Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


Pregnancy: A Dangerous Affair

Earlier this year I sat with a friend as his wife struggled to recover from emergency surgery--her uterus had ruptured during the delivery if their third child. He went from the excitement that their little girl had arrived to facing the possibility of losing his wife and having to raise three young children as a single dad. With a wife who was 7 months into her pregnancy myself, you can say that I was also quite shaken during those events. I learned that God sends unnatural levels of peace to people in those circumstances. In my friend's case, He also graciously restored his wife to health again. He gave them a great blessing.

Pregnancy is a dangerous affair...but it baffles me how many people expect it to go smoothly.

For the entire history of the world, pregnancy has regularly ended in the death of the mother, and often the child as well. In many cultures and times even as recent as the mid 1800's, the death rate has hovered at 1 in 10 mothers, occasionally rising to 1 in 6. The picture below contains the present mortality rate of mothers. PRESENT DAY...pregnancy is a dangerous affair, and we need to change our perceptions as Americans in 2 ways: We need to treat it with more delicacy, and we need to be EXTREMELY grateful for modern medicine.

800px-SOWM2010_maternal_mortality_map.svg mother mortality death rate


One of the reason's we place such a high value on human life in developed countries is the low rate of the loss of that life. We have a great expectation that life will be preserved, because it is. We see death as more unnatural than any other generation or society that has ever lived--and I think that is AWESOME. Sometimes I wish people saw the fragility of life more, so that they would pursue spiritual life rather than pursuing material satisfaction and achievement, but I would not trade this societies advantages for a more frail one.

People love to hate on doctors--and our society does find itself enslaved to a broken system that demands lots of money for a system of treatment that does not create freedom of choice or provide a scale of quality on which it rates our facilities. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, and we must be grateful for that.

Last week Stacy went into labor with our first child, and there was no place I wanted her to be besides the hospital, where they were able to ease her labor pain, monitor the baby's condition, coach her through the delivery process, take her into surgery when it became clear that our baby would not be able to make the trip through the birth canal, and treat both mother and baby to ensure their safe recovery. Without modern medicine the chances are high that my baby boy or his mother would have died during the birthing process, or afterward. Eli had jaundice that was high the first few days of his life. Stacy needed to be monitored for a system-wide infection. I was happy to have everyone's life in the hands of professionals, even if it meant sleeping uncomfortably and having constant interruptions.

Because of modern medicine, the maternity mortality rate in the U.S. is below .02% I am grateful for that. I am EXTREMELY grateful for that. I also find myself quite upset with people who are extreme in their advocacy of at home births and natural childbirth. While I value their freedom of choice, I think their decision is unwise, and I refuse their belief that it is better. The better option to me is the stark difference in danger to mother and baby to have a delivery with all the medical advantages of a hospital. To be able to provide emergency assistance to mother or baby in the moment that it is needed. I'll gladly pay the cost difference for that. And I will be unashamed at arguing with you about the wisdom of your choice to pursue an alternative.

In conclusion, let me say this: I am blessed. I have a healthy mom and child. For every one of me, there have historically been 10 men who lost a wife in the process of having children. I am blessed. God was better to me than I deserve. He placed me in the era of modern medicine, protected Stacy while she was pregnant with Eli, and provided for a safe delivery. I didn't do anything to deserve any of that. And I want to do all that I can to pay it back.



1. SuperFreakonomics has a great discussion of the death rates in the 1800's. SuperFreakonomics, 2009, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 133-139.

2. The mortality death rate stats and scale were found here: and come from Save the Children State of the World's Mothers report.

3. I also recommend Wikipedia's article on Childbirth in Antiquity.

4. And I recommend this article: Infant Mortality, Ancient and Modern, An Historical Sketch: L. Emmett Holt, M.D., LL.D., Professor of Diseases of Children, Columbia University, New York

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