“Call the Midwife”

Birth Story could hardly ignore the debut of a new PBS series called Call the Midwife, an import from England. I watched the first episode last night, and I expect I'll be a regular viewer.

I didn't love the first episode of Call the Midwife, though. I thought it romanticized birth on the low end of the social order in London in 1957, even though it begins with two women fighting on a street in the tough East End.

This episode of "Call the Midwife" features a woman who had 25 children, and that made me wonder what the record is for offspring from one woman.

Well, here it is — 69.

The wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707–c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia (they didn't even keep track of her name!) had 27 "confinements," in which she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets.

A new look for Birth Story

Regular readers of Birth Story may be surprised to see that its look has changed. I was surprised, too.

Updating to the latest edition of WordPress stripped off the custom features that used to be here. I had been merrily backing up my site to my computer. I had not realized that, for the year I have had Mac OS X Lion software, the backups were not worth the virtual space they were occupying.

I have gleaned from various forums that Apple Inc. apparently has decided that material that comes from an FTP server is not sufficiently secure to allow in . Or something. I regret to say that bit got right past me.

It looks like there are some easy fixes to try, you know, before your site comes down. (And now here comes OS X Mountain Lion.)

Anyway, this is 2011, a WordPress default theme that was hanging around on my computer. It turns out I like the lighter look, and now I'm thinking of other things I might like to try.

The truth is, I'm practically giddy that the wreckage wasn't worse — I lost my whole site in a past upgrade, when thankfully I had a functional backup — and I'm grateful that a few little fixes were all I had to do. So I'm backing up to the cloud now, which of course is in the news for faltering during the storms this past weekend.

Nothing is certain. If you're lucky, everything turns out all right in the end.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day seems like a good time to make a resolution to get back into more regular posting on Birth Story. So let it begin!

With Nora on the couch

With Nora on the couch

This is a picture of my daughter Nora, who is now 24, during her first few days home, relaxing on the couch with me. I don't know why she is sitting at the other end of the couch, but this is my husband's favorite early picture of us together.

Being a mom changed my life in big ways and small. I remember how disoriented I felt that first week, adjusting to nursing and my post-pregnancy body. My daughters, Nora and Maeve, are two of my favorite people, and Mother's Day is one of my favorite days in the whole year.

Happy Mother's Day to all the other moms (and everyone else) reading this post today. Have a wonderful day!

How the other half births

The birth Jan. 7 of Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of hip-hop stars Beyonce and Jay-Z  (Shawn Carter), had Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan in a tailspin this week.

Beyonce pregnant

Beyonce

Other new parents complained of disruptions and even security breaches as the celebrity family reportedly took over part of the hospital's sixth floor for a private, customized labor-delivery area for $1 million-plus. (A hospital spokesman said the Carters occupied an "executive suite" and paid the standard rate for it.)

Neil and Rozz Nash-Coulon were upset at being detained in the neonatal intensive care unit after visiting their newborn twins, while Edgar Ramirez reported he was refused entrance to visit his baby in the the NICU unit. Windows were covered, private security guards issued orders, and security cameras were even disabled, families complained.

"The security of our children is at risk when you cover security cameras," Ms. Nash-Coulon told Nina Bernstein of the New York Times.

And, all the secrecy fed rumors. Beyonce's website states that "Baby Blue" was "delivered naturally," while portions of the blogosphere ran with a report that the birth was a C-section. And there's even a contingent that holds that Beyonce's pregnancy was a fake, that a surrogate mom bore Blue.

Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski, stars of the sitcom 30 Rock on NBC, told The Today Show's Matt Lauer that they both had their babies at Lenox Hill Hospital as well. Said Fey, "My celebrity treatment at Lenox Hill involved taking a group breast-feeding class in a closet."

Bella Swan’s birth story

The birth in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I was not as scary as I thought it would be. (If you don't want to read about the film's ending, stop reading here.) Breaking Dawn is a preteen fantasy through and through, so the birth of Bella's half-human, half-vampire baby winds up looking fairly tidy and vaguely menstrual, even if it does involve blades and teeth. (No trial of labor for Bella.)

Bella Swan

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan

Will Breaking Dawn leave a generation of young girls with tocophobia — fear of childbirth? My guess is that it will not. The birth happens fast, for one thing, and it's all pretty implausible. The baby appears to be a normal baby, though about six months old, and functions for the rest of the movie in a doll-like capacity.

But Bella Swan — the teenager who falls in love with the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and marries him in this, the first half of the screen adaptation of the fourth and final book in Stephenie Meyers' Twilight saga — does die in childbirth in the film. Her death has been prophesied, so it isn't unexpected, but the sight of her still, gray form on the table where her baby was born is upsetting.

However, the second half of Breaking Dawn is scheduled for release one year from now, so let's just say that birth transforms Bella. We haven't seen the last of her.

Breaking Dawn is rated PG-13.