Mothering like an animal

Baby of a Western lowland gorilla

The central conceit of natural parenting is that we can and should recapitulate the practices of our ancient forebears. Why? Because that’s what brings us closest to nature and nature has, though evolution, optimized animals for perfection in parenting.

Consider this supremely stupid parenting meme posted by the geniuses at Occupy Breastfeeding:


“Breastfeeding is too hard.” — Said no cavewoman ever

Many of the difficulties of breastfeeding are due to modern beliefs and fears, which have come from living in a bottle feeding society.


Or this piece of mindboggling idiocy from UK midwife Sheena Byrom the poster child for the moral bankruptcy of UK midwifery and well known for her vicious harassment and trolling of a loss parent.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Mothering like an animal leads to dead babies.[/pullquote]

… In her talk at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust last month, Mrs Byrom said: ‘Do we really believe that women’s bodies are so faulty that less than 40 per cent will give birth without intervention?’

Or the classic homebirth fatuousness of Ina May Gaskin:

Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.

The bedrock assumption of these deep thinkers is that parenting in nature is perfect, and it is only humans who encounter difficulties in birth and lactation.

The truth is very different; parenting among animals has astronomical mortality rates, even higher than the mortality rates of ancient humans. This chart derived from published data on animal mortality makes it crystal clear.


Early neonatal mortality (up to age one week) among mammals is appalling, ranging from 16.3% among the apes, our closest animal relatives, to 28.5% in small primates and slightly more among carnivores. The estimated ancient human neonatal mortality rates are only a fraction the size.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that birth is not benign and establishing lactation is fraught with problems.

Infant mortality is far higher still: 25.3% of apes, 38.6% of small primates, and 43.2% of carnivores don’t make it to their first birthday. In the case of small primates and carnivores, a significant fraction of the deaths are probably due to predation, but that doesn’t account for so many deaths among ape infants. Apparently, maintaining lactation isn’t easy after all.

We shouldn’t be surprised. In Harry Harlow’s experiments with monkeys, he found that baby monkeys fed with formula did far better than those nursed by their mothers.

We had separated more than 60 of these animals from their mothers 6 to 12 hours after birth and suckled them on tiny bottles. The infant mortality was only a small fraction of what would have obtained had we let the monkey mothers raise their infants. Our bottle- fed babies were healthier and heavier than monkey-mother-reared infants … thanks to synthetic diets, vitamins, iron extracts, penicillin, chloromycetin, 5% glucose, and constant, tender, loving care.

Perhaps most unexpected is the high mortality rates among infant kangaroos. There is no possibility of birth injuries because they are born tiny and are then protected within the mother’s pouch while continuously attached to a teat. Nonetheless, 16.4% don’t survive the first week and 23.8% don’t survive the first year.

What are we to make of this?

Obviously, parenting in nature is very far from perfect. High deaths rates are the norm and the population grows because parents have future children to replace the ones that died. Birth is dangerous; early infancy is dangerous; indeed the entire first year is dangerous. The same is true for human birth and infancy, and it isn’t culture that’s to blame, it is nature itself.

If more than 16% of kangaroo mothers can’t successfully suckle a baby through its first week after birth, why do the folks at Occupy Breastfeeding fantasize that 100% of “cavewomen” could successfully nurse a baby through its first week?

If large numbers of animals can’t survive the first week after birth, why would Sheena Byrom imagine that substantial numbers of human babies would survive without interventions?

And no doubt, Ina May Gaskin never bothered to determine the perinatal death rates of aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo before offering them as examples that human mothers can and should emulate.

It is an article of faith among both natural childbirth advocates and lactivists that the past was better, that emulating animals is best and that both childbirth interventions and formula are the result of cultural fears and taboos.

The truth is the opposite. Childbirth and breastfeeding in nature are routinely deadly both for humans and for animals. The past wasn’t better; it was hideous. And it is natural childbirth and lactivism itself that reflect cultural fears and taboos, not modern obstetrics or the use of formula.

Mothering like an animal leads to dead babies. Both modern obstetrics and the use of formula are responses to that reality and both have been phenomenally effective at reducing death rates. Natural childbirth and lactivism are cultural conceits fabricated to justify the irrational worship of nature, the industries of natural childbirth and breastfeeding, and the self-esteem of their practitioners.

It’s not an accident that the veneration of natural childbirth in the UK has led to a plethora of preventable infant deaths. It is not an accident that lactivism has led to preventable infant brain damage and death in industrialized countries. The idea that both unmedicated vaginal birth and breastfeeding are best for all babies is merely a cultural construct. The injuries and deaths that result are — ironically — only natural.

98 Responses to “Mothering like an animal”

  1. The Bofa on the Sofa
    November 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    We need to mirror the secrets of the crocodile.

    Hatch the eggs and let the babies run for their lives!

    It’s apparently very successful, at least relatively.

    • Sarah
      November 21, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

      Don’t tempt me.

    • mabelcruet
      November 26, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      I think the ‘breast crawl’ would be a good way to weed out those babies who aren’t meant to live. Put the cold, wet, new born babe on the mothers abdomen, and if it can haul itself up to the nipple within 30 minutes, it is allowed to live. The rest get culled.

  2. mabelcruet
    November 21, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    I’ve been watching ‘Secret Life of the Zoo’ in the UK, its about a zoo in Chester. In the last few days, I’ve seen a tapir die of post-natal infection; an ibis chick that wasn’t been fed by its mother and it became seriously underweight; a capybara mother die within a couple days of birth leaving her babies to be fed and brought up by the grandmother capybara (and the mother originally delivered her babies right next to the lake in the enclosure, one baby fell down the slope and had to be rescued by a keeper otherwise it would have drowned-not the brightest animals, capybara); and a penguin chick die of lung infection very soon after birth. And that’s just a couple of episodes. Mother Nature isn’t perfect, all she needs is enough to survive to adulthood to replace existing members of the tribe-in fact, it would be far healthier for the planet as a whole if we took it right back to ‘as nature intended’. Would definitely solve the over-population problem if there was no medical intervention of anything, ever.

    • mabelcruet
      November 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

      And today’s episode is Natasha the praying mantis who is causing problems with their breeding programme because she’s eaten all the male mantises in the zoo except for a little one called Bruce. So they are trying to distract Natasha at the front end with a cricket while Bruce works at the business end.

      That’s like a midwife encouraging a woman to push by waving a placenta at her.

      • kilda
        November 21, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

        oh dear. I wish they hadn’t given poor Bruce a name.

        • mabelcruet
          November 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

          No, Brucie did good! 60 little red and black nymphs crawling around now. But they are sending him back in for another go as he’s still the only mature male they have. Poor thing is risking having his head ripped off by grumpy Natasha.

          • Who?
            November 21, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

            Now THAT’S a difficult day at the office.

          • mabelcruet
            November 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

            The keeper said he was so small maybe Natasha wouldn’t notice him. But then part of the mating ritual is the male taps the body of the female (the keeper said it was like using massage as foreplay). Now I’m not an expert in mother nature, but surely a species where the female routinely rips the head off the male during sex would evolve a mating ritual where the male didn’t draw attention to himself?? You know, kept his head down and got on with the job in hand?

            And also, they mate for hours, often up to 24 hours continuously. So again, surely the quicker the mating episode, the less time there is for having your head ripped off? Sounds like a quickie ‘wham bam, thank you mam’ approach would be safer for the species. But obviously, mother nature is absolutely perfect. Maybe ripping the males head off improves the quality of breast milk…

          • swbarnes2
            November 21, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

            If she has other mates in a short time frame, he’s better off staying in there as long as possible to get as much sperm in there as he can, so a higher proportion of the offspring will be his. Even if the cost of staying longer is being snacked on.

          • mabelcruet
            November 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

            That’s probably what they do in the wild, but Natasha had already eaten all the other male mantis without mating with any of them!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            November 21, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

            There’s an old Praying Mantis saying:

            “Women….can’t live with them……”

            (they don’t get any further than that).

          • swbarnes2
            November 22, 2017 at 12:21 am #

            He’s a mantis…he doesn’t know that. : (

          • Who?
            November 21, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

            Well now I want to find ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’ and watch.

            Perhaps the food hit directly after the mating helps the eggs somehow? Or maybe there’s no rhyme or reason to it, and somehow those critturs keep on keeping on regardless. How many of the 60 nymphs end up as snacks in the wild, I wonder.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            November 21, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

            And also, they mate for hours, often up to 24 hours continuously.

            Doesn’t everyone?

          • Thiel
            November 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

            The whole mate eating thing doesn’t happen much in the wild, so there hasn’t been much evolutionary pressure based on it. The reason it happens in captivity is that the female doesn’t know that there’s going to be a constant stream of food- praying manti aren’t really known for their fine grasp of object permanence. So, since her mate is the only food source available, she eats him. It’s possible the males would also try the same thing, but females have a pretty major size advantage over the males and a male would have a pretty hard time killing a female. That said, considering the numbers of manti being bred in captivity, there may well eventually be some type of evolutionary change to prioritize males that don’t get eaten.

  3. Sheven
    November 20, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    Steal the background (it’s probably from a generic stock photo anyway) and put up a new slogan.

    “My baby starved to death.”
    –Said many, many cavewomen

  4. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    November 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    I decided not to breed my very nice mare after a good friend, who regularly breeds horses and takes excellent and meticulous care of both mares and foals, lost two foals in a row and nearly lost her best broodmare to problems that modern veterinary science couldn’t help. I didn’t like the odds.

  5. rosewater1
    November 20, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Slightly OT: My significant other became a grandfather when his son & daughter in law had a beautiful baby boy earlier this year. Baby was breech & wouldn’t turn, so she had a c/s. An old friend of his was visiting on Friday, and when I showed her the pic he sent me from the OR, her response-after the initial isn’t he cute coo-was, “”Oh, she had a c/s. That fucking sucks!” When I politely said no, it didn’t, and the most important thing was healthy mom & baby, she insisted that “Birth method matters.” I repeated what I said-and when she realized I was getting upset, she let it drop. I’m STILL irritated about it. No one I care about will be c/s shamed.

    By the way, the parents in question are fine w how things turned out. Her version attempt was pretty painful, and she could hear a woman down the hall screaming in labor while this was going on. A c/s didn’t seem too bad after that. They want another baby at some point, and they will probably at least consider a VBAC. If they don’t get one, they’ll be fine with that too. And THEIRS is the only opinion(s) that really matter.

    • MaineJen
      November 20, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

      “Well, vaginal breech birth comes with a 5% chance of DEATH, and that’s what ‘matters’ to me.” Mic drop

      • rosewater1
        November 20, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

        EXACTLY. And I wish I’d said that to her.

    • November 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

      Birth method matters a lot; a prompt CS at 26 weeks allowed my son to be born very early – but healthy otherwise – and saved my life.

      I was sick enough that “we don’t have 3-4 days to mess around with an induction” in the words of my OB and my son was a complete or frank breech; he was wiggly even then. He didn’t need to have his head squished in a breech vaginal birth from a mom was bleeding to death, stroking out or seizing.

      In terms of baby outcome, birth method can matter a lot – but mainly because trying to avoid a CS against medical advice often ends catastrophically badly for the infant – and occasionally the mom, too.

      • rosewater1
        November 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

        Thankfully they are both too sensible to buy into the woo. Baby is breasted, but she supplemented when she developed a post op infection without question. And he’ll be fully vaccinated. 2 of many reasons why I love them.

      • Casual Verbosity
        November 20, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

        That makes me so unbelievably angry. I am a very peaceful, conflict-avoidant person but I would not have been able to show the amount of restraint you did. Well done.

    • AnnaPDE
      November 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      Sure, birth method matters – to the mother. Whether she feels safe etc during the whole thing. That’s why I was totally happy with my scheduled CS. This friend has really no idea.

    • Merrie
      November 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

      Wow, how is it even any of her business?

      • rosewater1
        November 21, 2017 at 6:33 am #

        It isn’t. But that didn’t stop her. Nor was that the only subject/time she overstepped,

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya
      November 21, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      Good for you for sticking up for them. After explaining to my mother all the reasons why I wanted a c section, I told her a story my OB told me about a woman who went into labour prematurely and gave birth so quickly they were unable to do a (medically indicated) c section. Her response was “that was lucky for her!” Uh, probably not! I don’t know why the c section = bad mindset is so pervasive, but we need more people talking about positive c section experiences.

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        November 21, 2017 at 11:15 am #

        On a weird note, one granny I’m acquainted with asked when my c-section was scheduled.. Just as odd an assumption. (This was with my first)

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        November 21, 2017 at 11:21 am #

        Happened to my nephew’s wife, third pregnancy. First 2 were 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 pounders. 3rd kid was measuring big so they scheduled an induction a week or 2 before his due date, before he got even bigger, day before the scheduled induction his mom went into labor. 10lb 11 oz baby, Bad shoulder dystocia, kid spent a week in the NICU (looked like Godzilla next to the preemies!)

        A scheduled C-section would have been so much better for everyone involved.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        November 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

        I told her a story my OB told me about a woman who went into labour prematurely and gave birth so quickly they were unable to do a (medically indicated) c section. Her response was “that was lucky for her!”

        These people are fucked up!

        “Premature labour” = “lucky”?

        That is just a completely different reality.

      • rosewater1
        November 21, 2017 at 10:31 pm #

        Thank you. This was their second pregnancy; the first one they chose to terminate when their anatomy scan showed a lethal anomaly. That made them all the more focused on having a healthy baby and doing whatever they needed to do so.

        By the way, I don’t think the woman who sparked my original post knew about how the first pregnancy ended. I like to think that she wouldn’t have said what she did if she knew that…but, who knows.

    • seenthelight
      November 22, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

      Yep, my mom posted a yes! magazine thought piece about patriarchy in obstetrics, with all the expected homages to nature and midwifery-as-feminism. I did my best to bite back politely.

  6. Kelly
    November 20, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    OT somewhat, but I just saw a post on Facebook where a 28 weeker was breastfeeding and they were encouraging mothers of preemies to breastfeed. The article goes on to say that breastfeeding does not take up more energy than bottle feeding and that mothers transfer the milk, not the baby. This person does not believe that preemies need fortified milk but just breast milk because is gold. They are putting even more pressure and guilt on preemie mothers for following the doctor’s advice. I shouldn’t be surprised but somehow I am.

    • MaineJen
      November 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Oh jesus. **There is nothing natural about a 28 weeker.** The normal rules do not apply when a baby has to fight for every breath. And yes, babies have to work hard to get that milk out. FFS.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      November 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

      Leaking sometimes is not the same as feeding the baby. sheesh

      • Kelly
        November 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

        From what I could get you were supposed to use your hands to massage the milk out of your breast into the baby’s mouth. I had a 38 weeker who couldn’t transfer milk well and I ended up pumping for her. These people are crazy. I guess your body can fail in every other way but breastfeeding.

        • Empress of the Iguana People
          November 20, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

          These people. I had oversupply and it wasn’t a mere message to get the milk out. (besides the leaking phase) I’d have been black and blue pretty damn quickly

        • November 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

          *imagines trying to handle manual expression while holding a 2 pound baby who has a NIPPV/CPAP nose prongs along with the full complement of monitoring cords*


          My little guy’s mouth was still smaller than my engorged nipple diameter at that point and I had hyperactive letdown reflex like a lot of FTM who pump so….even if I could pull off that level of contortion without growing a few extra arms….I’d have sprayed milk all over the wall, not the baby.

          Pumping and an OG/NG tube worked fine. No regrets – and no mercy for people who give more things to stress about to preemie moms.

          • Ozlsn
            November 20, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

            Speaking from experience… it’s doable with CPAP but a total PITA. Not least because holding the baby, keeping the prongs in, flattening your nipple so the baby can attach and trying to not dislodge any leads or tubing (especially when said baby starts wriggling) is bloody hard. And then they attach, manage two sucks and go to sleep completely exhausted. Despite the additional NG problems (stop pulling it out, dammit! And really don’t start with the hiccuping it out of position thing!) I was very glad we could keep him fed even while he slept.

          • November 20, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

            I loved being able to tube-feed Spawn his midnight feeding. He had no interest in waking up for it; I think I managed to jiggle him awake once in six weeks and he just glared at me like “Ok, my baby book says that parents like it when their babies sleep through the night. Did you skip that chapter in your parent book?” Then he sucked twice and went back to sleep.

            Spawn sucks at burping and he’s super gassy so being able to get tricky bubbles by suctioning the air out of his stomach was great. I miss that occasionally when my husband or I has a crabby gas-bubble baby….

          • mabelcruet
            November 21, 2017 at 11:45 am #

            When I was a proper doctor many years ago, the sister (senior nurse) on our adult surgical ward used to do a ‘windy ward round’. Post op patients were often troubled with wind and gas, and she would show them how to deal with it. They lay on their backs, and she bent their knees up to their chests, and then rocked them from side to side (obviously only those who were able to move relatively comfortably). The results were spectacular (and very noisy!)-it used to come out both ends.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            November 21, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

            She should have just pulled their fingers….

        • Sarah
          November 25, 2017 at 10:51 am #

          Well, and vaginal birth obvs. But yes, one sees people who if their eyesight wasn’t quite right or they had a bad back or whatever would be quite happy to accept that it’s just a body part not working to optimum level, yet when it’s a breast that couldn’t possibly be the case.

    • Ozlsn
      November 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      What the fuck?? Is this baby still 28 weeks, or are they over 37 weeks corrected at this stage? Because I can’t see anywhere allowing let alone encouraging breastfeeding that early. The NICU where my son was was very supportive of breastfeeding and they didn’t even want premmies doing breast contact (pre-breastfeeding, basically letting them lick, smell etc) before about 36 weeks corrected. As to the mothers transferring the milk… this person is nuts. So much work to get milk out, whether by expressing or attaching. Grief.

      • Kelly
        November 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

        The baby in the pictures looked pretty young. The article actually mentioned the 36 rule for preemies that doctors put in place and tried to encourage mom to fight against it. These people are ridiculous. They really set up an us vs. them situation. It was on the website of the International Breastfeeding Centre so they are putting themselves out there like they know what they are talking about.

      • Helen
        November 21, 2017 at 7:21 am #

        I’m reminded of my child (born 36 weeks, one week old at this time) who was having trouble getting the hang of eating, and my boobs weren’t getting the hang of producing, so I was told to try putting her skin to skin, but NOT to try breastfeeding. I had to take my bra off to get enough skin to hold her against. It was purely her idea to latch on. And she made huge progress in learning to eat after that. HOWEVER, her twin sister took an entirely different path, so no, there’s nothing universal about this story.

        Combo feeding worked wonderfully.

    • November 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

      My son was thermo-regulating by 31 weeks gestation. There was this little snippet of a baby wrapped in a blanket in an open isolette (otherwise known as a high-tech crib). Watching the medical staff do double-takes was priceless.

      Some preemies are freakish like that.

      I didn’t go on a personal crusade to convince preemie moms to liberate their babies from isolettes at 31 weeks gestation – because the ability of one little sport to do something weird is not the same as the ability of all babies – or even that baby over there – to do the same thing.

    • BeatriceC
      November 20, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

      Oh, ffs. Even my 32 weeker had to be on an NG tube for a short time because he couldn’t coordinate the suck/swallow/breathe process. And after that they still needed accurate measurements of what he was taking in before he was just a “feeder and grower”. My 24 weeker never did learn to nurse directly from the breast, and part of that was because every time we tried he started losing weight. We knew it wasn’t a supply issue since I was a massive over-producer (I had enough milk to sustain an entire NFL team). It was just the energy required to actually nurse was more than he could handle until he was about 4 months old.

    • Gæst
      November 20, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

      It really depends. Some mothers with heavy and fast letdown might do more transferring, and some preemies don’t need fortified milk. But it’s by no means universally so, and no one who isn’t present in the NICU should have an opinion.

      • November 21, 2017 at 5:53 am #

        Generally speaking, formula for prematures is 24 calories wheras formula for term infants is 20 calories for the same quantity.

        • Gæst
          November 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

          I never said it didn’t have more calories? Just that not all preemies need it.

    • Helen
      November 21, 2017 at 7:23 am #

      Once, I was talking with a mother in the grocery store who had a premiee, and she was combo feeding because her baby would still get way too tired to take in enough milk.

  7. StephanieJR
    November 20, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    Mother like a bunny! They’re so cute and sweet, how could they possibly be bad parents?

    Well, if the kit survives the pregnancy, considering the fact that rabbits can reabsorb the foetus, and after the birth, considering the potential for cannibalism, if there are no immediate genetic defects, and survives competing against the numerous siblings, and only getting to see the mother for a few minutes every couple of hours to get a brief squirt of milk, avoiding predators and disease until weaning, they’re set! And then they get kicked out of the nest and join the larger warren, to make way for the new litter, after eight weeks.

    Rabbits (European, Oryctolagus cuniculus) have a 90% mortality rate in their first year. Granted, they only live three to four years, at least in the wild.

    Rabbits are famous for breeding for a reason, and although the does can be loving and caring mothers, it’s only in captivity, where they are domesticated and protected from hostile environments by humans, do you see it.

    Mother like a damn human, not like a damn animal.

    • November 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

      That reminds me of the definition of a good mother pig: doesn’t view the majority of the litter as walking protein snacks……

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        November 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

        Yorks rule!

    • AnnaPDE
      November 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

      Mother like a hamster: If baby or baby’s dad annoys you, relive the stress by biting off baby’s head. Optionally dad’s, too.

      • Gæst
        November 20, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

        I bred fish occasionally as a child. If you don’t spot them and remove them right after birth, they’re eaten right up by the bigger fish, including parents.

      • Mishimoo
        November 20, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

        Rat mothers: They bite everything, including the hand that feeds them.

        (I know, not all rats and there is a movement to breed out maternal aggression in fancy rats, but it is a genuine issue with these pets)

      • mabelcruet
        November 21, 2017 at 11:51 am #

        Terry Pratchett wrote a book called Snuff, and in it discusses ‘the dreadful algebra of necessity’. This is when goblins are starving, and so a goblin mother will eat her young, and place the baby’s soul in an unggue pot called the soul of tears, “the most beautiful of all the pots, carved with little flowers and washed with tears”. This then is preserved until the mother can have another child, and the baby goblin’s soul is reunited.

        Probably doesn’t make much sense if you’re not a Pratchett fan, but its a very moving part of the book.

        • LA Julian
          November 24, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

          That’s one of the most amazing and brutally-honest of his ‘satires’ – where he took the goblins and instead of saying ‘It’s wrong to persecute them because they’re not guilty of the terrible things that our dehumanizing rhetoric puts on them’ with cannibalism being the worst thing anyone can accuse another people of, he turned it around and said ‘So what? Yes, they’re cannibals – you persecuted them and starved them for centuries, what else are they going to do to survive? People don’t have to be perfect victims, to deserve human rights!’

          And having one of the most legalistic of all his characters stand up for them, as if Javert had had sense knocked into him, in this incarnation – it’s next to Night Watch for intensity, which brings it on topic, since that’s where medical advances in obstetrics save the day when a ‘perfectly normal’ pregnancy goes sideways in delivery…

          • mabelcruet
            November 25, 2017 at 7:41 am #

            I agree completely-he was such a great author. Multi-layered, thoughtful, provoking, intelligent, often very dark, but also beautifully uplifting.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          November 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

          Pratchett was a freaking genius. I know he was an atheist, but I still think he did the best job I’ve ever read on the subject with his definition of sin:
          There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin. for example.”
          “And what do they think? Against it, are they?”
          “It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
          “There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
          “It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
          “No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
          “Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”
          “But they starts with thinking about people as things…”
          RIP, Sir Terry. You are sorely missed.

          • mabelcruet
            November 28, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

            Missed indeed. It took me months to read the Shepherd’s Crown, I didn’t want there to be no more Discworld books that I hadn’t read. He was taken too soon with too many books still to write. He hadn’t finished with Sam Vimes, there was supposed to be another one charting his ongoing promotions (I have a strong suspicion that Sam was going to end up as Patrician, still wearing cardboard boots and chasing unlicensed thieves around the Shades)

    • Cat
      November 21, 2017 at 7:51 am #

      I still remember how startled I was as a child when my beloved pet Labrador tried to have sex with his mother when they bumped into each other at a dog-training class. Clearly, natural birth and all that mother’s milk created such a powerful bond that they didn’t even recognise each other after he was sent home with a new family.

  8. kilda
    November 20, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    “All my children survived infancy” – said no cavewoman ever.

  9. EllenL
    November 20, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    Just within my family:
    *my mother had Rheumatic Heart Disease, making pregnancy life-threatening for her, and for me (she died at age 31; heart surgery to repair a damaged valve from rheumatic fever is now routine).
    *I have RH Negative factor, with a positive DH and babies, pregnancy is potentially hazardous to our kids; vaccine made this safer.
    *A favorite niece had 3 pregnancies with Gestational Diabetes. In the old days, babies often died late in the mother’s pregnancy. With monitoring and insulin, she had healthy babies.
    *My daughter had a large baby hopelessly stuck (sideways) in the birth canal after 30 hours “trial labor”; C-section was lifesaving for baby and mother.

    Don’t try to tell me that Mother Nature has our best interests in mind. We were able to have healthy babies in spite of nature, not because of it. Modern medicine works miracles.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      November 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

      In my immediate maternal line alone:
      Me: 3 pregnancies, one of which resulted in a healthy baby. The first miscarriage resulted in massive bleeding and my BP dropped to 60/30. Second miscarriage was not complete, resulting in need for surgery to avoid infection. My daughter was suffering decels late in delivery resulting in need for vacuum, also needed resus due to possible inhaled meconium (also I am Rh – and hubbie is Rh+)

      Mom – severe endometriosis resulted in scarring of the uterus and uterine rupture with delivery of her third baby. 3rd baby was also transverse with placenta previa(look it’s an OB hat trick!) Yay emergency C-section and hysterectomy.

      Grandmother – She had 8 babies, the 3rd one was still born (Rh factor)

      Great grandmother – Died at 18 (maybe 17?) due to complications in home delivery, the baby lived about 2 months

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        November 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

        How old was she with her eldest?

      • Amazed
        November 25, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

        In my maternal line:

        My mom: stillborn from eclampsia. She was born 5 pounds all.

        My grandmother: dead from said eclampsia. She never managed to carry a baby long enough for a live birth anymore.

        Me: dead without a vacuum. Midwives were supposed to call the doctor at the final stages but they saw something that disturbed them enough to call him earlier. One look, and a vacuum was supposed to be tried… supposed to because it turned out to be out of order. The doctor cursed like a sailor and set up to repair it. Yes, it was the only vacuum in this very big regional hospital. Communism in all its glory. He managed to get it right in time to use it on my head and here I was. Footnote: take notice that the medwives were med enough to notice the impeding trouble soon enough to give the man time to repair the thing without death racing him shoulder to shoulder. Clearly, they were poor excuse of midwives.

        My mom: dead or at least very ill without this blessed vacuum.

        My mom, 4 years later: dead of postpartum haemorraging.

        On the other hand, my second cousin: VBAC? What the hell? I CHOSE my c-section! I couldn’t be happier! Why would I want a VBAC?

        My maternal line is, unfortunately, limited to her maternal line alone. Not because my grandfather was an only child. His siblings simply died of tuberculosis in their teens.

        Mother Nature? Come again? Hello? Anyone remember what Gaeia did best?

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          November 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

          That doctor who delivered you sounds like an absolute gem, and I say that not at all sarcastically. (And any reasonable person WOULD turn the air blue at that point.) Also, good on the midwives!

          • Amazed
            November 27, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

            Good on the midwives indeed! As to the doctor, Mom was, understandably, kind of in too much pain to appreciate it but it looks like he cursed the vacuum in synch with his mending efforts, saying things like, I’m returning you to the manifacturer, fuck you… I’m finishing you off myself so you won’t play such tricks on me ever again… You damned thing, why won’t you just get right? What am I missing?!

            At least this time, Mom had the benefit of a well-baby nursery. The second time around, she was informed that she was keeping her baby with her and the nurse only rushed to take him when she saw he was sliding down in the very first moment in his loving mom’s arms. At least she took him and realized that my mom could not possibly take care of him. The way things are going now, world-wise, I think he would have been left with Mom until he broke his freaking skull.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks
            November 27, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

            Dude, under those circumstances, I’d be telling the machine to commit physically and anatomically improbable acts on itself and its manufacturers, as well as suggesting that it was going to be used as an unlubricated, sideways suppository on whatever moron a) was supposed to keep it working and b) thought that just one vacuum with no backup unit was a good idea. No judgment!
            I wish I could disagree with your second paragraph, but that would be an exercise in fiction writing.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks
        November 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

        First, I am so sorry about your miscarriages. My deepest condolences. I had an early one, and despite receiving care that was second to none in terms of compassion, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
        Second, that third pregnancy of your mom’s sounds like the sort of pregnancy that gives OBs way too many grey hairs.

    • November 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

      If nature played out, 2016 would have been the year my husband’s family’s section in the local cemetery would have had two to four new graves:

      My sister-in-law from eclampsia

      Her son from placental insufficiency causing a stillbirth (if she had made it to labor which is questionable)

      My son from extreme prematurity (if I delivered before dying – not terribly likely)

      Me from eclampsia or massive hemorrhage during or before delivery.

      Or….we could have two healthy women with two growing little boys with modern medicine. No regrets on our life choices.

      • Sarah
        November 25, 2017 at 10:52 am #

        Yes but at least none of you would have had any formula.

    • Merrie
      November 20, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

      Among my friends there are perhaps two people who didn’t have some fairly significant complication in pregnancy and/or birth (gestational diabete, pre-eclampsia, failure to descend leading to a c/s, *actual* eclampsia, retained placenta, IUGR, extreme prematurity, and God knows what else… these aren’t all the same person). I like my friends. I like their babies. I’m glad they are all alive. I like being alive myself rather than having bled out from a retained placenta after my second birth and left my husband a widower with 2 kids under 3, which is probably what would have happened in nature.

    • Helen
      November 21, 2017 at 7:26 am #

      I would have died with internal hemorrhaging with my first pregnancy.

    • Lilly de Lure
      November 21, 2017 at 7:53 am #

      My son would have died in the womb of placental insufficiency due to IUGR and since he was completely tethered into a transverse lie by his umbilical cord I would then have died either in labour or of massive sepsis trying to deliver his corpse.

  10. November 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Well, no caveman said “Oh, honey, it’s not as bad as you think. Your son has a 85-90% chance of surviving” when talking to someone about to give birth at 26 weeks.

    I much preferred having a team of obstetricians and neonatalogists to cavemen. Personal preference, I know, but I’ve got a nearly one-year old little boy who wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

    And, bluntly, that experience showed me how deeply ingrained infant loss is in our history.

    I knew on a logical, thinking level that my son had an excellent shot at surviving and thriving. He was surrounded by nurses who talked about how easy care was for him – and their body language made it clear he was doing great. I could see how well he was doing; he was eating, breathing, moving and was pink. I was glad he was doing so well and happy to see him grow.

    And yet every time I came back to the NICU, I had a palpable sense of surprise that he was still alive – and often a sense of resignation that he wasn’t going to survive. It wasn’t a conscious, thinking thing; it was more of a gut feeling of “It’s too bad, but he came too early to survive.”

    That feeling passed – but not because of anything I did. Spawn got bigger and looked more like a term baby and eventually something in my body clicked over to “He’s got a shot at making it” when he was around 3 pounds – which was ironic because he had been well and truly out of danger for some time.

    • Ozlsn
      November 20, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

      I was the opposite, probably from a sense of total denial. I point blank refused to believe he wouldn’t survive – my attitude was “until they tell me they have run out of options his odds of survival are 100%.” This was quite honestly flying in the face of reality – he was severely IUGR, he didn’t make it from intubation to CPAP until he was nearly term corrected, and even that took three rounds of steroids and two previous attempts that only got him to IMV. There was a logical part of my brain that knew the odds weren’t good – I remember thinking that I hoped one potential infection was bacterial, rather than viral/fungal because he had a better chance then – but the illogical part of my brain ignored them, and I walled the two sides off from each other. It took me about three years after he came home from NICU to be able to say that he could have died out loud in those words – I still tend towards “the outcomes wouldn’t have been as good”.
      I used to say that even 30 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to bring my son home – to be honest even with fantastic modern neonatal care we were extremely fortunate. As a cavewoman I and my son – and one sister, my husband (also born prem), most of my nieces and nephews and about half of my friends – would all have died in infancy or childbirth. I do not get this magical thinking around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

      • November 20, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

        Oh, I totally get that. The gut bit only popped up when he was tiny – and only for a moment or two.

        I managed to stay pretty deeply in denial over how damaged my son’s lungs were. I started coming to terms with the fact Spawn would be coming home on oxygen when he was at 38 weeks gestation and on an NG tube at 40 weeks.

        Looking back, the writing had been on the wall about his lungs since about 34 weeks because he had been so hard to wean off the vent and nearly as hard to wean off NIPPV/CPAP – but I didn’t want to wrap my head around that so I didn’t.

        My husband and I have been talking about how Spawn probably would have died if I hadn’t had pseudo-contractions that brought me to the hospital triage where the nurses realized I was critically ill when I did. As it was, the OBs, anesthesiologists, and neonatalogists were expecting an emergency C-section within a few hours – but I stabilized just enough to push it back to 28 hours from the first steroid shot. His lungs took a bad hit with two steroid doses (but less than 48 hours exposure); I don’t think his lungs would have been matured enough if he hadn’t had those doses.

        • Ozlsn
          November 22, 2017 at 2:09 am #

          Oh I love those steroids. I was fortunate that my stratospheric BP rise happened in an appointment in a hospital when someone was looking at it – otherwise our chance of a good outcome would have been a lot lower. Because the BP was able to be controlled relatively rapidly we got in two rounds of steroids and an extra fortnight before the placenta finally gave up. I cannot even imagine how hard it would have been without them. When my husband was born at 28 weeks gestation it was before the lung maturing steroids were in use, and his gestation was where the grey line of survival was – the line that is now around 24 weeks. A baby born at his weight and gestation with a round or two of pre-delivery steroids today would almost certainly survive with no ongoing issues.

          It actually scares the crap out of me how many women I know who were basically lucky not to die in pregnancy or giving birth. Admittedly my entire mothers group are women I met in NICU so I have a very skewed sample, but even so, the number of women who happened to have an appointment where someone picked up on something, or who went in because it didn’t feel quite right, or – even worse – were brushed off the first few times by medical professionals and who ended up in ICU… and that’s not including my friends who had perfectly routine pregnancies and labours right up till the point where it went pear shaped. It took me a long time to admit to myself that the risks weren’t just to my son, and that I could also have very easily ended up dead or disabled if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time. It was also the first time that I really thought about why birth announcements tend to end with “mother and baby doing well” – it’s only recently that that is something that can be assumed to be true most of the time.

  11. Heidi
    November 20, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    I watched some documentary on elephants on PBS. I’m thinking it was maybe Sex in the Wild and an elephant died months later after giving birth because unknown to those caring for her, she had done internal damage. I also recall a neglected but adopted snow monkey infant dying because the mother could barely produce enough milk to sustain her own baby so she had to let the other infant die or lose them both. Presumably the biological mother had died. Nature sucks is what I’m saying, and support public television (but discourage them using “Dr.” Axe, Deepak Chopra, and Perlmutter in their fundraising campaigns)!

    • Resident
      November 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      There’s nothing more natural than death

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      November 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

      The elephant story was indeed Sex in the Wild.

      The other Sex n the Wild episode I liked is the one where the orangutan had a c-section, and immediately bonded with her baby.

  12. Empress of the Iguana People
    November 20, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    When that dancing penguin movie is your version of nature, of course you’re gonna be blind to mortality rates.

  13. crazy mama, PhD
    November 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    I suspect rather a lot of cavewomen thought breastfeeding was hard.

    • AnnaPDE
      November 20, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      They just didn’t post it on Facebook…

      • mabelcruet
        November 21, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

        No, they preferred Instagram.

  14. Montserrat Blanco
    November 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    As someone that would be dead long ago without modern obstetrics and the mother of a lovely boy that would also be dead if it were not thanks to modern obstetrics and modern neonatology, I have no interest whatsoever in letting Nature take its course.

  15. Emilie Bishop
    November 20, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    I would have died at 8-12 weeks gestation like my mom’s first two pregnancies without modern hormone treatments (in 1983). Then I was breech, so may have died and/or killed my mom without the c-section. If I survived all that “naturally,” my son would have died without a food source besides my little breast milk (if he could have been conceived without my endo surgeries). So yay science! My family exists because we are no longer completely beholden to nature.

  16. MI Dawn
    November 20, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    Women commonly died in childbirth. Queen Victoria called it “the shadow side” for a good reason. And how long have wet nurses, replacement foods, etc been recorded? Centuries.

    For heaven’s sake, even in the “Clan of the Cave Bear” books, they mention birth injuries, women dying in childbirth, loss of breast milk, etc. Yes, they are fiction, but Jean Auel did a LOT of research.

    • Amy M
      November 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

      Absolutely. Also, if Byrom and her ilk bothered to even do a google search, they could see how humans give birth and breastfeed “in nature” because there are plenty of places in the world with no access to modern obstetrics or formula/clean water.

      • Anna
        November 22, 2017 at 12:05 am #

        They shouldn’t have to do a Google Search to know this. They have degrees in midwifery! They wilfully ignored that what doesn’t fit their ideology.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      November 27, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

      Queen Victoria was also a HUGE proponent of anesthesia in childbirth. DH is a history nerd about that era, and has read most of her published letters. This was somewhat amusing when we were preparing to have our first, as much of his familiarity with childbirth et all had come from those letters.
      It also explained why he thought that I had lucked out in having to have a CS–after all, why go through a lot of pain if you can be numb from the chest down instead? Mind you, I don’t regret either CS at all except on a sort of emotional, what-if level, but I did have to correct him a wee bit on it always being a totally easy way out.

      • MI Dawn
        November 29, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

        Yep. In fact, her acceptance of ether during childbirth led to much greater acceptance of its use in general.

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