Babies, the documentary

I just watched Babies.  It’s a documentary of 4 babies on 4 continents, and their lives through about their first birthdays. You see them shortly after they’re born, you observe them deal with conflict, you watch them discover their voices, you witness their first steps.  All this is captured with four very significantly different backdrops: San Francisco, Tokyo, and remote areas of Nigeria and Mongolia.

There wasn’t a single word narrated through the whole thing. It was simply observational, but the babies’ personal discoveries spoke volumes.

The cultural contrasts were pretty stark – seeing how the Mongolian baby was wrapped up so tight in its first few months; contrasting the birthing environments and how sterile and impersonal the San Francisco hospital was, with the baby hooked up to monitors;  being curious about the Nigerian baby’s lack of toys of other material stimuli; seeing how the Japanese couple managed raising a baby in a very small living area… there are a hundred different examples.

It provided me with some insight into variability of the first year of life, too.  Maybe you read to your baby every night; maybe you don’t.  Maybe your baby is exposed to the wonders of nature early on; maybe not.  The movie’s message is that it doesn’t matter – under all conditions, babies thrive with love.  It was so touching!


Is there an IVF-adoption trade-off?

Robert Edwards has won the Nobel Prize for in vitro fertilization. Not shocking, though there have been some interesting ripples across the media outlets, including topics touching on Octomom, old ladies carrying babies, and what to do with abandoned, frozen embryos.

I have extremely mixed feelings about IVF. On one hand, the scientific advance, the knowledge gained about how human life is and can be actually generated in different ways, should be celebrated. But I wonder if we’ve taken IVF too far as a society, and I’m not talking about super duper far-out things like Octomom, though of course that’s a whole discussion on the ethical dilemma on its own. No – instead, I wonder what happened to adoption rates after 1978.

I haven’t been able to find a really good study on it that is ready for general public consumption and discourse. Perhaps you do see adoption rates overall have declined since 1978, but you would need to control for other factors, like a more involved process developing over time that results in higher scrutiny, more restrictions, higher requirements of potential adoptive parents compared to before 1978. Not sure that’s the case, I’m just throwing it out there.

There is an academic report out of Duke University: . A couple of things about this report:

  1. Bravo to the authors to tackling this issue from a data-driven perspective. What data do we actually have on the issue, and how do we appropriately analyze it?
  2. It’s a draft… meaning it hasn’t gone through the rigors of peer review, and so its assumptions may not have been adequately challenged by devil’s advocates.
  3. It reeks of academia – the tone and writing style, mostly, but also: it’s heavily steeped in statistical analysis. Not that that’s bad – there’s just very little translation to a lay audience, as I’m sure Average Joe was not the intended target for the report.
  4. When looking solely at insurance mandates of IVF and adoption rates, the study found “no consistent pattern of decreases in adoption rates is found, and in a few instances, positive effects of insurance mandates are found on adoption rates.”
  5. The study postulates that adoption isn’t wholly “replaced” by IVF, but rather put off in time, since many IVFs have limitations or restrictions, and not all are successful, leading those parents to adoption eventually.

There is a ton of information in that report, and I won’t delve into a more formal critique here, since they do list some limitations of their study. But the IVF-adoption trade-off continues to be an intriguing question to me.