What a fascinating question! Just out of college, on my first job,
I was called to the delivery room to assist the obstetrician in
collecting a blood sample from the not-yet born fetus? scalp. I was
nearly immobilized at the sight of the impending birth. Ever since
that night, I have gotten goosebumps when witnessing a birth. It is
certainly an amazing event, and pondering the entire journey from
conception to birth is marvelous!
Some of the material I have found is published by religious, political
and anti-abotion sites. Neither Google Answers nor I endorse any of
these sites. Such web pages were cited here for conception and
gestation information, and not because of ideology.
Conception and Gestation:
How could anyone looking at this photo, of a 3 month old fetus, not be
in awe of the process of conception and birth?
?Not so many generations ago, a baby?s development in the uterus was a
complete mystery. Today, advanced photography, high-tech ultrasound
and well-designed research have given us a fascinating picture of the
unborn baby?s world. While you, the expectant mother, may feel like
the central player in pregnancy, research tells us that the baby
directs much more than most of us realize.?
?On the sixth day after conception the cluster of cells that become
your baby releases chemicals that cause uterine cells to burst. The
pre-embryo now nourishes itself on these exploded cells. And it has
created a site to attach itself to the uterus, using root-like
structures called chorionic villi. As the cells of the pre-embryo grow
and multiply, most of them become the placenta. A few cells specialize
to grow into the baby ? but more about that later.
By the end of the third month, the placenta is fully developed. One
side is attached to the mother?s uterus, while the other side faces
the baby. This side includes the umbilical cord and the amniotic sac.
The transparent amniotic sac extends from the placenta and encloses
both the baby and the amniotic fluid in which the baby floats. It
produces some of the amniotic fluid, the rest coming from the baby?s
urine. This may not sound like such a pleasant environment, but keep
in mind that the fluid is sterile and replaced about every three
hours. By the end of pregnancy, your uterus may contain 0.5 to 1.5
litres of fluid.
The amniotic fluid cushions the baby from the daily bumps and grinds
of life, but that?s not its only function. Apparently the baby sucks
it up as well. Animal studies have found that amniotic fluid
stimulates healthy stomach and intestinal growth. And the fluid
contains sugars and proteins. California researcher Sean Mulvihill has
calculated that amniotic fluid may provide ten to 14 percent of the
nutritional needs of a human fetus.
The umbilical cord is connected to the baby at the point where the
baby?s belly button will be. It contains three blood vessels, one to
carry oxygenated blood and nutrients from the mother to the developing
fetus, and two to convey deoxygenated blood and waste products back to
the placenta. The vessels are surrounded by a gelatinous substance
that prevents kinks and knots from developing. The fetal heart,
beating regularly by the fourth week, drives the blood to and from the
placenta. While much passes in both directions between the mother and
baby, their bloodstreams do not mix. Instead the mother?s blood flows
into the placenta and surrounds the branching blood vessels that
belong to the baby. Tiny molecules of nutrients and waste are
exchanged between mother and baby by passing across the porous walls
of the blood vessels.?
Speaking of conception: ?It may sound simple and straightforward but
the process demands fine and delicate biological tuning. An ovum needs
to be regularly released each month from the ovary, a process that can
only proceed if a complicated cascade of hormonal events takes place
without interference. This egg then needs to be able to move freely
along an unblocked Fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by a
sperm and then reach the womb. The sperm have to be healthy, motile
and numerous, although only one will ultimately penetrate the egg and
form an embryo with it. Then the lining of the womb must also be
receptive to this embryo so that it can embed itself within it and
begin to produce the hormones necessary to maintain the pregnancy
thereafter. Any one of these sensitive but essential components of
fertility can easily be upset by a number of unfavourable factors.?
Just four weeks after conception, a heartbeat can be detected!
Teeth buds appear at 45 days after conception!
By nine weeks after conception, fingerprints, footprints and palm
creases can bee seen by ultrasound!
Here is a well done Flash site on conception and gestation
The Visible Embryo displays a week by week growth chart. Simply click
on the emryo icon for each week.
Here is a nice presentation, very similar to one above, on the miracle
of conception and birth.
?It sounds almost mushy, doesn't it? We all know a healthy baby is a
miracle, but have you really considered what it takes to make a
healthy baby? Think about it . . . how can this become this? It
boggles the mind that sperm meets egg at exactly the right moment and
a healthy child is born some nine months later. Of course, that isn't
always the case but when you learn the many processes that must occur
at precisely the right moment for the creation of a healthy human
being, it will astound you that any of us are born as nearly perfect
as we are.?
PBS has a an illustrated series here:
?Conception is only the first step; once the egg and sperm unite to
create a fertilized cell, that cell must go through many more steps to
grow into a baby.
As it floats down the fallopian tube toward the uterus, the cell
divides into two. Those two cells then divide to make four, and the
division continues. In a week or so after fertilization, the growing
cluster contains about 100 cells. It then attaches itself (implants)
in the wall of the uterus, where it settles down to grow.
Some of the cells in the cluster form the embryo, the part that will
eventually develop into a baby. Other cells multiply to form an organ
called the placenta, which connects with the uterine lining to draw
nourishment and oxygen from the mother's blood to sustain the
developing embryo. The placenta also produces hormones, which enter
the mother's bloodstream and spread through the body. These hormones
alert the body that a baby is growing in the uterus, and they signal
the uterus to maintain its lining rather than shedding it. That means
the woman does not have a period that month. This may be her first
sign that she is pregnant.?
?Conception is an amazing process, the man has to produce a sperm and
the woman an egg that come together at just the right time and in the
right circumstances. If you are looking to conceive a baby it is
important that you have some understanding of how this process happens
A woman's ovary produces an egg every month. Once the egg is released
it travels along the fallopian tube and then into the uterus (womb).
If the egg has been fertilised it implants itself in to the wall of
the uterus called the edometrium. If the egg is not fertilised, the
endometrium breaks down and is shed in the form of a 'period' or
The man produces semen which contains several million sperm, but only
one will be needed for conception. That single sperm contains the
father's genetic contribution to the baby. Sperm are able to swim up
the vaginal passage, move through the cervix into the uterus and along
the fallopian tubes. As the sperm is travelling it undergoes chemical
changes that enable them to mature in such a way that they are capable
of fertilising an egg.
When a couple have full penetrative intercourse the man ejaculates his
sperm into the woman's vagina near the cervix, which is the entrance
to the womb (uterus.) The cervix is usually blocked by cervical mucus
but this thins around the time of ovulation (when the egg is released
from the ovaries) to allow sperm to pass through.
The sperm and the egg usually meet in the fallopian tube. A sperm
penetrates and fertilises the egg which then travels into the uterus
where it implants in the uterine lining. Once the egg has implanted
into the wall of the womb, the growing embryo is sustained by female
hormones until the developing placenta (afterbirth) can take over and
nourish the baby. About nine months after conception the baby is ready
to be born.?
?Given the fact that sperm can live up to five days inside a woman?s
body, the egg only lives 12 to 24 hours. Rarely, a second egg will pop
out 24 hours after the first. So tentatively there is about a week
long window for conception to occur. But things have to be in tip-top
shape for it to happen. In order for sperm to live longer than about
48 hours, there has to be good fertile-quality cervical fluid present.
In order for the egg to be fertilized, there needs to be sperm
present, or intercourse needs to be done within the first 12 hours of
ovulation. With these circumstances in mind, it?s important to know
when ovulation does occur through fertility charting.
I believe that conception happens the minute the sperm and egg
combine. This happens within 24 hours after ovulation occurs. The body
will not know it?s pregnant until the fertilized egg implants into the
uterine wall, some 5 to 12 days after ovulation. Before implantation,
there is nothing going on inside the body to detect pregnancy. When
the fertilized egg implants, it starts sending signals to the corpus
luteum to continue producing progesterone. It?s during this that
minute levels of hCG ? the pregnancy hormone - are released. During a
healthy pregnancy, the hCG levels will double every other day. The
earliest a pregnancy test would show a positive would be possibly on
day 7 post ovulation, but it?s rare to see a positive pregnancy test
that early. Even with the most sensitive tests, you will more stand a
better chance of seeing a positive at around 10 days post ovulation.?
?Nowhere in our world can we find a better example for our Designer's
wisdom, power, and beauty than in the way in which all organisms grow
and reproduce themselves. Every living thing on our planet divides by
the process of mitosis. Single cell organizms, like bacteria,
reproduce by this fundamental method of cell division.
Multicellular organisms, like humans, reproduce by sexual means
through the process of meiosis to get the benefit of randomizing the
genes in the DNA of both parents. Then that fertilized egg cell
(zygote) continues to divide by mitosis. It develops into a fully
mature adult as its multiplying cells diversify and specialize into
the numerous and varied organs and living systems necessary for the
adult to adapt and survive in highly competive and extremely stressful
Environmental stress guarantees that the designed-in variations
of the DNA will perpetuate the best and the most healthy of the
offspring. This designed, created and sustained genetic program for
survival gives us a very wide assortment of genetic variations in the
world of living organizms. It also weeds out those organisms that are
no longer needed or not able to survive.?
?The nine months of pregnancy, from conception to birth are an
exciting time of change. As the embryo grows and develops into a baby,
many changes are also taking place in the mother's body.
Pregnancy is often divided into trimesters or thirds. The first 12
weeks are the first trimester, weeks 13 to 28 the second and weeks 29
to the time of birth the third. This factsheet explains the changes
that take place in the mother and the baby over each trimester of
This site has a very detailed explanation of fetal development:
?Genes store the plan for the development of the face. The development
of the face takes a long time. In the fourth week of pregnancy the
area that will ultimately develop into the face begins to change.
First the mouth is created, appearing at the beginning only as an
opening. The eyes form laterally on the face and move further to the
center in the course of development. The ears develop below the eyes,
near the beginning of the neck.
From there they move upward to their correct place. On both sides of
the front of the face are two small openings. From these openings, the
nose develops. They are like the eyes in their pattern of development:
they start laterally on the face and move into the center. During the
next two weeks the face changes quickly.? ?A substantial step in the
development of an embryo is the reduction of the mouth and the
development of the cheeks, which are later an important prerequisite
for the acceptance of the mother's milk.
After about two months the development of the face is almost complete.
In the following months the face becomes both rounder and more
defined. The nose becomes pointed and the mouth receives lips. Near
the end the eyelids grow.
And what part of the baby does one see first at birth? The face!?
?When does implantation occur?
The tiny human implants himself or herself in the nutrient lining the
womb at one week of life.
At ten days, this tiny living human male or female sends a chemical
hormonal message out into the mother?s body, which stops her menstrual
periods. Later, it is this tiny passenger who causes her breasts to
enlarge in preparation for nursing, softens her pelvic bones to
prepare for labor, and, without question, sets his or her birthday.
The onset of labor is a unilateral fetal decision.
Early on, this being has gill slits and a tail. Isn?t this proof that
it is not human then?
The "gill slits" are not slits but folds of skin much like an infant?s
"double chin." These stretch out as he grows. The tail isn?t a tail
either. The central nervous system consists of brain and spinal cord.
It is the most important part of the early body and grows the fastest.
The tail is really the end of the spinal cord which grows faster than
the torso. The torso catches up with it, and its tip then becomes your
adult "tail bone." "The body of the unborn baby is more complex than
ours. The preborn baby has several extra parts to his body which he
needs only so long as he lives inside his mother. He has his own space
capsule, the amniotic sac. He has his own lifeline, the umbilical
cord, and he has his own root system, the placenta. These all belong
to the baby himself, not to his mother. They are all developed from
his original cell."
?When does he start to breathe?
"By 11 to 12 weeks (3 months), he is breathing fluid steadily and
continues so until birth. At birth, he will breathe air. He does not
drown by breathing fluid with-in his mother, because he obtains his
oxygen from his umbilical cord. This breathing develops the organs of
?A developing fetus depends completely on its mother for nutrition,
which comes from the mother's blood. Among the important factors are
the total number of calories and the appropriate levels of protein,
vitamins and minerals. The mother's nutrition even influences her
ability to reproduce. In extreme instances of malnutrition, women stop
menstruating. Also children born to malnourished mothers are more
likely to be malformed. (Santrock, 1999)
Another common reason for slow fetal growth - and hence low
birthweight - is maternal malnutrition, a problem that has many
specific causes. Women who begin pregnancy underweight, eat poorly
during pregnancy, and consequently do not gain at least 1.5 kilograms
per month in the second and third trimesters run a much higher risk
than others of having a low-birthweight infant. Indeed, women who gain
less than 7 kilograms, even if they are non-smokers who begin
pregnancy overweight, still have a higher risk of preterm and smaller
babies than those who gain at least 7 kilograms.?
?"After two years and finally a commitment to be married I became
pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy I dreamed of him and he always
looked the same. Same golden red hair and beautiful blue eyes. (This
description wouldn't be considered a "genetic given" considering my
husband and I both have dark hair and eyes.) And in our dreams we'd
fly together. We'd meet at the mouth of a river where it meets the
ocean and we'd fly the stretch of the beach together playfully.
"Now that he's here I get physical tangible evidence of what I felt
about him all along. He sparkles magically like the sun on the ocean
on a clear day. His spirit is as free as a happy gull flying along the
beach. His hair is like spun gold, each strand holding rays of
sunshine. And his violet blue eyes shine with the hope and purity of
intent of all humanity."
"What a delight to think that in our dreams we may be able to play
with our children before they're born! Many pre-birth connections are
playful and fun like those in the stories above. Others seem to have a
different purpose. Some bring news of the pregnancy to an unsuspecting
mother- or father-to-be. Others come at times of anxiety and help to
reassure a worried parent.?
Quotes on conception and gestation:
Frank Trujillo, author
?Conception science reveals that each human being is the unique
by-product of a miraculous convergence of papa cell and mama egg.
From a total of as many as four or five million mature germ cells,
only one struggling soul?just one courageous cell?can ultimately gain
the favor of the discerning egg. Just one chance in five million.
But that proves sufficient; for in time, the solitary, triumphant
cell?we can only assume happily and wearily?settles into the cradled
arms of the cheerful egg. It is thus that humans begin. That is how
you made it?how you came to be. There are, I believe, some lessons to
be learned from this amazing process of human conception. 1. You are
truly unique. That you exist on this earth is nothing short of
miraculous. 2. Never again will obstacles be as formidable; and
success as elusive. 3. You have already beaten the odds; the truly
hard part is behind you. 4. The chances of accomplishing anything
you truly desire?if, that is, you are persistent enough?are much, much
better than one in five million.?
You might find this essay except fom Rabbi Avi Shafran interesting, as
he touches also on the Butterfly Effect:
?Thoughts of consequence can sometimes arise from the most mundane
experiences, even something as unremarkable as a headache.
Opening the medicine cabinet one day in search of relief, I was struck
by a sticker on a prescription container. I had seen both the
container and the sticker countless times, but the full implication of
the message on the latter had somehow always escaped me.
"Not for use by pregnant women," the caveat read.
"And why not?" a part of my aching but still functioning head wondered.
Because, another part answered, a fetus is so much more sensitive to
the effects of chemicals than a more developed person. Partly, of
course, because of its very tininess, but more importantly, because it
is an explosively, relentlessly developing thing. When organisms
undergo a process of development - especially as furious a process as
a single cell growing to a
many-billions-of-unbelievably-variegated-cells organism in a matter of
mere months - they are easily and greatly affected by even the most
Which thought led, slowly but inexorably, to others, about the
creation of the world - which we will soon be recounting in the weekly
Torah portion - and about the beginning of a new Jewish year.
"The Butterfly Effect," is the whimsical name science writers give to
the concept of "sensitive dependence on initial conditions" - the idea
that beginnings are unusually important things. A diversion of a
single degree of arc where the arrow leaves the bow - or an error of a
single digit at the beginning of a long calculation - can yield a
difference of miles, or millions, in the end. For all we know, the
flapping of a butterfly's wings halfway around the world yesterday
might have yielded a hurricane in the Atlantic today.
The most striking butterfly effects take place during formative
stages, when much is transpiring with particular rapidity. Thus, the
label on the medication; the gestation of a fetus, that single cell's
incredible journey toward personhood, is strikingly responsive to so
much of what its mother does, eats and drinks. The developing child is
exquisitely sensitive to even the most otherwise innocent chemicals
because beginnings are formative, hence crucial, times.
Leaving the realm of the microcosm, our world itself, too, had a
gestation period, six days' worth. Interestingly, just as the initial
developmental stage of a child takes place beyond our observation, so
did that of the world itself. The event and processes of those days
are entirely hidden from us, the Torah supplying only the most
inscrutable generalities about actually took place then. Thus, the
Talmudic rabbis applied the verse "the honor of G-d is the concealment
of the things" (Proverbs, 25:2) to the days of creation. Honest
scientists admit the same. E.A. Milne, a celebrated British
astronomer, wrote "In the divine act of creation, G-d is unobserved
and unwitnessed." The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked about
quantum mechanics, the physical system underlying matter, "I think it
is safe to say that no one understands [it]."
Jeanie Miley, author, writes: ?Being born, giving birth, gestation,
conception -- all of it is surrounded by mystery and unseen and
unknown forces which, in a big way, cannot be controlled or predicted.
It is a source of unending fascination to me that all of the best
doctors and researchers in the world still cannot pinpoint the precise
thing that begins the amazing process of labor and delivery.
SoulWork: The Process of Being Born
The one thing that I know for sure about soulwork is that it is much
like the processes of being born. The formation and development of
soul, the unfolding of the purpose that is written into the individual
person and the shifts and subtleties of one?s inner life are all part
of the realm of mystery, guided and overseen by Mystery.
Indeed, the art and practice of spiritual direction has nothing to do
with a presumption so audacious as directing the Spirit. Instead,
director and directee attempt to discern together the mysterious
direction of the Spirit of God, acting within and upon a person?s
life. The process of soulwork is, in fact, such a sacred process that
I often feel as if I should take off my shoes and bow before the work
of God, acting between and among us human beings.?
?Dianne Irving writes: "To begin with, scientifically something very
radical occurs between the processes of gametogenesis and
fertilization ? the change from a simple part of one human being
(i.e., a sperm) and a simple part of another human being (i.e., an
oocyte ? usually referred to as an 'ovum' or 'egg'), which simply
possess 'human life', to a new, genetically unique, newly existing,
individual, whole living human being (an embryonic single-cell human
zygote). That is, upon fertilization, parts of human beings have
actually been transformed into something very different from what they
were before; they have been changed into a single, whole human being.
During the process of fertilization, the sperm and the oocyte cease to
exist as such, and a new human being is produced."
?We think there are several ?keys? on the sperm that fit into specific
?keyholes? on the egg. By identifying such ?keys?, we have devised new
and innovative tests for male fertility. In fact, males with normal
semen analyses, may sometimes lack these necessary ?keys?, and not be
able to open the door and enter the egg, or fertilize it.
These new and useful tools for detecting the difficulty of a sperm to
negotiate an egg, enable us in clinical practice to both diagnose and
treat males. Specifically, some environmental hazards may be the
origin of male infertility. At the National Institute of Health (NIH),
the importance of our studies was recognized by a special research
grant to examine such environmental risks.
Another important discovery was that certain drugs, including calcium
channel blockers used for hypertension and migraines, may act as a
male contraceptive. A simple discontinuation of the drug may result in
?Every aspect of human physiology has multiple facets, steps,
purposes, managers, feedback loops, and anticipated outcomes. The idea
that ten or more trillion cells can even coordinate with each other is
mind-boggling. (pg. 32)
Simmons concludes, that "every function is too complex to have been
formed by slow accidental changes that luckily fit together." (pg. 41)
The first example Simmons gives is the human reproductive system:
All aspects of human reproduction either had to have evolved in
unbelievably specific, compatible, and parallel ways --or else all
these aspects arrived simultaneously ... Every significant change in
the male's reproductive system had to be met with a reciprocal change
in the female's (or vice versa).?
When does life begin?
What they don?t tell you about labor:
?It?s messy!? and ?You?ll know?
?"It comes like the waves in the ocean," my mother told me. "Powerful,
strong and rhythmic. Unceasing. Wave after wave." She was right. In
labor with my son, my first child, he and I are carried over crest and
trough, and we let go, freeing ourselves to be swept into birth. I
feel and see my body writhing, snakelike and sensual as the waves
come, one following the other. My body responds, knowing what to do. I
let go. "You can't fight the waves. Just let them carry you." I hold
her words in my mind, and, for one long holy moment, surrender myself
to the magick as I have never done before.
Becoming a mother is a sacred act. Bringing forth a new life into this
human sphere is, perhaps, the most powerful work that anyone can
perform. Without it, we cannot survive. Without it, no heritage, no
wisdom, no political or philosophical belief has any meaning. Since
the beginning of time, the mystery of birth has been celebrated. From
Paleolithic awe at the magickal power of women to create new life from
within themselves, all alone, as the Earth produced life from
nothingness, to the taboos surrounding childbirth practiced by tribal
peoples around the world, to the "women only" midwifed births in
pre-Industrial Europe, the mystery, the miracle, remains the same.
Even now, in our society of "rational" and medically dominated
childbirth practices, the light of the magic of new life pierces
through the surgical masks and steel as a mother greets her newborn.
Each birth connects us with all the births that have gone before and
with the women who have birthed before us, with all life that is yet
to be and with the Earth which is continually birthing.?
?We have an ocean in our womb. In that ocean, life begins again --
developing from one tiny cell to an independent, conscious, mobile
being. All of creation is happening anew inside of our body. We are
all of creation.
This baby is all that is new, all that is potential in the world, all
that can be, all that will be. She is all truth, all trust, all hope.
The love that we feel in our hearts toward our baby, that love which
is sometimes so all-encompassing and so overwhelming that we are moved
to tears, is the love ever-present in all of creation. It is the
spirit that holds the universe together. It is our reason for being.
We hold all creation, all possibility, and all love within us, always.
We can experience that in a new way during pregnancy. We have such
clear symbols to work with that, by focusing on them, we can go
further than ever before in our knowledge of the world we live in, and
of who we are. With our new consciousness, we can give birth not only
to our baby, but to all that we know. We can take the awareness that
has grown in side of us, in our private cloister, and bring it forth
into our lives and into the world. What we have to offer can heal our
wounds, the wounds of others and the planet. It is vital to our
survival. It is irreplaceable. It is worth the effort.?
?Becoming a mother is an experience full of paradox. Labor and
delivery were at the same time the most wonderful thing and the most
terrible thing I had ever been through. Being a new mother was the
most lonely thing and the most communal thing I had ever done. It was
both tiring and exhilarating. At the same time that I felt my life had
been thwarted, I sensed also that it was fuller than ever before.
In an effort to understand all this, I began to write. I wrote down
everything. I began to look at my life and to interpret it. In so
doing I realized that human beings are born with the ability to
experience God and that this happens in a special way to women during
pregnancy and childbirth.
I do not say this in order to exclude men, but rather to include women
in the realm of theological endeavor. I say it to illustrate what I
believe to be the task of theology: ?doing theology? means that we see
God in the living of our lives. In the lives of women there exists a
unique opportunity to develop a sense of God, and there exists
something of the essence of God which, though made known to us in
Christ, we missed because women were excluded from the ranks of church
hierarchy and demeaned in religious tradition. The question of what in
the lives of women we can theologize about has been overlooked because
women have been overlooked.?
?Pregnancy is a great equalizer, providing a common experience for the
majority of women. It is something that only women can experience. I
found that being pregnant is like entering a great, friendly club.
Women of all ages, all races are eager to talk about their
pregnancies. They remember the details of every single one, and though
each is essentially the same, each has an element of mystery and
uniqueness. While pregnancy separates us one from the other, it binds
us together in a profoundly human experience. It is this paradox of
uniqueness in the midst of commonality, of mystery in the midst of
bodily process that makes pregnancy a theological event in the lives
of women. It is within this paradox that pregnancy can teach us the
meaning of incarnation.
In pregnancy a woman?s body is not her own. The primary occupation of
that body is the housing and growing of a baby. The mother, as the
residence for this other being, is filled with a sense of its value,
which is apart from her own sense of value. Though intricately bound
up with this being, she is distinct from it. The two are one, and
herein lies the paradox. The pregnant woman is both herself and this
other being. The two are distinct from each other, though they are not
?One hurdle that sperm cells encounter is the cervix. "We've shown
that the cervix is a biological filter," Overstreet says. "Cervical
mucus selects against sperm with abnormal shapes by presenting greater
resistance to them than to normally shaped sperm." He notes that semen
contains many abnormally shaped sperm cells, even in fertile men.
In some unprecedented studies, Overstreet and his research colleagues
recovered sperm cells from cervical mucus and studied their physiology
in the laboratory. They found that sperm cells have the same
physiologic characteristics, such as motility, regardless of whether
they have been in the cervix for one hour or 72 hours. Overstreet says
that this finding supports the idea that the cervix can serve as a
reservoir of sperm cells--a privileged environment that supports sperm
?The experience of pregnancy and childbirth is uniquely female. Not
all women give or want to give birth. However women who do give birth
whatever the circumstances, are faced with the reality of one of
nature?s most powerful events. The fact that women can express
extremely negative or incredibly positive experiences of childbirth is
evidence of the generic power of the experience itself. This most
basic fact, that childbirth is a powerful force to be respected, has
been lost in the overall devaluation of the feminine in our society.
Women often feel alone with the responsibility of motherhood, even
when they have supportive partners. Mothers are criticized quickly
when things go awry in childrearing, while their positive
contributions go unsung. In fact, many aspects of female development
remain invisible to our culture at large. Childbirth is no exception.
The message of our society is that the experience of childbirth is
?Because our culture devalues that which is feminine, even the most
intimate and basic processes of women?s lives become targets for
judgment. Our society encourages competition in every aspect of life.
Mothers themselves are exploited to compete with one another, making
their own birth experience a valid or invalid one, arguing whether the
experience of giving birth is sacred, beautiful and powerful or a
denigrating process to endure, even a worthless joke on women. Women
comedians sarcastically attack women who want to experience natural
birth, ?You are stupid women! You have nothing to prove. You?re not a
man!? It makes for good entertainment, but this polarization distorts
the continuing problem of devaluation at the heart of our experience
of womanhood. When a mother?s self esteem is undermined, family
relationships suffer as well. Perhaps it is possible for us to
validate and share our female experiences in a manner that would build
rather than devalue a woman?s sense of self.?
Progression of labor
This CD on the Miracle of Birth may interest you. $33 USD
Hormones needed for reproduction
This site offers a clairvoyant?s take on conception, gestation and birth
When does human life begin?
?There is always something to celebrate! When a child is born, we
welcome its arrival. It is also appropriate to celebrate the
"process". Greater awareness of pregnancy, labor and delivery on
physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual levels can enhance
inner and shared wisdom, as well as form and strengthen
Fetal maturity, ready for birth!
?An old country doctor went way out to the boondocks to deliver a
baby. It was so far out there was no electricity. When the doctor
arrived, no one was home except for the laboring mother and her
The doctor instructed the child to hold a lantern high so he could see
while he helped the woman deliver the baby. The child did so. The
mother pushed and after a little while, the doctor lifted the newborn
baby by the feet and spanked him on the bottom to get him to take his
The doctor then asked the 5-year-old what he thought of what he had
The little boy said, "He shouldn't have crawled in there in the first
place. Spank him again."
?I grew up in rural America, in a small town featuring a population of
just over 1,000 people. As a result, some people say I'm a wealth of
folksy wisdom, while others point out that my humor tends to revolve
around potty talk. I can't refute either of those claims.
Because of the rural climate many, if not most, of my classmates were
farm kids, which means they were kids who lived on farms. Now, farm
life is somewhat different than city life, or even town life, for that
matter. Farm life, by it's very nature, means that farm kids are
introduced, at an early age, to an ingrained familiarity with
livestock and other assorted animals.
Small town kids, such as myself, were not gifted with the livestock
familiarity bestowed upon our farm kid peers. For example, my early
inability to distinguish between cows and bulls once resulted in me
running headlong, terrified, into an electrified fence. Another time,
a large sow carried me several yards, with me straddling her snout,
before dropping me on a gravel drive and stomping on my chest with her
evil, cloven foot.
My lack of livestock knowledge also resulted in perhaps the rudest
introduction ever to what is often referred to as the "miracle of
I was either in second or third grade when, one day, it was announced
that our class was going to take a field trip to the local
veterinarian clinic. I was excited, because my understanding of
veterinarian clinics was that they dealt with puppies and kittens
which, technically, is often the case. However, in rural vet clinics,
they also deal considerably, if not predominantly, in farm livestock.
We saw all sorts of wonderful animals during that magical day. We saw
horses, and we saw piggies, and we saw cows and, yes, we saw puppies
and kittens. And then, at the end of the tour, we were treated to an
extra-special event; the birth of a baby calf.
Except, it wasn't the kind of birth I was expecting, or even really
knew could happen. We were ushered into a large room, with a concrete
floor with a drain in the middle. Standing on one end of the room was
a bored-looking holstein cow, lazily chewing her cud. I was keeping a
close eye on her backside, where I was expecting a baby cow to fall
out, like in that one PBS nature special I'd watched once.
Instead, a man wearing plastic gloves applied a liquidy swipe of some
sort of yellow substance along the cow's side. Then, after a couple
minutes, the man returned and, right before my youthful, innocent
eyes, he sliced that cow's side open using what I believed must have
been the sharpest knife in the history of cutlery. The cow's side slit
right open, sounding for all the world like that vet had zipped up a
very long coat zipper.
I stood there, mouth agape, trying to absorb exactly what it was that
had just happened. That cow, I thought, should have been in extreme
discomfort but, no, she stood there, continuing to chew her cud in a
lazy fashion. But then, THEN, the vet returned yet again and, with the
assistance of another man, started digging around inside that cow,
with one man up to his shoulders. What were they doing? Were they
trying to get in? What was happening?
Just then, one of the men pulled forth a pair of wet, glistening
hooves and my mind, having forgotten completely that the cow was
pregnant in the first place, somehow erroneously concluded that the
two men were somehow pulling the cow inside-out. I knew, deep down,
that the conclusion simply had to be wrong, but it was the only
conclusion I could conjure at the time.
Then, thankfully, they pulled out the rest of the calf and tossed it,
rather unceremoniously I thought, onto the concrete floor, where it
lay, dripping all sorts of birth-related liquids into the drain. The
men then set about repairing the mother cow's side, while the calf
continued to lay and drip on the concrete floor.
It was then that my brain reset itself as it sorted out what had just
transpired. It was at that point that I made a mental note that life
isn't always exactly like it's shown in those PBS nature specials.
Which is some pretty folksy wisdom, when you think about it.?
A little brevity with Monty Python
An egg, surrounded by sperm
Carnegie Stages of Human Life
56 days after conception
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Miracle of Birth
Miracle of Conception
amazing human reproduction
mystery of birth