My wife’s expecting our second kid any day now – literally; she’s having contractions every couple of hours, and little Matthew just dropped down into her pelvis. So it’s happening Real Soon.
With our first child Sophie, two and a half years ago, we think she might have had undiagnosed pregnancy diabetes – she had a lot of edema, and the baby was large, 10 lbs 11 oz (which is really big for anyone, but especially for my wife, who’s not the largest-framed woman out there). My wife labored for 22 hours, spending about half of that time at what’s called “transition”, which is the time when the kid is SUPPOSED to move into the birth canal. It’s the most painful and stressful time of labor, and she worked at it and worked at it and WORKED at it – without drugs, yet! – until she was totally exhausted and we were getting heart-rate flutterings on the fetal monitor. Finally she had an epidural and C-section, and it was really pretty traumatic, because she was completely and utterly wiped out before even going into the operating room.
This second time, we had an ultrasound just two weeks ago – if Matthew had been as big as Sophie, we would have scheduled a C-section right away. And if Matthew doesn’t arrive by shortly after his due date, we’ll schedule one for then – it’s not safe to induce labor after having had a prior C-section, apparently.
We’re hoping that he’ll be a reasonable size and that we can have a smooth and straightforward vaginal birth this time… epidural city, no all-natural for us, no sirree. In retrospect if we’d been less gung-ho about the all-natural thing the first time, we might not have had one of the more difficult birth experiences that you can have. So this time, if there’s any fetal trouble or if the doctor thinks it’s a good idea, we’re going straight into the operating room for a C-section, no questions asked.
My personal theory is that medicalized childbirth in affluent nations is eliminating an evolutionary backpressure on increased fetal size. If larger babies no longer kill their mothers in childbirth, due to C-sections and other interventions, then over time babies will tend to get larger and larger in utero, especially in brain size. I think that eventually C-sections will be the only form of childbirth, several centuries from now, when humanity has gotten to the point that babies simply get too big before delivery to make it through the pelvis.