June 4th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Gross desserts on the sex-education menu

CANBERRA OBSERVED Suggested parallel less a Murphy than a furphy

EDITORIAL Obama rewards Vietnam: a particularly nasty regime

ENVIRONMENT Land sinkage, not rising sea levels, the real threat

LIFE ISSUES Who am I? Baby's first memoir

SOCIETY Haircuts and tattoos: new rebels get funky

LIFE POLICY Queensland abortion bill is out of step with voters

SEXUAL POLITICS Gay 'marriage' and the given in human procreative behaviour (part 1)

RURAL LIFE Some of the reasons why farmers need a new bank

It's a queer theory that says kids can transgender (Part Two of two)

MUSIC Digital sonics by no means free of glitches

CINEMA Action movie lacks punch: X-Men: Apocalypse

BOOK REVIEW Tragic betrayal

BOOK REVIEW Great reformer or great dictator?

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Who am I? Baby's first memoir

by Leon Voesenek

News Weekly, June 4, 2016

As News Weekly went to press, Rachel Carling-Jenkins’ Infant Viability Bill was due to be debated in the Victorian Parliament. Leon Voesenek offers a glimpse at who it is all about.

My life began in Mum’s Fallopian tube. Here Dad’s sperm and Mum’s egg met and fused resulting in a one-celled being called zygote, with the 46 chromosomes typical of each cell of the human body.

There I was, a unique new individual, having received 23 chromosomes from Mum and 23 from Dad. My human makeup was completed at fertilisation. I already was a boy and had all my genetic characteristics such as the colour of my eyes, hair and skin, my facial and body features and it was even established whether or not I would develop diseases, such as diabetes, later in my life. At this stage I was about 0.1 millimetres long and weighed about 2 milligrams. All I needed for the realisation of human potential was self-directed growth and development.

So I drifted slowly down the Fallopian tube towards the uterine cavity and began both cell division and the differentiation through which all my various organs and tissues of the mature me eventually were formed.

About seven days after fertilisation I, now many-celled, had reached the uterus and began to embed myself in the uterine lining, called by doctors the endometrium, a process of implantation. Nature had carefully prepared the lining before its receiving me.

I thought that it was not right that Mum had to deal with her menstrual periods while giving me shelter and looking after me, so at 10 days I sent a hormonal message to her body that soon stopped her periods.

Like all good mothers Mum had to stay healthy in order to supply me with the proper nutrients and oxygen. She also had to be very careful that she did not fall, did not get any condition that impaired the blood’s ability to clot or increases the likelihood of clotting.

Another big problem would be the premature rupture of the membranes when the fluid-filled membrane, called the amniotic sac, that surrounded and cushioned me, leaked or broke before labour began. Of course substance abuse was not on. All of Mum’s choices filtered through the placenta and affected me.

The placenta acted like a filter and a lung. My Mum’s blood circulation was completely separate from mine. Her blood contained oxygen, glucose and other nutritional substances. It was first filtered in the placenta to remove harmful substances and then the placental blood, not Mum’s, went through the umbilical cord which was connected to me. The placenta also acted like the lungs of a newborn baby or adult by providing me with oxygen. Once I had used the oxygen the blood went back to the placenta where the carbon dioxide was removed and more oxygen added. My waste products, via the placenta, were released in Mum’s circulation and were disposed of through her urine and lungs.

Many things happened to me in the next few weeks. At 17 and 18 days my blood cells and heart were forming. At 20 days the foundations of my brain, spinal cord and my entire nervous system were laid. At 24 days my heart began to pulsate. At 28 days 40 pairs of muscles were developing along my future spine and my arms and legs were budding.

In about 30 days I had grown quite a bit, from one cell to millions of cells. I had grown 10,000 times and was six or seven millimetres long. My brain had human proportions and blood was flowing in my veins and my bloodstream remained separate from Mum’s.

There was never a dull moment. Within about the next 14 days the pituitary gland was forming in the middle of my brain, and my mouth, ears and nose were taking shape. At about 40 days the energy output of my heart was already 20 per cent of an adult’s. A few days later my skeleton was formed, although not yet in bone but in cartilage. My brain coordinated movements of muscles and organs.

My reflex responses had begun and my male organ was forming. I was very pleased that at this time Mum missed her second period.

I could feel waves in my brain, I could move more spontaneously and buds of milk teeth had appeared. It was quite an experience, that at seven weeks, I found out that my lips were sensitive to touch and my ears started to resemble a family pattern. At eight weeks I was a well-proportioned small-scale baby, measured three centimetres sitting up and weighed one gram. All my organs were present, my heart was beating, and my stomach produced digestive juices and my liver manufactured blood cells.

Oh, I almost forgot that my kidneys began to function and my taste buds were forming. Within a short time, in fact I was eight and a half weeks old, my fingerprints were being engraved, my eyelids and palms were sensitive to touch and I could feel pain.

I made a mental note to see to it that, while I was growing, Mum’s joints were all softening, which would allow her pelvic bones to spread to accommodate my birth by the time she went into labour and that her breasts enlarged to nurse me.

At nine weeks old I could bend my fingers around an object placed in my palm. I could suck my thumb and my fingernails were forming. A week later my body was sensitive to touch, except for the sides, back and top of the head. I was able to squint, swallow and frown.

It was quite an experience when I was able to do a wee and could make complex facial expressions. And you know what? I could even smile! All this I could do when I was only 11 weeks old.

At 12 weeks I thought it was time to become active. I started to kick my legs, turn my feet, curl and fan my toes, make a fist, bend my wrist, turn my head, open my mouth and press my lips tightly together. I also commenced practising breathing.

I could not believe that already at 13 weeks my facial expressions resembled those of my parents. My exercises were rewarded because my movements were more graceful and flowing and my reflexes were more vigorous. My vocal cords were forming and I could cry but not aloud because of the absence of air. My sex organs were apparent and primitive sperm was present.

Soon I could use my hands to grasp, could swim and turn somersaults. I was alive and kicking and for the first time Mum could feel my movements. Mum was of course very happy. The doctor had told her that she could expect this to happen when the baby was about 16 to 20 weeks old.

From now on I could settle into a favourite position and go to sleep. A few times I suddenly woke up. I did not worry. I felt very safe in there. It must have been a loud noise such as a door slamming. I am sure Mum would have prevented this if it had been possible.

I was responding to sound. Mum would not have noticed this because it was at frequencies too high or low for adults to hear.

When I was six months old, very fine hair was growing on my head and eyebrows and a fringe of eyelashes appeared. Most of my skeleton was getting harder. I weighed 640 grams and was 23 centimetres tall. Although babies born at this age have been known to survive, I decided to stay a bit longer, not only because I preferred to wait for my permanent eye teeth and my lungs to mature, but also to wait to be able to open and close my eyelids so that I could look around in my comfortable home.

Indeed, this all happened by the time I was about seven months old. I also discovered that my hands could grip more strongly and that I could hear and recognise Mum’s voice.

I had to be a bit more careful now because I began to accumulate some fat and at eight months my weight increased by a kilogram. No wonder that my quarters were cramped and at 265 days I thought it time to trigger labour.

However, before I do this and leave my place of residence, I will tell you who I am. I am Human and Alive. I am Human because I am one of the biological beings who belong to the species Homo sapiens. I am alive, in fact I have been alive for a long time because I have been growing, developing, maturing and breathing. Also, right now, of the 45 generations of cell divisions between conception and adulthood, 41 had already taken place when I decided to be born.

When I started to recognise Mum’s voice I heard her say one day that children were on loan and that mothers had to look after and protect them right from the very beginning until they can look after themselves. For the time I was in her womb all she had to do was to remain healthy so that my self-directed growth and development could take place.

She knew that she had no right to harm me, because although I was the result of her and dad’s love it was I who arranged the order of events inside her. It was I who sent a hormonal message to her body in order to stop her periods. It was I who embedded me in the endometrium which nature had carefully prepared for me. It was I who laid the foundations of my brain, spinal cord and nervous system. It was I who formed the blood cells. It was I who developed 40 pairs of muscles along my future spine. It was I who busied myself with cell divisions and the flow of blood, and my bloodstream remained separate from Mum’s, and it was I who organised the placenta.

Also my heartbeat, brain waves and blood type were different from Mum’s.

It is understood that not every pregnancy, as far as the times mentioned, follows this pattern.

Mum understood that once she was pregnant, the foetus is entirely separate, distinct and unique. It is not part of her body but that the foetus depends on her body for nutrients, oxygen, warmth and a safe environment.

The greatest expression of love between two people is the conjugal act, which involves husband and wife, of which I am the result. As soon as Mum knew she was pregnant she said to Dad, “we will have another baby”. Yes. I was baby number three and there were still four to come.

To Mum and Dad expecting another baby was a blessing, and whether it would be a boy or a girl was not important to them. Of course they hoped and prayed for a healthy baby and that it would be a normal pregnancy.

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