Monday, June 6, 2011


In this magical age of technologically-enhanced knowledge saturation, it's rare for me to ever feel like I don't - or can't - know something. If I forget the name of that guy playing the diner owner on "Bones" who just, maybe, possibly, might have been a beloved side character on "The X-Files" that one time back in 1998, I can easily look him up and smugly reassure myself of my television knowledge. "My" knowledge, really, is whatever I feel I can access in some way. Sure, there are times when I'm not anywhere near a computer, or my phone has no reception, so I do often need to rely on my brainmeats to get me through, but thankfully they too have been powerfully enriched by the crazy access to information we all have available.

Anyone who has ever mentioned the word "baby" (as in "love you too, baby!") or "pregnant" (as in "I was pregnant with remorse") in an email, on Facebook, on a blog comment, or basically anywhere else on the internet has very likely been accosted by ads for sites relating to babies and pregnancy. No joke: try sending an email to someone - anyone, really - in which you mention anything even tangentially related to the birth process and its results. Perhaps you might write the following:

Dear Mama,
I am thrilled that you labored for so long to make me the delightful cookies. It's like you birth these amazing little gifts from god out of nothing but flour and butter! I hope to see you on my birthday, when all our family can experience the miracle of your baking. Don't forget to bring Auntie Pitocin's pain relief pills!
Your baby

Try it. I dare you. Even if you don't, the internet will still do everything in its power to fill your brain with baby information both accurate and nonsensical. Anyone with a predilection for information-gathering is likely to encounter this type of material pretty much regardless of whether you are seeking it, so someone actually trying to use the internet to learn real information about pregnancy has few to no challenges ahead.

The stumbling block comes when you have a specific question and need a specific, accurate answer. It seems like virtually everyone who writes anything about pregnancy in particular, and babies in general, is convinced that the answer to every question one could possibly ask is "that is going to kill your baby." Nail polish? Totally going to kill your baby. Fish? Birth defects ahoy! Staring too long at a lamp? Probably one of the leading causes of birth defects. Alcohol in ANY quantity? That's going to kill your baby, you, and probably your entire extended family. Some things, like doing lines of coke or trying to teach yourself tattooing on your pregnant belly, are worth avoiding, but most things actually won't cause real damage. I'm surely not making friends by taking this position, but oh, internet...why do you be so paranoid?

I only really learned to appreciate the glory and wonder of instant knowledge gratification while in college. Part of this (and here I date myself a little) is due to the fact that the internet was not a fully-utilized or understood academic resource while I was in high school; as soon as I arrived at college, everyone else seemed suddenly aware of, well, everything. I quickly dove onto the world wide web and began to explore. The first time I noticed that some of the information housed therein was a little sketchy was when I tried to research the icky side effects I was having due to a new prescription. According to the internet, I probably had a fatal infection. I was advised to seek immediate medical assistance, set my affairs in order, and calmly await my maker. Obviously, I survived, and just changed my medication to alleviate the seemingly incapacitating symptoms.

This experience, which somewhat soured my first semester of college, gave me a very cautious sensibility for internet-sourced information. I've been doing my homework on babies, pregnancy, etc... and you know what? For information about anything even tangentially medical, the internet sucks. I'm keeping an eye on mega-sites like The Bump for such humorous thread as "When do I tell people I'm pregnant?" (er...maybe you should save a decision like that for NOT a massive public forum partially populated with people who worry about getting pregnant from having sex - while pregnant - and instead consult your partner and brain). I'm taking it back into the world of books: at least I can know, for sure, before I even open the cover, that an author is either aligned with my philosophy of non-terror, or alternately trying to convince me to give my child a fear of needles before they even finish growing toes. Batman, check your sources, know your authors, and don't trust anything that even vaguely resembles a message board.

1 comment:

  1. To be fair, the internet will give you ads about pregnancy and babies if all you do is indicate that you are a female. Facebook gives me ads for baby gear giveaways, ways to be come and ultrasound technician, and other assorted things that have pictures of babies or uteri on them. This all comes alongside ads for engagement ring companies (I'm a female who's not listed as married) and lesbian-friendly colleges (FB understands the gay, but not the bi). Beware... the internet knows you're a woman, and it knows what all women want. Clearly.