Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy

What to expect when your blogger’s expecting

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Since I’ve already begun telling so many people in real life (including, finally, my mother), I might as well come out with it digitally: I am expecting. A baby. Well, at least I hope it’s a baby (just before I found out I was pregnant, my sister had a dream I gave birth to a zombie cat). It turns out my uterus is not, as I casually suspected, inhospitable to life.

I am not freaking out too much, yet. Or, rather, I have known for almost 2 months now, so have passed the major freak-out period (OMG I ate pot cookies in San Francisco a week after the baby was, unbeknownst to me, conceived! and the like). I have prenatal vitamins. I’ve quit almost all of my vices (caffeine has proven to be tougher than alcohol & cigarettes combined, though I’m going with the latest research that says up to 200 mg a day is okay). My best friend and her husband (the only close friends of mine who already have a child) sent me a box full of “What to Expect” books, a picture frame for the ultra-sound photo, snack bars, an adorable baby lamb stuffed animal (organic wool, of course), and a wire coat hanger—“Just in case (sorry it’s not rusty)”—because that is the kind of lovely but sick friends I have. She also tells me her mother is already knitting me a baby blanket. And my grandmother is searching out her trusty old pencil-on-a-string so, she says, they can determine the baby’s sex while I’m home for Thanksgiving.

Because I am the kind of person who shares way too much personal information in public forums—no, it was not planned.

But because I am also the kind of person who believes, in the abstract, that abortion is a more-or-less morally neutral act—yes, this is a choice.

So! I’ll accept your congratulations. Or your warnings, pregnancy tips, reading suggestions or cartons of ginger ale (“morning” sickness OMG).

And because I am an insufferable yuppie, I suppose (*side tangent: if, in the 60s, hippie yuppies were nicknamed “yippies,” what do you call today’s hipster yuppies? yipsters?*), the two books I have so-far purchased include The ECO-nomical baby guide and Origins: How the nine months before birth shape the rest of our lives. This last book, and all the recent scientific research it summarizes (you can check out an abbreviated version from Time magazine) is terrifying from both a personal and a societal standpoint, let me tell you. But more on that later.

Which is I guess the last point I wanted to make: Oh, my!, are you probably about to get an eyeful of feminist-tinged pregnant lady rants. Please don’t be worried—I promise not to start writing about the latest in diaper bag technology or anything like that. I just imagine that people’s expectations for me and my fetus are gonna provide ample opportunity for commentary. Hopefully, it will be fun for us all!

I’m also gearing up for a move to Chicago, because I apparently need to complete my trifecta of stints in Cities Midwestern People Move To (isn’t there some sort of toaster I can win for this?), having already spent some time now in NYC and Washington, D.C.

Now: Do I start working towards bylines in Parenting or on Babble?


Written by ENB

November 1, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in Story-Telling

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“Orchid Children”

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One of the most fascinating articles I have read in a long time:

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

And while we’re on genetics, check out Kay Hymowitz’s City Journal article, “Femina Sapiens in the Nursery,” too.

Evolutionary psychologists are sometimes accused of not giving proper due to the flexibility of the human brain. In her recent book Mothers and Others, for instance, Hrdy argues that just as animal males don’t tend to their infants, so human fathers can’t be expected to hang around for the long run. But at their best, scientists are apt to describe the brain as chemically and neurologically predisposed to certain behaviors—nurturing babies in the case of women, for instance—while capable of adapting these behaviors to enormously varied environments. Sometimes those environments even change the brain’s chemistry, a process that the writer Matt Ridley calls “nature via nurture.” When Hrdy presumes the fecklessness of men, she underestimates the environmental pressure of social norms. The human record suggests that social norms, especially the universal one of marriage, can reinforce fathers’ ties to their children, which in turn might even become part of the male neural architecture. Recently, neuroscientists have even discovered evidence that married men’s testosterone levels fall at the birth of their baby.

I concede no opinions about ev-pscyh yet, but Dr. Science approves:

That is quite possibly the best account of the topic I have ever read! She pretty much gets everything right. The science doesn’t prescribe social policy, but rather informs it. How do we come to grips with all of the evolutionary inertia/path dependency that has built up over millions of years, reconcile it with our visions of what “the good life” ought to be, and set ourselves on a course to a better society?

That is the debate we ought to be having, but step one is accepting where we are at the moment with regard to our understanding of the world (science). And yes yes yes, our decisions about the kind of society we choose to create and live in will, over eons, create new selection pressures and reshape our evolutionary trajectory. And as Kay so eloquently points out, technology has already done a lot to change the selection pressures. Maybe a million years from now, our descendants will bemoan how much nature predisposes us to an asymmetrical paternal investment into offspring and they will create new technologies and social policies to swing nature back in the other direction once again.

Written by ENB

December 11, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Health & Science

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