Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pregnancy Revealed, OR If It's So @#$%! 'Beautiful,' YOU @#$%! Do It!

Adrienne Rich said "The child I carry for nine months can be defined neither as me or as not-me" and now science finally has started to understand what pro-lifers cannot conceptualize (for sociopolitical-religious reasons)--that pregnancy is about 2 individuals, one incomplete, one at risk as the incomplete individual feeds upon her. It is a "Silent Struggle," with the fetus wanting all it can get and the mother's body trying to place limits (sorry for the long quote but it is fascinating):

As a biologist fresh out of graduate school in the late 1980's, Dr. Haig decided to look at pregnancy from an evolutionary point of view. As his guide, he used the work of Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University.

In the 1970's, Dr. Trivers argued that families create an evolutionary conflict. Natural selection should favor parents who can successfully raise the most offspring. For that strategy to work, they can't put too many resources into any one child. But the child's chances for reproductive success will increase as its care and feeding increase. Theoretically, Dr. Trivers argued, natural selection could favor genes that help children get more resources from their parents than the parents want to give.

As Dr. Haig considered the case of pregnancy, it seemed like the perfect arena for this sort of conflict. A child develops in intimate contact with its mother. Its development in the womb is crucial to its long-term health. So it was plausible that nature would favor genes that allowed fetuses to draw more resources from their mothers.

A fetus does not sit passively in its mother's womb and wait to be fed. Its placenta aggressively sprouts blood vessels that invade its mother's tissues to extract nutrients.

Meanwhile, Dr. Haig argued, natural selection should favor mothers who could restrain these incursions, and manage to have several surviving offspring carrying on their genes. He envisioned pregnancy as a tug of war. Each side pulls hard, and yet a flag tied to the middle of the rope barely moves.


In a 1993 paper, Dr. Haig first predicted that many complications of pregnancy would turn out to be produced by this conflict. ...

Dr. Haig proposed that pre-eclampsia was just an extreme form of a strategy used by all fetuses. The fetuses somehow raised the blood pressure of their mothers so as to drive more blood into the relatively low-pressure placenta. Dr. Haig suggested that pre-eclampsia would be associated with some substance that fetuses injected into their mothers' bloodstreams. Pre-eclampsia happened when fetuses injected too much of the stuff, perhaps if they were having trouble getting enough nourishment.

Subsequent studies seem to bear out his hypothesis.

So what Mexico had to do makes a whole lot of sense. "Carrying to term" is not like insisting someone wear a raincoat on a sunny day, an inconvenience, a trifle. There is no equivalent for men so pro-life men argue their belief from a tenuous position. Like me mandating what kind of underwear men should wear never having had a dick of my own.

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Blogger Dark Daughta said...

This has all sorts of implications for me and my chosen family in terms of my bio daughter, but also in terms of why the wimmin in my community are still trying to access matriarchal resources long after their ties to their own mamas have been cut. I'm definintely sending this out and if it's okay with you, I'll do a post and send folks back here.

Fri Mar 17, 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

always OK--just glad I said something useful.

Fri Mar 17, 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dark Daughta said...

Not that I'm the expert, but I've found that your posts and comments to me have always been useful, informative and welcome.

Sun Mar 19, 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

I respect you as a thinker, feminist, woman, mother, person (i've read some of your blog and read more each week and have also read some of the Azania-related blogs) so your comment means a lot to me. :)

Sun Mar 19, 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Dark Daughta said...

Warmth. Hugs. Thanks.

Sun Mar 19, 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Still, regardless of their doctorates, degrees or whatever else, the natural selection theory, and all other male initiated theories of the bygone era, are all going to become obsolete. Darwin's theories 'worked' or appeared feasible during his era, but we're now living in a world that has shifted. Natural selection (in the 21st century) is also on a par with a woman's financial status: ability to financially support a child up until college entry, and possibly beyond.
In developing countries, natural selection has meandered to the background, because of the disparity of food so regardless of the genes, say in some regions of Africa, there are women that (regardless of genes, because famine doesn't take genes into accord) will see their children dying simply because they have less access to food, less access to doctors compared to middle class women elsewhere.

Can natural selection even be used today in a debate about abortion and fertility? I don't know but this post of yours has made me think, and made me think once again about 'men' in science, men who ultimately fall back on Charles Darwin.

Tue Mar 21, 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

Natural selection? I do not see anything in the article that smacks of social Darwinism or patriarchal Darwinism (both distortions of Darwin's theory). Is the researcher a man? Yes, he is. The formerly patriarchal assumptions about pregnancy are dishonest and based on no scientific fact, truth or inquiry unlike this issuee/article.

Do these processes apply to all areas of modern human life? No. Just as we have changed the course of global warming, we have interfered with the processes of natural selection for humans and species affected by our weediness. Does that invalidate Darwin? No. Has Darwin been over- and under-interpreted and distorted and not only over-simplified but applied too broadly? Yeah, that too. Are some aspects close to being on target? Yes. Do men and women, children and parents, mothers and fetuses have at times competing wants/needs and goals? Damn straight. It is impossible to neglect or starve a fetus--it will suck the calcium from your bones and take protein from your internal organs if it has to b/c its goal is to thrive, survive, be born.

As far as your " 'men' in science" statement, would it be fairer if there were only women in science? I try to look at the product rather than the producer first and if I find problems, I inquire aboout the prroducer. But just as i do not assume all black people are into hip-hop, i do not assume all men are in cahoots against women. Both smack of essentialism. One may bear out more often than the other but that is still not evidence of essentialist truth.

Does that mean we have been produced by an equitable society? No. Does it mean everything produced is suspect? Yes and no. Should all things be condemned or praised indisciminately? No. Should critical thinking be key? Absolutely.

Tue Mar 21, 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous sarah said...

Anastasia, i think evolutionary biology does offer some possibilities in modern debates about abortion and fertility. "Mother Nature" by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is one really good book of feminist evolutionary research into infanticide and abortion in primates. Human females and many other animals have been killing fetuses and infants as part of motherhood strategies for a long time. That doesn't mean anybody has to act a certain way, but it does mean we might learn new ways to take care of ourselves, by figuring out why these various fertility strategies are valuable.

If you're interested in feminist biology, Natalie Angier's "Woman: An Intimate Geography" is a great starting place. She explores lots of powerful possibilities without getting trapped in determinism or any of that "women are built to act like this or that" nonsense.

Wed Mar 22, 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

Sarah, thank you for a reasonable response. Bitch-ness abounds down here though always meant constructively.

Wed Mar 22, 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

There is a terrifying cover story in this weekend's NY Times Magazine on El Salvador. Abortion is illegal under all circumstances. Women suspected of having an abortion are forced to endure a forensic evaluation of their vaginas. Doctors are terrorized by long prison sentences into reporting women who seek treatment after botched back-alley abortions. Women themselves are sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for aggrevated murder of a fetus.

What scared me the most, though, was the woman who runs the "pro-life" association who said that due to modern technology, women NEVER die from pregnancy. Is it wrong to hope that she gets pregnant and it kills her?

Mon Apr 10, 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

What's wrong is proposing abortion as a life or death (of mother or fetus) issue/possibility which completely ignores the social, physical and social realities of pregnancy and motherhood. It shouldn't HAVE to be at risk of death that I request or decide on an abortion. Someone else's fantasy of motherhood, pregnancy, conception and 'life' should not be made a law that affects my body and the rest of my natural life. I shouldn't have to be on my deathbed to make a legitimate decision.

Mon Apr 10, 07:58:00 AM  

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