Birth Story’s first year: My favorite posts

And so we bid adieu to 2010, Birth Story's first year of life.Happy baby

My Birth Story blog began on Jan. 3 of this year, and this is my 151st post, so I came very close to my goal of posting three times a week.

I have learned a lot. People like compelling stories, posts about history, about medical pioneers, and about advances in the field of obstetrics, “the art and science of managing pregnancy, labor and puerperium (the time after delivery).” They also like stories about celebrities — what a surprise!

Having written about the posts readers liked best, now I would like to showcase some posts from 2010 I especially like. I am really proud of the work I have done on Birth Story, and I like many of the readers' favorites too, but these additional posts are also worth an extra look.

What were your favorite Birth Story posts? I would love to hear from you. Here are a baker's dozen of mine:

1/22 The basics of birth safety

1/27 A Cesarean section in Philadelphia

2/5 A health consumer's BFF

2/22 Pregnant women and drug trials

4/23 To the Lighthouse

5/7 The mothers of Johns Hopkins Medicine

5/14 Riddle me this

6/18 The other Flexner

6/21 Being there

8/18 We dream for our children

8/26 Breast-feeding story: Maeve

11/17 Practical magic

12/22 Your birth plan, courtesy of The Bloggess

Birth Story’s most popular posts of 2010

Well, go figure. My very most popular post by far this year was one I wrote for Women's History Month that had very little to do with the Birth Story per se.

Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson at her trial

My top post for 2010 was about Anne Hutchinson, a midwife in the Massachusetts Colony, who deftly though unsuccessfully defended herself against heresy charges in 1638. The colony's governors were so shaken that they embedded into the mission of the new Harvard College the mandate to train religious leaders rigorously enough that they would never again be so intellectually pummelled.

Anne figured in another top post as well, "A monstrous birth," about the danger midwives and mothers alike faced after anomalous births in the American colonies.

My second most popular post was a recent one about Ian Shapira's Facebook-driven story in the Washington Post chronicling the death of new mother Shana Greatman Swers.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen came in third with a post about her much ridiculed assertion that all new mothers should be required by law to breast-feed.

Here are Birth Story's 10 most popular posts of 2010:

1. Anne Hutchinson, Colonial midwife  3/1/10

2. A sad Facebook story 12/10/10

3. A "boob" on the right side of breast-feeding 8/9/10

4. A "monstrous" birth  3/3/10

5. The Pregnancy Meeting 2/8/10

6. Amniotic fluid embolism 1/14/10

7. Fascinated with blood 6/28/10

8. The Frontier Nursing Service  3/15/10

9. The Goodriches one year later  1/11/10

10. The mother of the Apgar score  3/19/10

Birth Story 2010

Following one topic, childbirth, for an entire year has given me an unusual perspective on what is happening on that front, both here in the United States and also globally.

If you ask me, the newly apparent muscle of the holistic birth community was the most important “birth story” of 2010. One sign of this was the passage of the so-called Midwifery Modernization Act in New York, which eliminated a requirement that midwives obtain a written practice agreement from a physician or hospital to practice in New York State.Pregnant Graffiti

Also, as we just discovered from a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, released last week, birth by Cesarean section reached a new high, 32.9 percent of births in 2009, up from 32.3 in 2008. The steadily rising rate — up every year since 1996, when the rate was 20.7 — has been a major story all year.

That CDC report also showed the birth rate for U.S. teen-agers hit its lowest level last year since records began to be kept seventy years ago — 39.1 births per 1,000 teens, down from 41.5 per 1,000 in 2008. The record low held true for all racial and ethnic groups.

A couple of other big birth stories of 2010, sadly, revolved around the fact that too many mothers are still dying in childbirth.

In March, Amnesty International called out the American childbirth establishment on a rising rate of maternal mortality in a report called “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.” The human-rights advocacy organization pointed out that while the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, “maternal mortality ratios have increased from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006.”

Many other groups joined in that call for changes to improve birth safety in this country.

Meanwhile, in the developing world, the United Nations’ Millennium Goal 5, which aims to bring down rates of maternal mortality by three-quarters in places like sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, is the subject of much scrutiny, with a major push in some places creating bright spots in what appears to be a generally gloomy picture with just five years to go.

Pregnant Graffiti by Petteri Sulonen / Wikimedia Commons

The mother of all birth stories

Jesus' nativity, the son of God born of a virgin mother, is one of the great mysteries of Christianity.

The story we can grasp more easily is of his humble beginnings in a manger. Most people who were hoping for the Messiah expected him to be born in power and sumptuousness, but Jesus' birth attendants were the animals whose home he shared in his first days.

One lesson for all of us in Jesus' birth is that we cannot judge the value of any human life, as weighed against another.

Every human being enters the world from the body of his mother in a moment of supreme vulnerability. Regardless of the circumstances, for mother and baby alike, it is one of the most fundamental human experiences any of us will ever have.

Every birth is a new beginning, for the child, for her family, and for the world, in a way. Every birth should be joyful, peaceful, transcendent.

Have a happy Christmas!

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Mikael Toppelius / Wikimedia Commons

Your Birth Plan, courtesy of The Bloggess

I always enjoy The Bloggess, a/k/a Jenny Lawson, and I surely do wish I could do those things she does with pictures.

With her permission, I offer a Christmas cookie from one of Lawson's recent posts, "Lesson 7: Your Birth Plan. Good Luck With That." As is so often true of The Bloggess, collateral damage aside, she has hit the nail on the head. Plus, it's seasonal:

The person making your actual birth plan decisions is your baby. Related: babies don’t give a shit about your plans. Making a plan for the birth of a child is like making a plan for decorating your Christmas tree in the middle of a house fire. Until you’re actually in the heat of battle, you have no idea whether you’re going to want drugs or whether you’ll have to have a c-section or whether you’ll be stuck in traffic and the baby will be delivered by a cab driver who will burn off the umbilical cord with his cigar. And that’s fine. Hell, the Virgin Mary had her baby in a damn barn and he turned out okay.

In the end, none of that matters. Whether you welcome your baby in a hut or in a hospital or in the orphanage where you adopt her, the same basic rule applies: If you’re lucky enough to end up with a baby, you win.

The end.