Obstetricians are lifeguards

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Lifeguards are over used.

Think about it:

  • Swimming is a natural process.
  • Water is entirely natural.
  • Animals swim all the time without difficulty.
  • If death by drowning were common we wouldn’t be here.
  • Most rescues result in children and adults who are perfectly fine.

Yet despite these incontrovertible facts, people have been socialized to believe that public pools and public beaches need lifeguards.

Some children are just meant to drown.

We should simply trust swimmming.

Our ancestors trusted swimming. They swam in lakes, rivers and oceans and never used lifeguards. Children were free to jump into filled quarries and from small cliffs and frolicked at the seashore without anyone watching for sharks. Everyone understood that some people are just meant to drown.

The last 100 years have seen the rise of the lifeguard with all the technology that implies. Lifeguards sit on tall chairs above swimmers as though they knew more about swimming than the swimmers themselves. They carry whistles (unnatural), use binonculars (unnatural) and have rescue equipment like jet skis (highly technological) at their disposal.

Most of what they do is thoroughly unnecessary. Yes, some people really do need to be rescued from drowning. How do we know? Those are the people who sustain permanent brain damage or die despite rescue. But the truth is that most people “rescued” by lifeguards end up perfectly fine, demonstrating that they didn’t need to be rescued in the first place.

So why are there so many unnecessary rescues?

Isn’t it obvious? Lifeguards are worried that if we understood how uncommon drowning really is, their incomes would be threatened. Therefore they stage “rescues” of floundering men, women and children that were entirely unnecessary.

How accurate in lifeguard monitoring anyway? Judging by the fact that most of the people pulled from the water don’t even require professional medical care, lifeguard monitoring is basically useless.

Why is lifeguard monitoring such a failure? It’s because lifeguard monitoring has high sensitivity, but low specificity. Sure, if you are really drowning (as demonstrated by your subsequent death), lifeguards will recognize it nearly every time (high sensitivity). But many people who appear to be drowning (flailing, lying motionless, disappearing under the surface without reappearing) are perfectly fine when plucked from the water (low specificity). Even those who don’t appear to be fine initially do quite well if transported to the local hospital for treatment.

We are spending a fortune on lifeguards who are entirely unnecessary. How can we simultaneously save money and return swimming to the natural process that it has always been? Instead of hiring lifeguards, we should hire certified professional monitors (CPMs) to preside over swimming. The hallmark of certified professional monitors is that they are experts in normal swimming. CPMs trust swimmming because they recognize that it is a natural process to be savored, not a potential disaster to be feared.

CPMs don’t routinely employ technology like whistles and binoculars, although they do keep them in their cars in the parking lots so they can use them in the exact same way as real lifeguards; however, they use them ONLY when an emergency develops, not when everything is fine. They don’t sit on tall chairs looming above everyone else. Indeed they don’t even face the swimmers! Since monitoring swimmers is limited by low sensitivity, it is obviously useless to watch them. Watching swimmers merely leads to unnecessary “rescues” of people who might never have drowned if left on their own.

Certified professional monitors know that there is plenty of time to transfer care in the event of a real emergency. Once others have pulled the blue, pulseless child from the water CPMs can perform CPR, dial 911 and await the arrival of the ambulance crew. No doubt some of those pulled from the water won’t survive, but let’s face it some children are just meant to drown.

Think of all the money we could save by employing CPMs who are paid much less than real lifeguards!

But the real benefits of using CPMs (or no one at all) is that we can return swimming to the pristine state it occupied in nature. Instead of viewing swimmers as potential drownings waiting to happen, we would trust the natural process of swimming by returning to the traditional practices of our ancestors. Swimming ought to be a spiritual experience, unmarred by technology, not an employment opportunity for technocratic lifeguards who claim to be rescuing people who in reality would have been perfectly fine without them.

Trust swimming! Use monitors who are experts in normal swimming. Above all, restrict the use of lifeguards to true emergencies only. Prevention is entirely overrated. The experience of swimming is so much more important than the outcome!

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    Sort of related…ish.
    One of the hallmarks of the NCB movement is to paint OBs and medical personnel as The Enemy. They’re portrayed as cold and uncaring, only out to make a buck by subjugating women and babies to their golf schedules.
    A couple of weeks ago, I was pregnant with our second child. I started bleeding and cramping over a weekend. I called my OB’s office first thing on the following Monday. It’s a *really* busy office. You know what? The only reason my ensuing ultrasound appointment was two hours later was that I couldn’t get there any faster. Chalk one up for awesome office staff, too.
    Monday is my OB’s surgery day. After the ultrasound showed I had miscarried, the tech (who didn’t bat an eye at the fact that I had my toddler with me due to not having last-minute childcare) went to let the OB know, as he was back at the office for his lunch break. My OB left his lunch to come give me a hug, make sure I was okay, and to talk me through what to expect. Didn’t charge me or my insurance a dime for that, either.
    This is cold and uncaring? I think not. The last couple of weeks have been pretty awful, but they were made a lot better by the way I was treated by that doctor and his staff, and I can’t imagine that’s the only practice like that out there.

    • Megan

      I’m so so sorry to hear that.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thank you.

    • Dr Kitty

      I’m so sorry for your loss.
      It is good to hear that you were treated with dignity and compassion.

      Miscarriages are horrible. Be kind to yourself.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        That they are. I suspect that it’s going to be a long-ish process working through it, but I’m fortunate in that I have a wonderful support system.
        Thank you for your kind words.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      Pregnancy loses are so, so hurtful and I’m sorry you went through that. Your OB sounds like a lovely and caring person.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        They wound a person in a way that nothing else does, I suspect. It’s not just losing a child, it’s losing all the ordinary and special days that make up a life.
        Yes, he certainly is.

    • Mishimoo

      I am so very sorry for your loss.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thank you. πŸ™‚

    • Amazed

      I am so sorry, it must be terrible.

      Take care.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        It’s bad, but I’m not alone, which makes it bearable. Thank goodness for wonderful husbands, kids, and in-laws!

    • Tiffany Aching

      I’m so very sorry.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thank your for your kind words.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thanks. πŸ™‚

    • Roadstergal

      Oh god. I’m so sorry. πŸ™

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thanks. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    • momofone

      I am so sorry for your loss, and so glad for the kind care you’ve received.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thank you. πŸ™‚

    • I’m so sorry.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Thank you for your kind words. πŸ™‚

        • Daleth

          I’m so sorry too. πŸ™

  • B. B. Walsh

    A long way back, a homebirthing couple responded heavily to a post here criticizing their actions, and the father responded to something I said with “Well swimming can be dangerous, but we let kids swim.” I replied with more or less this exact argument. Actions taken to mitigate risk (learn to swim and swim well! swim where life guards are on duty! Know how to swim well yourself and be present and attentive when your children are swimming!) do not eliminate risk. The insane thinking that declares risk reduction useless because it is not risk elimination (and might interfere slightly with your “fun”) is baffling to me.

  • Charybdis

    But…..but….I want to have an unassisted birth swimming with dolphins. A lifeguard would TOTALLY interfere with my sacred birth mojo. Unless, of course, it is,a hot male lifeguard. Then he can feel free to gently touch or rub my button, keeping his hands busy down there while I vocalize/intone and push my way to an orgasmic birth. /end sarcasm.

  • jessiebird

    The best way to prevent drownings is to not even let people swim! That’s the course Chicago lifeguards are taking–no above ankles, no above chest. Annoying to me, a former lifeguard and swimming instructor. πŸ™‚ But people have to be protected from themselves, right?;) (Usually just reminding them of safe behavior keeps things calm. Probably like prenatal care does….)

    Maybe the analogy here is mandatory c-sections for all. If you don’t swim, you can’t drown. πŸ˜‰

    • Who?

      Not the best way, just the most certain. ‘Best’ surely implies a good outcome for everyone, including those who like swimming.

      • jessiebird

        Yes, we hire lifeguards to prevent and deal with emergency situations, as stated at a swimming quarry I went to last week. Please keep an eye on your children, the sign continued. So enjoy yourself, swim how you like, but follow these rules of the pool/lake for everyone’s safety, and if something goes wrong, as is always possible, you don’t have to die because the guards are here. I think Dr. Amy’s analogy to lifeguards is excellent. But of course, with a lifeguard/obstetrician, you lose the thrill of pushing the limits…except most people push limits without babies strapped to their backs and only their own lives are at stake.

    • Young CC Prof

      I would say the analogy is that the best way to avoid pregnancy complications is not to have kids. Which is a very suboptimal solution for the many people who want children.

    • Roadstergal

      Perhaps denying elective C-sections is like forcing everyone to swim to get to the Island Where The Babies Are, even if a decent kayak is available.

      • yentavegan

        I am going to borrow this statement and I will attribute it to Roadstergal.

  • Sue

    Stray thought on lifeguards:

    In Australia, which has many many beaches and a strong surf culture, lifegards sit and watch from the sand – not from elevated watch-towers.

    Is there something fundamentally different about the eyesight of our lifeguards, or are ours just scared of heights?

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Could be the type of surf? I know the beach I grew up by has extremely turbulent waters that makes seeing someone in distress from ground level rather difficult. How’s the surf in your neck of the woods?

      • Sue

        The surf can be strong at times in different locations.

        Mattie is right that some of the beaches in more built up areas have built structures with an observation deck, but the majority just sit or stand on the sand. I;ve not seen those high chairs like the tennis umpires use.

        • Who?

          They used to have those high chairs when I was a kid up here, but I think they are being replaced with little elevated ‘huts’ with tinted glass and I’m guessing air con. The lifesavers could sit up there, stay out of the sun and be unaffected by the glare which is terrible in the mornings looking east, and be talking to the helicopter, the guys on the beach, in the jetskis or paddling, the helicopter and even police and ambulance if necessary.

    • Who?

      Depends where you are. Up here in Sunny Q they often sit on very tall chairs up the beach, or up on the dunes. Some also stand on the water’s edge. Some buzz around on jetskis or paddle themselves behind the break.

      Shout out to the volunteers in red and yellow who keep us safe between the flags at the beach every summer.

      • Megan

        Aw, I miss Queensland (at least I’m assuming that’s what sunny Q means). We visited Port Douglas a few years ago and I’ve always wanted to go back. It was so beautiful and everyone was so friendly. Just such a lovely place…

        • Who?

          I’ve not been there but it looks stunning. We go to the Gold Coast a bit and love it, though it is pretty built up.

    • Mattie

      I only know from watching Bondi Rescue but don’t those lifeguards have an elevated look out station, I guess it just depends on what the beach is like, how busy it is, and what the most common problems in the sea are

  • Allie P

    Casual acquaintances just had a successful home waterbirth. I’m so happy for them, but honestly, their description, though they find every detail breathlessly delightful, is utterly anathema to me. Every single thing they think of as a feature of their birthing experience I would think of as a bug to be ruthlessly eliminated. They cherished that the mother’s partner was the one to rush around cleaning and fetching, whereas I was glad mine could stay by my side while we had hospital staff fetch towels and water. They rhapsodized about “vocalizations” indicating nearness to labor, whereas I was happy to be spared pain that would make me scream. And let’s not star about how nasty waterbirth is, whereas i had a nice, clean hospital bed. Not to mention them paying for all this out of pocket versus my insurance covering all but a tiny co pay. Our desires are so different on this matter that even if all safety issues were identical, I would not want their experience.

    • Cartman36

      I feel the same way. Aside from the safety concerns, I would not want to deal with the mess of having a home birth. Can you imagine how much nasty laundry you would have to wash???

      • Laura

        Supposedly the birth team would take care of the laundry, but I haven’t heard of any of them paying for carpet cleaning services.

        The whole “I got to wear my clothes” thing the NCBers throw around goes over my head too. You seriously want to have to wash clothes covered in nasty birth juices? Yuck.

        I wore my hospital gown in recovery, which was a good thing because my ice pack burst in my mesh panty get up and there was blood EVERYWHERE. No problem–I called the nurse, she brought me a new gown, new ice pack, and she changed my sheets. No bloody clothes to take home–win win.

        • Dr Kitty

          The UK doesn’t do hospital gowns. Most patients wear their own nightwear.

          Labouring women are told to bring an old t-shirt or nightie, which they can either throw away or take home and launder. Almost everyone throws it away.

          People having a CS will get the standard issue disposable paper theatre gown for the actual surgery, and then the opportunity to change back into your own clothes once the spinal/ epidural wears off.

          • Erin

            I had a hospital gown of the non paper variety for both my augmented labour (yay for babies with no sense of direction) and my c-section in a UK hospital. Also when the head midwife discovered me getting dressed 3 and half hours after the section she read the riot act and threatened to get the consultant to yell at me so I can most definitely say at least one hospital does gowns and doesn’t like you getting changed in a hurry. That said, my original plan was to steal a t-shirt from my husband because I can’t understand why you’d want to preserve something covered in so many bodily fluids.

          • Dr Kitty

            The local trust did away with cloth gowns about 8 years ago, and moved to paper.

            I remember, because I was working in A&E and the staff started a little stash of socks, PJs and nighties for homeless patients and people who didn’t have anyone to bring them nightwear, so they wouldn’t have to wear paper gowns during their whole stay. They also also had combs, toothbrushes, deodorant, toothpaste and soap for people who needed them.
            A&E staff are good people.

            I got changed out of the paper gown a couple of hours after I got back to the ward last time. They took kiddo away for a bath, and I got some help to have a strip wash and put on my own nightwear and some makeup, so we were both in better shape to receive visitors. It was one of the things I was very grateful for. I needed help because it was the fun part where the spinal had worn off enough for my legs to move involuntarily, but not for the sensation to have come back.

          • Erin

            That’s why the midwife was so mad with me because I was out of bed on my feet with no one in range to catch me as soon as I could feel my feet and legs which apparently was too soon. I’m a terrible patient, can’t bear feeling like an invalid.

          • Wren

            I just realised I have no idea what happened to the clothes I laboured in with my second. I remember showering after the delivery before heading up to the ward, and being very grateful to the friend who was there helping me out. She might know. With my first, I got a hospital gown at some point because I had a C-section.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          To each her own, and all that. If I have a vaginal birth at some point, I’d like to labor in a camisole and a comfy yoga-style skirt. I really do loathe hospital gowns with a vengeance, and how comfortable I am and how I look at a given time tend to have an extremely strong effect on how I’m doing psychologically. I admit it probably sounds a bit OCD, but when DD was a tiny newborn waking multiple times/night, each time I’d get up I’d splash water on my face, add a little moisturizer, run a toothbrush over my teeth, put on some lip balm, and then some hand cream before getting her. Somehow, I could deal with a fussy newborn at 2 AM if I took two minutes to do that, but having an oily face/bad breath/dry hands was the Last Straw emotionally when wrangling kiddo. Yes, I’m strange.
          That having been said, I also cloth diaper, so I don’t particularly mind bodily fluids. I’d probably just have the labor clothes tucked into a bag to be thrown in the wash with some cold water and Oxyclean on arriving home. Also, I would take full advantage of the fact that the hospital would deal with all the bed linen and assorted mess that would entail. πŸ˜€
          On the other hand, I admit that my only living kid so far was had via CS, and I’ve never been in labor, so it’s entirely possible that when labor hits with some subsequent kid I’ll be all “screw it, I don’t care about the outfit so long as the drugs are good and fast.”

        • Bombshellrisa

          The whole “someone might have died in this hospital gown yesterday” argument is such a stupid reason to have a home birth! I got one of those gorgeous and disposable hospital gowns called a Pretty Pusher for my friends for shower gifts. The halter style unties for skin to skin, there are two openings for the EFM straps and cords and the back is low enough to have an epidural placed without having to show your backside. Very cute

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            I used a plain old nightgown and it seemed to work pretty well but I’ve always been curious about those gowns. Too cheap to buy one just yet when I can go to some discount retailer and buy something for less than $15.

        • Elaine

          Eh, I think it’s nice to have the option to wear your own clothes if that’s what you want, with the understanding they might get ruined, or the option to wear the gown, again, if that’s what you want. Prior to having babies I thought I’d feel weird and vulnerable in a hospital gown, but in the heat of the moment I didn’t care, but in the heat of the moment I also didn’t want the hassle of changing, so I did deliver my daughter wearing my own clothes. With my son I had the gown but my own socks, which ended up getting thrown out because they were gross and bloody (and I’d deliberately worn old ones for this reason).

      • Inmara

        That was my thought after birth too! I was laboring in my own clothes, though (they don’t offer hospital gowns, unless woman comes in emergency) but it didn’t get that messy, unlike all sheets on the bed and floor between said bed and shower. Also that birthing bed was really great, with variable angles and height, and handy railings to hold on during contractions. NCBers can tout that birthing on your back is unnatural but I appreciated that midwife had a good look, control over process and could give directions (no, I didn’t magically know how to push properly to avoid tearing).

  • GiddyUpGo123

    When my daughter was little she ran off at a public pool when I was knee deep in the wading pool, and jumped in the deep end. Honestly she could dog paddle so I think she would have been ok, and I was right behind her (though if you’ve ever tried to move quickly through a wading pool, you can guess that I didn’t get there as fast as I wanted to). Anyway a lifeguard jumped in and pulled her out. Let me tell you, nothing says “awesome parent” like having to sign paperwork that says a lifeguard had to save your child from drowning.

    If it wasn’t for lifeguards, my kids wouldn’t swim. I have four of them, and when you have that many it’s impossible to watch all of them, every second they’re in a pool. I don’t take them to swimming areas without lifeguards unless I have another adult to help me. So I am grateful for lifeguards, like OBs, for being there to help when things do go wrong.

    • Taysha

      I did that to my parents at least three times. I got pulled out by the hair all three times (once by my mother, once my sister, once the neighbor)

      Stuff happens

      • Cobalt

        My first week as a lifeguard (I was 15, working at a little community pool) I took a dip in the deep end of the pool to cool off during my first break. Right when I came up for air, a three year old fell in on top of me and knocked us just far enough from the edge I couldn’t grab on to the wall. I had enough strength to keep his head above water but not both of us, as I caught a hold of him while he was still over me in the water and he was too panicky to change to a better hold.

        Longest 15 seconds of my life before the on duty guard grabbed him, and knocked a lot of serious into me. Kid was scared but totally fine, his mother was completely beside herself.

        Kids do stuff like that ALL THE TIME.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          My hubby apparently like to climb the high dive board at the base pool in Germany yell Hey wife guard I can’t swim! And jump. He was three.

          • sdsures

            OMG!

    • sdsures

      My sister has twins, 5 yrs ld at the moment, and swimming. I can only imagine and marvel and how she deals with it. She has lifeguard certification herself, but it’s different when your own kids are the ones in danger (slippery little guys, aren’t they?).

      • GiddyUpGo123

        Yeah, and you need them to learn how to swim. It’s a huge safety issue, so for me avoiding pools and water is not the answer. Kids are only safe around water when they’re comfortable with the idea of swimming and when they know how to do it (and even then they’re never completely, 100 percent safe). So I feel like swimming is an important thing to do during the summers, and I just would not be able to do it if there was no such thing as a lifeguarded pool. My husband hates going to pools, so I often don’t have any choice but to just take all four of them myself. Most of the time there are no issues and I keep pretty good track of them, but one of them is ADHD (the one that jumped in the deep end) and she has a knack for vanishing if I so much as blink!

  • Cobalt

    It appears Josh Duggar likely had an Ashley Madison account (a paid website for arranging affairs). AM was hacked recently and all their data published without consent (which I think is WRONG, neither the cheating spouses nor their partners deserve to be internet famous- unless they make a living selling false morality).

    http://gawker.com/family-values-activist-josh-duggar-had-a-paid-ashley-ma-1725132091

    I don’t have any independent verification, so maybe this is just an awful baseless rumor, but I thought I would share in case it isn’t.

    • Roadstergal
    • Mattie

      I saw this on Jezebel haha there are some fake emails on there but I really hope this is true, just want to hear the Duggars spin this.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      • Cobalt

        Am I a terrible person for laughing at Josh Duggar SO MUCH right now?

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          If you’re a bad person for laughing then we’ll be laughing all the way to Hell together.

          This is why you don’t get up on your high horse like the Duggars and other holier than thou types do. You’ll fall eventually and it’s a long way down.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Puts new meaning into “getting caught with your pants down” doesn’t it?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Hell no. Fuck’em. Oh wait, that’s what he wants….

          • Roadstergal

            “The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country,”

            Fighting against immorality = opposing basic human rights for gays, lesbians, and trans folk who are way better at honoring monogamous commitments and not finger-banging underage girls than he is.

            I have no sympathy for him. I’d call him human slime, but I don’t want to offend slime.

      • Who?

        His poor wife. I just hope he used a condom.

        No doubt in Duggar world this is ‘her fault’ since he wouldn’t have had to stray if she’d done her duty.

        • An Actual Attorney

          I knew a lot of girls in fundamentalist churches in high school. Sex was a sin of passion, BC was a sin of planning. You could get forgiveness for a sin of passion when you were carried away, even if you obviously planned for weeks how to be alone with your BF. But no forgiveness for premeditated sins like condoms. So, babies!!!

          I bet he didn’t use a condom.

          I’d also feel sorry for his wife, if it wasn’t that she knew exactly what she was getting into. She’s also a supportive part of the whole culture.

          • Cobalt

            I’d think he’d use condoms, just to help avoid getting caught. The only respect he shows for his religion is for the parts that let him control others, not any sincere heartfelt belief.

          • An Actual Attorney

            Well, that is a very good point.

          • Who?

            Yup, Vatican Roulette is still a thing. My son’s friend welcomed his first child at 19 in just the circumstances you describe. Both sets of parents had the vapours.

            It’s mind boggling.

            Surely the women he met would insist he used a condom-I’m told it’s considered Very Bad Form to turn up without one these days.

          • Roadstergal

            “I bet he didn’t use a condom.”

            His checkboxes included oral, instruction, and ‘experimentation.’ I’m thinking he wanted his fill of all of the sorts of sinful sex that don’t give you 19 kids and counting (but can still give you all sorts of interesting diseases).

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            But…but…that’s not “real” sex! So you can’t get an STD that way! Right? Right!
            *crickets*

          • Cobalt

            She knew he was a child molester, and an incestuous one at that, and is cheerfully cranking out children for him as fast as she can.

            I can’t get past that, certainly not far enough to feel sorry for her as a willing but cheated on spouse of a known monster.

  • Cobalt

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0101Y0RKW/ref=abs_brd_tag_dp?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    For those of you who are interested in the GMO panic, Similac has come out with a non-GMO formula. At a significant price increase over the standard version, of course.

    • Kelly

      It is so easy to take people’s money. That makes me laugh so hard.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      When do we get the “GMO only” option? I don’t want to feed any of that randomly mutated crap to my baby! Intelligent design all the way!

      (Do not be alarmed: I haven’t had an actual baby any time in the past decade.)

      • Young CC Prof

        Hey, I want genetically superior foods, too. More GSF! More GSF!

      • Roadstergal

        Seriously. I avoid food stamped “GMO-free.” Give me GMOs – and companies not silly enough to be reflexively afraid of them.

        • Who?

          Me too. And ‘organic’.

    • Medwife

      People are begging to be scammed. It’s ridiculous.

  • Taysha

    You also shouldn’t be concerned you’ve never gone swimming before. After all, your body knows how to tread water instinctively. Look at dogs! Your instincts will let you know when you’re getting to a body of water you can’t swim in and you simply won’t go in.
    And if your muscles ache and burn from treading water just remember you’re being a swimming warrior! It’s just one more signal that you’re doing swimmingly! If you just relax and breathe your body will stop screaming in agony and the experience of treading water will become orgasmic!

    • Sue

      You’re right. Most people drown because they are afraid of drowning.

      • Petanque

        Exactly. And if you do drown, maybe you just weren’t meant to float?

        • Roadstergal

          I’ve never had to be rescued by a lifeguard. I’m a Swimming Goddess.

      • B. B. Walsh

        My swim instructor husband always tells parents who are embarrassed by their kids’ water fear: “You should be glad your kid is afraid of the water. Kids who are afraid of the water don’t jump in the deep end when they don’t really know how to swim. Your kid wants to feel safe and confident in the water before he even considers it fun. That’s smart.” It’s the fearless 5 year old who jumps in on the first day that you have to worry about.

  • araikwao

    Typo, I think, about halfway down(paragraph beginning “Why are lifeguards..”) as you have referred to low sensitivity, when I think you meant low specificity.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    Of course, lifeguards can make mistakes…but they’re monitored and the places that hire them face some very nasty consequences if their employees screw up. Unlike, say, the average lay midwife.
    My subdivision has a community pool. As you might expect, it’s surrounded by a 10′ fence, and there’s just one gate to get in/out.
    I’ve been taking DD there of late, and while I was generally unimpressed with the lifeguards (lazy teenagers, took pool-closing breaks very frequently, attitude) the final straw was when a HOA higher-up stopped by to check on the pool, only to find that the lifeguards had left early for the day.
    And left the gate standing wide open.
    Yeah.
    After the HOA board member finished walking the pool to make sure there were no dead kids in it–a job she indicated aged her about ten years, and who could blame her, since there’s a park next to the pool where preteens often hang out unsupervised–she called an emergency board meeting, and there was a unanimous vote to fire the pool management company. One hopes they’ll also report that situation to the pool management’s insurance company.
    Were this a lay midwife, however, leaving a woman in labor alone would be “giving her her space.” MANA wouldn’t dream of being anything but “supportive” of that midwife, and certainly wouldn’t consider pulling her licensure, or censoring her. And needless to say, she wouldn’t be carrying malpractice insurance anyway, so it’s not like the family would have much recourse if, God forbid, a baby was seriously injured or killed due to negligence.

  • Amazed

    I am currently staying in the seaside city I was born in. Every year, we have people who die because they go to beaches withot lifeguards. Every. Single. Year. What the hell?

    Oh, and did I mention the ground-sea-swell? They go into the sea with this one as well! They think it’s a bloody variation of normal. Like a HVBAC or a home breech birth. Actually, a home footling breech birth.

    I do understand their disappointment. After all, I, with my more flexible work schedule and actually having a place to stay whenever I decide to, was disappointed when the ground-sea-swell came. But you know what? First: do not schedule your seaside holiday in the period when it’s known that ground-sea-swell is more common. Second, if you do, change the plan right there, as soon as you see the swell. Safety first. Priorities, people! Is it so hard to understand? It’s similar to having a HVBAC at 42 weeks 6 days of breech twins!

    • An Actual Attorney

      I’m landlocked. What’s a ground-sea-swell?

      • Amazed

        Dead swell, it’s called here. I don’t know the word in English. The one that drags you towards the sea and you cannot swim out of it. You can only try to walk to one side and in about 20 meters, you’d be out of it. But usually, people are too panicked to think of that if they know it at all. It leads to people drowning a few meters away from the shore, literally.

        Perhaps “swell of death” would be a better name. I was dragged by it a few years ago. That’s what you get when you enter without looking around to see if, by chance, people hadn’t put some warning signs to prevent people like you from drowning… It was scary.

        • An Actual Attorney

          Oh, I think that’s riptide in US English. Some beaches have warning pictograms to swim to the side, not back to the shore.

          Either way, I don’t like going in the ocean much farther than my knees.

          • Amazed

            Thanks! I’ll try to remember the word.

          • Ceridwen

            Yep, riptide is the term in the US. They can pull you out when you are in as little as knee deep water and drown even very capable swimmers who aren’t familiar with how to cope with the phenomenon.

          • An Actual Attorney

            It’s settled. I’m staying on the beach with a little umbrella drink.

          • Amazed

            Good for you. Unfortunately, I seem physically unable to stay on the beach. I stay in the water until I start shaking with cold (last week, it took about 3 hours in the soup they call seawater… it was 27 grades. Celsius, I mean. I’ve never seen the like!) and then I go out, wipe myself dry and leave, hair dripping water. When I am with otherwise minded people, I wait for the sun to dry me. But generally, I go for the water.

            Still doesn’t mean I’ll knowingly go into the riptide. Swell of death IS a very suitable name.

          • Young CC Prof

            At the beach where I grew up, they broke the riptides by building these giant stone barriers about a hundred yards straight out.

            Clearly an affront against Nature’s Way, allowing many unfit children to survive immersion.

          • Roadstergal

            Rip currents. We called them “undertow” growing up, until the WWW came about and we could look this stuff up.

            http://www.usla.org/?page=RIPCURRENTS

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            We call them rip tides where I grew up but different areas will call them different things.

            We were actually taught very young in school by the coast guard to do the swim parallel to the beach thing or if you’re a confident swimmer to just ride the current out until it loses power and then swim parallel to the beach. Surfers usually use the latter and us mortals use the former. They have wetsuits.

            And despite warnings from locals about the rip tides, tourists still panic and try to fight the current and keep getting pushed back out to sea. They usually only have about fifteen minutes of that song and dance before they’ll likely drown from exhaustion, their limbs starts to get sluggish from early stages of hypothermia, or a combination of the two. If you’re luckyand someone saw what happened it can be reported to the Coast Guard and they can save you. I wouldn’t bet money on that though. They’re fast but a lot of times hypothermia is faster.

            Basically, in you’re in the Pacific Northwest if the US to visit I’m just going to say it now. Our oceans are of the Look; Don’t Touch variety. There’s a lot of other things to enjoy on the beach.

            Oh and don’t climb Haystack Rock to try to find the Goonies cave. It doesnt exist and the tide will come in faster than you think. The Coast Guard is so sick of picking people off the rock via helicopter that you’ll get fined by them too. Along with the other fines for disturbing a protected marine garden. Just don’t do it.

          • lawyer jane

            Is there any sort of program where you can practice swimming out of a riptide supervised by lifeguards? I would love to try that!

          • Daleth

            Basically, in you’re in the Pacific Northwest if the US to visit I’m
            just going to say it now. Our oceans are of the Look; Don’t Touch
            variety.

            That’s true all the way down to San Francisco, if not further south.

        • Mishimoo

          I was caught in a weak one when I was 9, it made me a lot more respectful of the sea. Of course, as an adult and parent of a nearly 9 year old, I am absolutely appalled that I was left to swim completely unattended and that my parents didn’t bat an eyelash when I told them how lucky I had just been.

          • Amazed

            It does have this effect of respect. And I am appalled by your parents as well!

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I got caught by a sneakner save when I was about six and it dragged me under and drug me along the sand before I popped back up and my dad was able to get to me and bring me back to shore. This was up by the mouth of the Columbia River and the water there is always in the mid to low 50s F. The shore is riddled with rip tides and the waves are strong enough to leave massive tree trunks on the beach. I say the beach where I grew up was not “User Friendly.” Tourists end up in the hospital with hypothermia all the time after the coast guard fishes them out. The beaches are too big for lifeguards to see everything. My parents had told me probably no more than twenty minutes previous to not go so close to the surf. But I was a fast little twerp. Unfortunately so was the ocean.

            You don’t ever turn your back on the ocean after something like that. I’ve known how to escape rip tides since I was seven but I never went more then just above ankle deep in the ocean after that. At least until I was twenty three and went to a beach in San Diego. Even then I still nearly had a panic attack.

            I guess I’d be a person burned by home birth that was lucky enough to have a baby that wasn’t permanently injured from the process but that fear and thoughts of what if will always follow me.

        • Who?

          In Oz we’d call it a rip. And they’ll drown you if you don’t know how to behave.

          • Amy M

            Rip tide, or undertow, around here (MA).

          • Liz Leyden

            A rip tide pulls you out, an undertow pulls you down.

  • Cartman36

    Don’t forget the bragging rights you get if you throw your non-swimming child in the deep end and they survive.

    • sdsures

      Interesting mental image there. Don’t forget to live video it and post it to Facebook!

  • Cartman36

    I am pretty sure lifeguards take their job more seriously than many lay midwives. Lifeguards understand that even the strongest swimmers can drown.

    Can you imagine the outrage if a lifeguard said “some children are meant to die” after a drowning death? WTF do we accept it from midwives…..

  • Roadstergal

    I don’t think lifeguards should be watching swimming children the whole time. This Continual Child Monitoring isn’t necessary and makes some mothers uncomfortable. If the kid is in distress, we can take care of it once s/he is out of the water. I mean, some kids just weren’t meant to float, and all of this invasive monitoring isn’t the answer.

    • sdsures

      Depends on the size of the pool, and how many are in it at the time? I’ve been in larger pools in Olympics-sized complexes, and also smaller condo ones. My vague memories of the Olympics-sized complex where my sister and I both took swimming lessons is, well, it was BIG (or I was little, or both, hehehe), and NOISY. The crowd noise was constant, with near-constant big splashes and other water noises you’d expect in a large echo chamber like a swimming hall. I only was ever in the “kiddie pool” area because of my cerebral palsy, but I had a good time anyway. The far end is the kiddie pool, and you can get an idea of just how huge this place is – one of the largest in the world! http://www.manitobamarlins.com/sitefacilities.aspx

      How will you hear or know to look for one particular kid’s levels of possible distress in such a huge and noisy environment? Not sure if when people are drowning they can even make much noise, but if they can’t – a noisy environment would seem to suggest that more monitoring is needed, not less.

      • Roadstergal

        Exactly. πŸ™‚ I think pool swimming is a pretty good parallel for fetal monitoring, really. Most kids at the pool won’t drown. But kids who are really starting to drown almost never make any overt commotion, no splashing or yelling; if you don’t know what to look for, you won’t know your kid is in trouble until s/he is dead at the bottom of the pool, much in the way that seemingly healthy babies sometimes drop dead into the hands of midwives who don’t have the tools and knowledge to properly monitor…

  • JellyCat

    Also, I would never allow swimmers wearing life vests. It interferes with the freedom of movement in swimming and therefore very unnatural. Also, sun screens and electrolyte replacement drinks are not acceptable since they are full of chemicals.

    • sdsures

      Chemicals like sodium chloride. No getting away from that nasty one.

    • GiddyUpGo123

      It’s funny because I’ve totally heard people say you shouldn’t use sunscreen because of all the chemicals. Instead, you should depend on hats and full-sleeved body suits to protect your child from the sun. Like you could ever keep a hat on a baby, and like it’s not completely cruel to put a child in long sleeves and pants in 100 degree temperatures, even if you could find a body suit that is 100 percent organic cotton and also SPF 100.

  • Anna

    Hi! I am from Eastern Europe and at the moment we have this “back to nature” movement just about to come into fashion. Although if you start talking about unneeded interventions and “unnecessereans” most people will have no idea what you are talking about. But, but, but… The NCB folks are there and they are desperate for money and control. I know so much about it because I was pregnant myself not so long ago and gave birth (by c-section). So, when I came to a random birth class (which I chose simply by researching the Internet, seemed attractive and not far from home), first thing I hear from the attendant of this class, she had a hbac. I was like, what the hell, why on earth would one do such a thing??? Sounded crazy to me. And then she goes on about how evil, traumatic and totally disadvantageous c-sections are and how the worst vaginal birth is better than a c-section. Was a bit shocked. Attended some more classes to hear about breastfeeding for 3 years (at least), co-sleeping and the stuff, then quit because all this sounded so crazy and primitive-tribal to me… Had c-section anyway due to symphisitis (sorry if not spelled correctly) and some other reasons as well. No way could I have had a “normal” birth. Then this woman (the birth class attendant) writes me on Facebook: well, happy for you ANYWAY (subtly implying failure). Officially she offers to be your birthing partner in hospital, unofficially she does homebirth in all situations as I understood. And yes, it’s all about the money, so obvious, but so many people start to give in. So this crap is spreading all around the world, although in our country most people don’t know what a vbac is.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I was like, what the hell, why on earth would one do such a thing??? Sounded crazy to me.

      πŸ™‚

      Yeah, sometimes that’s the best response.

      • Anna

        When you are unfamiliar with all the NCB ideology it does sound so nuts and illogical! Like, I don’t want to drive a car because it is evil, I had better ride a horse, horse riding is so natural and my ancestors have done it for ages, my body knows how to do it and a friend of a friend of a friend of mine died in a car accident, so NOOOOO! Don’t even ask me to come near a car! Ahahahah, they are so absurd, it is quite easy to ridicule them, glad I found this wonderful blog!

        • Cobalt

          Professional equestrians wear helmets and take safety very seriously. Unlike CPMs, who frequently can’t even be bothered to wear gloves.

    • Sue

      “how the worst vaginal birth is better than a c-section.”

      “The worse vaginal birth” results in death of both mother and baby. There is nothing worse than that.

    • Who?

      I’m glad they didn’t get into your head. Those classes must have been surreal.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    And talk about interventions!!!

    Lifeguards are so dependent on technology. For example, at the local pools, the lifeguards on duty are required to be carrying a flotation device AT ALL TIMES. It isn’t just sitting next to them, they have to be carrying them.

    And a friend of mine mentioned this summer that they have removed the chair backs from the life guard stands, to prevent the lifeguards from actually relaxing while on the job. They clearly don’t “trust swimming”

  • Liz Leyden

    The same arguments were used in my state for Medicaid funding of home birth by non-nurse midwives (backed up by NDs and a transport plan). Lower cost was a huge part of it, but very few people would admit it. Never mind that hospitals and many OBs accept Medicaid.

    My state does not do lifeguards at state parks, except for a pool at one very popular state park. Many towns are the same. It’s purely financial reasons, but with the strong underlying current of woo here, I’m surprised no one has made these arguments.

  • attitude devant

    (cough!) People drown in pools staffed by lifeguards too!

    • Liz Leyden

      Lifeguards sometimes ignore clear signs of swimmers in danger. Instead of investigating drownings when they occur, lets get rid of lifeguards.

      http://abcnews.go.com/US/woman-dies-pool-boy-reports-drowning-lifeguards-fall/story?id=13984017

      • attitude devant

        Trust water! The dive reflex will keep people from aspirating water unless you fear-monger them.

        • sue

          And why do they bother filtering and chlorinating the water? Babies are born through pools of water contaminated with urine and poo – and they don’t all die. And Chlorine is a TOXIN.

          • attitude devant

            Water rescue alters the lung microbiome!

          • Young CC Prof

            Mmm, the lung microbiome of someone who just near-drowned, especially in some nice all-natural pond water. There’s a wonderful thought.

          • attitude devant

            just like the microbiome of someone who inhaled meconium? Hmmm?

      • sdsures

        Incidentally, Fall River is the same town Lizzie Borden lived in.

    • JellyCat

      Very good point. This just proves the fact that we don’t need the lifeguards.

      • attitude devant

        Some people were just meant to drown.

        • JellyCat

          Absolutely !

  • yentavegan

    I would much rather swim in a warm secluded lake all by myself without being under the peering eyes of a lifeguard at the ready to intervene For my children? Only a “professional eyes on all the time lifeguard ” would suffice.

  • sdsures

    But…but…people CAN and do swim without any formal swimming lessons at all. Some of those do drown, and well, we can’t stop them, so let’s just look the other way and call them a tragic statistic.

    Swimming lessons are SO expensive, and are NEVER guaranteed to keep a person alive in the event of an emergency. So why spend the extra money on lessons at all?

    *satire*

  • Mel

    The irony is breath-taking. In my state, all teachers are required to be certified in Adult, Child and Infant CPR and First Aid for initial certification. I’ve kept mine up to date and was a part of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) at my school. In six years, we had 36 drills, 6 updates for certifications and no actual emergencies.

    Meanwhile, you can legally deliver a baby in most states without even certification in CPR or First Aid let alone any actual medical training.

  • Mel

    Let’s not forget training!

    Real lifeguards undergo rigorous training with basic physical requirements and have staged drills on a regular basis at their place of employment.

    Plus, if you work at a place that has a very high child-to-lifeguard ratio like a summer camp, additional counselors are trained as aquatic observers whose job is to watch the pool for drowning children and flag the lifeguard. This on top of being trained in Adult, Child and Infant CPR and First Aid.

  • Amy M

    And don’t even get me started on the swimming lessons! What a waste of time and money. Why test people for swimming proficiency, when you can just throw them in the pool and see who sinks? I mean, if someone fails a swimming test, then you just have to spend more money on more training and test them AGAIN later on. Most CPMs don’t administer swimming tests or lessons, but they can refer you to a lifeguard who does if you REALLY believe you or your child needs that sort of intervention. I know of one or 2 CPMs who will run a written test on dry land, because that’s pretty close.

    • Liz Leyden

      In high school, one of my friends had a father who decided to introduce him to swimming by throwing him in a pond. He was 7, thought his father was trying to kill him, and wouldn’t go near him for almost 2 years.

      • Amy M

        Wow, that’s crazy. I’m (probably overly) anxious about water safety, so my boys have taken swim lessons. They aren’t great yet, but I’m less concerned about drowning than I was a year ago.

        • Mishimoo

          No, you’re just a good parent. One of our GPs was a coroner in a rural area for a while. He presses every single parent to send their kids to swimming lessons “because one drowned toddler pulled from a dam is one too many” and its just not worth the risk.

          • Who?

            I made mine go to lessons until they were invited to join the swimming squad, since you have to be pretty good for that. They both hated it, skinny kids who sank like stones, but both managed it by the age of 8 or so, at which point we stopped the lessons.

          • Amy M

            Yeah, our goal was to get them to a point that they could get out of the water, or keep themselves afloat long enough for rescue, if they fell in a pool (or lake). Ocean is a bit different because of currents, so when we recently went to the beach, there was a 1:1 adult/child ratio when in the water.

          • Mishimoo

            My eldest has just been moved into minisquad, but she loves swimming and its good for her joints. The only problem is getting enough calories in. So glad she’s outgrowing the pickiness.

          • Who?

            Well done little one. Sounds like it’s good in many ways.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Once DD is old enough, there will most definitely be swim lessons, either from me or from a pro, depending on availability/finances at that point. Drowning is far too easy a way to lose a kid.

        • Roadstergal

          All four of us had to take swim lessons when we were little, despite widely varying interest in it. My sister hates water and never swam outside of the lessons; I loved it and swim to this day. None of us drowned, so mission accomplished.

      • Sue

        Thank goodness we have (mostly) progressed from this. I know adults who still vividly remember that experience.

        We also know there are women who never had a second child due to the experience of their first “normal” birth.

    • Mattie

      And hey if they sink at least we know they’re not witches =P

      • Roadstergal

        If the baby weighs as much as a duck…

        • Azuran

          The baby is made of wood!!!