, a Polly Pocket in exquisite detail, and weighed so little you could barely feel her. Unlike this other baby my niece was in an incubator for several weeks. I cannot remember the exact details surrounding her post-birth hospitalization, but I do recall it was a long time before she came home. That was fifteen years ago. Technology has advanced, medicine has progressed and yet it is still miraculous that a baby can survive being born at 23 weeks. This is information that the anti-abortion league use time and again to state their case that the current 24-week minimum is too high, and it is a very hard argument to counter. But the few who do manage to make it at 23 weeks, and successfully at that – without serious problems – does not make it a guarantee. I am not here to argue for or against abortion. I would never sit and make that decision for another woman and, despite the amazing story of my niece, nor do I question whether the 24 week deadline is medically sound.
The womb is a marvellous organ that we still are unable to replicate (thank goodness), but the womb transplant that happened last month is an amazing compromise. I can just see several books on that very subject lining the ‘christmas present’ shelves now. Perhaps even one where the transplanted womb is already impregnated! Publishers, are you reading this? Ought I to put a copyright symbol next to that thought?
My children both went over their alloted time. Even when the contractions were cranked right up my daughter was far too content to relinquish the safety of spongy nest. I don’t blame her. Nourishment on tap, a ready-made carry-cot, no chores or homework, the 24-hour comfort of being cuddled by mum, no showers or baths, no-one to say ‘stop that!’, and no dental treatment.
Which brings me to the heaviest baby born weighing in just under 30lbs! It makes my eyes water just to think of that. I couldn’t bring myself to read the article so I have no idea if the mother was very tall, if it was a long labour (I hope not), if the baby was full/post term, whether it was a natural (eyes watering again) birth or c-section. Nor do I want to know so please don’t message me with the details, but it just goes to show that even in the human race we can go from under a pound to nearly 30lbs birth weight. Where does that put the average now?
What I will say is I am so very glad I am past the age when I need think about such things. Or am I? Yes, I’m thinking of the 70 year-old woman who gave birth to a beautiful girl. She’d wanted children all her life and did not want to die being thought of as barren. 18 months later she was dying, too ill and too frail to lift her daughter. That poor little girl. That is far too young an age to have to watch your mother suffer and die. But the mother was content: “I dreamed about having a child all my life. It does not matter to me that I am ill, because at least I lived long enough to become a mother.”
Pride is a vicious and selfish master that saps common sense.