One of the main concerns about having a baby, of course, is the fact that they’re so bloody useless. So unable to do anything for themselves that you, as parents, become subjugated to their every whim, burp, fart, cry and shitty nappy. For the most advanced species on the planet it doesn’t seem like a very efficient arrangement. And that’s because it’s not, but it hasn’t always been like this.
Let’s go back a few million years. Humans didn’t exist but our predecessors were around, swinging from tree to tree and having a fine old time.
For what is believed to be climatic reasons, we eventually came down from the trees in order to forage for food—and on land it was easier to get around on two legs, as opposed to four. So we evolved, stood upright and, along with the move to ground level, started eating more meat. This is generally considered a key factor in our becoming a more intelligent species. I eat a lot of meat myself.
Two legs changed the distribution of weight on our bodies however, and in order to deal with the new stresses and strains, we had to adapt. The pelvis thickened and strengthened, and in women this, unfortunately, narrowed the birth canal. This alone might not have presented a problem, but when combined with our bigger brains—caused by our increasing levels of intelligence—well nature did the only thing it could do. If a fully developed baby’s head was now too big to fit through the birth canal, the baby would just have to make the journey before it was fully developed.
This is called the obstetrical dilemma hypothesis and although it makes sense, it also makes for a pretty intensive parenting experience.
Studies have recently emerged to challenge the obstetrical dilemma hypothesis, suggesting it could be the mother’s metabolic rate that is more significant than the size of the head. A new theory contends that by nine-months a baby’s demands for energy exceed the mother’s ability to generate enough to keep them both going. So the eject button is pushed.
Another idea proposed in the 60s indicates that babies being born before their brains are fully developed, ensures they are ‘outside’ so they can soak up all of the cultural influences that exist in our very social world.
I’m not a scientist, but my money is on the obstetrical dilemma. And although it’s all very interesting, it’s of no practical help in dealing with the ‘extreme parenting’ that we seem to have ended up with. That said, exploring the theory does help me understand the ‘why’ of what I’m about to get into, if not the ‘how on earth’ am I going to deal with it.
I didn’t know anyone with children when my wife was expecting. So I’d sit in front of my computer at the end of the day and squeeze my life out onto the keys. This is a little part of what I wrote, and if you’re thinking about having a kid, it’s a wee taster of what might be ahead.