Question Everything (and don’t trust anyone over 35 to have a baby?)

Well, summer vacation is over, the kids are in Mother’s Day Out, and thus the blog is back to rapid-fire mode.

Over the summer, I thought about what this blog was meant to do. There are two focuses on this blog. The first is what the tagline says: Resource-Based Parenting.  What does that mean? It means whenever I learn something that not everyone knows, I want to tell everyone. Did you know, I say in a nerdy whisper. Did you know that you can tell cervical changes in a woman by looking at a purple line on her backAlas, just like when you start promoting the (well-known) fact that Han shot first, there comes a point that you’re just looked at as a weird psycho uber-geek in your particular field of interest. This blog is my way of cataloging all the random bits of information I’ve learned without having to annoyingly dominate the small talk at cocktail parties. (And who really wants to talk about cervixes at a cocktail party anyway?)

The second focus is the one of studies and stats. Screwed up studies, screwed up stats.  From the time you get pregnant, advice gets hurled at you. You know this. The crazy theories about not lifting your hands over your head because the umbilical cord could strangle the baby, and so on and so forth. But it’s not just from crazy grandmothers. Your own OB will tell you, “I want you to gain no more than 20 pounds this pregnancy. Bigger moms make bigger babies.” She will say, “Don’t drink alcohol. Not even one drop.” Deli meat is verboten. So is chamomile tea. Hot baths. Don’t you dare lie on your back in late pregnancy! It goes on, even with breastfeeding. I’m a huge promoter of breastfeeding, but the stats there are screwed up too. “Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese” is true, but that gets warped into “Formula-fed babies are fat.” What about breastmilk from a bottle? Isn’t one of the arguments that when a baby is feeding directly from the breast, he or she can regulate intake in a way one can’t from a bottle? So it’s then breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding. Not breastmilk vs. formula.

Along this second focus, the economists have gotten into the game. If you don’t know any economists, you don’t know that they can argue as much as a lawyer. (Try being married to a lawyer who originally trained as an economist). They understand correlation vs. causation. They can read the numbers. They can ask about survey data, study methodology, and margins of error. When an economist gets pregnant, you better believe she will not take the doctor’s advice at face value.

This is what happened when Emily Oster of the famed University of Chicago School of Economics fell pregnant. The result is Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know.  She takes on the prohibitions on sushi, alcohol, and hot tubs.  Read it. Highly recommended. In a similar vein, check out the hilarious Pregnant Chicken. I love her more for her oddball sense of humor, but the original point of her blog was to do the pregnancy research for you.

If you can’t get enough of the economists, read Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan.  Just like an economist — thinking about self-centered incentives and applying them to children. He argues the work you put into having children is worth it in the end because they take care of you (the more children you have, the higher chance you have one to care for you.) But the ‘work’ you need to put into it isn’t as much as today’s parents think, he argues. If you are middle class and educated, your kids will turn out fine. If they don’t, it’s just genetics.

Taking on conventional wisdom is becoming somewhat of a trend (I say, without any data to support it). For example,  a recent article in the Atlantic addresses advanced maternal age hysteria in terms of when it was too late to have a baby.  However, the author herself doesn’t perform due diligence, as the ‘hysteria’ is about first time mothers. The reassuring statistics she provides does not distinguish between first time mothers (primiparous, if you want the medical term) and those who have already multiparous and are hoping for more children.

The other common one I hear is that first time moms are more often likely to give birth past their due date. I obviously started looking into this while hugely pregnant with my first child, hoping she would come soon (two days before her due date, if you were wondering).  Guess what? No one really knows.  If you want to get some information on when you might go into labor, check out the work by SpaceFem. So where does the myth that first time moms go into labor 8 days late? Possibly this study, which had a sample of about 100 patients in a private practice, not all of whom were first time moms.

Like a 1960s hippie, question everything.