In two weeks I am schedule to have a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). (I’m going to explain what it is and why It’s done because I didn’t know what it was up until recently. If you already know about it, don’t care, or are bored, skip to the 3rd paragraph.) During pregnancy, hormones suppress insulin release in order to provide more nourishment for the baby. The baby depends on a regular and steady supply of glucose, (which could explain why I’m constantly craving pasta, potatoes, and vanilla milkshakes.) During that time, about 2 to 10 percent of all pregnant women develop a temporary condition referred to “gestational glucose intolerance” (once referred to as gestational diabetes). Basically, women who have this condition have blood-sugar higher than average.
Babies born to mothers with gestational glucose intolerance can be excessively large. This can lead to prematurity, respiratory problems, and difficult deliveries. (I’m worried about a 7.5 pound baby passing through my vagina, anything larger than that scares the crap out of me, and literally, quite possibly.) The GTT is now offered to pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks during which time a woman is asked to drink a glass of sweet liquid called “glucola” on an empty stomach. (They say it tastes like extra sweet Coke or Pepsi. Of course, that sounds much more appealing than what some women have told me. I have been told it tastes awful.) An hour later, the woman’s blood-sugar is tested. If the test results come back with elevated blood-sugar, it is suggested that the woman go in for a more advanced, 3-hour test. Only about 15% of women who show an abnormal 1-hour glucose test come back with an abnormal 3-hour glucose test. If that test comes back high as well, the doctor will recommend that a woman go on a diabetic diet for the remainder of her pregnancy.
I wrote about genetic testing a few months back. I am so absolutely grateful for having a baby in a day and age where science has advanced so much. Now more women are able to sit back and enjoy their pregnancies, this is especially important as more and more women are having children at an older age. But I have to admit, over the past several months I have had myself an eye roll or two. It’s when one starts to combine all these tests and rules – pillows one must buy, tests one must have, exercises one must follow, and ways in which one must lie down – that it all starts to look a little silly. How did women have babies before now? How am I even here at all?
About a year ago, I was in a meeting. There were several of us present; we were discussing an upcoming conference. (I worked in the creative department of a massive corporate meeting planning firm.) There was a woman present who was 3 months pregnant. She happened to be one of the account executives on the massive job we were discussing. Her team wanted reassurance that she was able to see it through, attend the meetings to plan the event, and finally attend the conference. That’s when she pulled out her calendar and did the most peculiar thing. She flipped 6 months ahead and said, “I’m going to schedule my birth for that Friday. I’ll be out for two weeks. I will return to work 17 days later.”
“Are you sure?” Someone asked.
“That’s what I did with Jacob. I could schedule the cesarean for earlier.”
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
And that was that. A pregnant woman had just scheduled her birth, her recovery time, and her return to the office 6 months ahead of time. It was one of the strangest conversations I had ever heard. Does this sort of thing actually happen? Do people schedule their births? They do in New York City apparently, especially the working girl. Nevertheless, it was one strange concept for me to accept.
When our mothers were pregnant with us they probably didn’t buy 70-dollar body pillows to help them sleep at night. They probably didn’t get all hopped up on prenatal vitamins, drink a glass of ground flax seeds every morning, have blood tests done 6 months prior conception in order to determine whether or not they were susceptible to certain genetic disorders. They probably didn’t receive an ultrasound every four weeks. I’m guessing they weren’t given a glucose test at 26-weeks. And I know for a fact they weren’t scheduling their births 6 months in advance. Granted, more women and babies probably died back then; I’m not saying that scientific advancement isn’t a good thing. I can’t imagine knowing what I know now and going back to how it was then. But is it all really necessary?
When you bring up things like 70-dollar body pillows to some women over 50, they roll their eyes. When you mention paying a doula for help during delivery, some of the older women may laugh at you. When you mention things like blood tests and genetic counseling, they may shake their heads in disbelief, muttering the words, “They do that now?” And when you ask some of them if they made sure that they slept on their left side, they may call you silly. Over the past several months I have even laughed at myself. There have been times I feel as though I have turned this natural event – one of the most natural things I’ll ever do here on planet earth – into something entirely more difficult than it should be. It’s as if I’m planning a trip to outer space rather than childbirth.
Are we turning the natural into some more unnatural? What will happen when I am my mother’s age and my son is the age I am now? Will a mother be able to choose between a boy or girl, blond or brunette? Will they have sticks you can pee on to check your baby’s sex? Not too long ago they were injecting rabbits with urine to test for pregnancy. Had you said to those folks their technique was absurd and that one day they’d be able to spare the rabbit and pee on a piece of plastic instead, they probably would have laughed at you. (Now we laugh at them for killing so many helpless rabbits.)
I keep wondering how childbirth will change down the road and because of that weird conversation I witnessed with a woman at work, I have taken my wonderment to the extreme. Will working women schedule their cesareans at 7 months instead of 9 because they don’t want to get too, too fat or deal with stretch marks? Is it not entirely inconceivable that some mothers will cut the gestation period short in order to spend more time at the office? Will babies one day naturally live the first few months of their lives in an incubator? Will vaginal births become a thing of the past, done by hippie mothers, religious fanatics, and teenage girls who don’t even know they’re pregnant to begin with?
I know. This all probably sounds pretty absurd. But if you had told a woman a 100 years ago that one day we’d be able to tell her the sex of her child using only sound waves, and count her baby’s fingers and toes before her child was even born, she probably would have laughed in your face.