If you know me fairly well, you know I’m a reader.
I read everything.
I also consume copious amounts of multimedia reportage, particularly in the form of Frontline documentaries on PBS (if you haven’t discovered these on your local PBS station, there’s an online archive here).
I’ve come to realize, though, that I need my own personal multimedia redactor. I’m being exposed to way too much bad news about pregnancy, even in the most unsuspecting of places, and it’s freaking me out.
1. Frontline’s recent documentary, “Sick Around America”: As if all the statistics about the uninsured and heart-rending stories about the people fucked over by our screwed up health care system weren’t terrifying enough, the opening sequence in this documentary sent my blood pressure soaring:
[Narrator]: “Seattle, Washington. February, 2008. Melinda Williams, four months pregnant, wakes up in the middle of the night….”
[Melinda Williams]: “I just knew that something was wrong, and so I flipped on the lights and I found that I was laying in a pool of blood, and I woke up Mark [her husband] and we just, we just held each other and sobbed. We were sure that we’d lost the pregnancy.”
The narrator goes on to report that the pregnancy is stabilized… until week 27, when her water breaks. Her baby is delivered by c-section, nine weeks premature, and is then covered in wires and tubes to keep him alive.
Melinda Williams looks like any moderately healthy American woman. Why did this happen? And what if….
2. Lisa Belkin’s article, “Your Old Man,” published in the April 5 Sunday Times magazine: This happened to be the first article I flipped to in the magazine. Belkin writes:
“Researchers…found that children born to older fathers have, on average, lower scores on tests of intelligence than those born to younger dads. Data… from more than 33,000 American children showed that the older the man when a child is conceived, the lower a child’s score is likely to be on tests of concentration, memory, reasoning, and reading skills, at least through age 7…. British and Swedish researchers…have calculated that the risk of schizophrenia begins to rise for those whose fathers were over 30 when their babies were born. And another Swedish study has found that the risk of bipolar disorder in children begins to increase when fathers are older than 29 and is highest if they are older than 55.”
I’m groaning and rocking catatonically at this point–Francisco is older than 29– but Belkin doesn’t stop:
“British and American researchers found that babies born to men over the age of 40 have significantly greater risk of autism than do those born to men under 30. “
At the end of her article, Belkin jokes about the way “choosing a father for your child according to his ‘sell-by’ date” is sweet comeuppance after years of women being treated as damaged goods after a certain age… but I wasn’t laughing (and as a feminist, I don’t really think that comeuppance is really what we’re aiming for, anyway, but that’ s another issue altogether).
So here’s what I’m left thinking after what seems like a barrage of bad pregnancy news: I need a full-time multimedia redactor. The redactor will screen everything I’m going to read and watch between now and the end of September, beeping or blacking out everything with disaster anecdotes. And who knows? The redactor may just have a job well into the baby’s childhood– as I’m sure the bad news (education system going down the tubes! urban babies at greater risk for asthma! the type of baby stroller or sling you use determines your child’s personality for life!) won’t stop once this kid is born.