Humans cannot be immortal because their genes would gradually deteriorate to a point where they could no longer function. Instead, we have sex and die so that our genes can live forever. (p. 32)What does a proud father do to propagate the joyous fact that he has a new daughter? Usually just beam with happiness, snap some photographs, and tell all his friends and family. David Bainbridge had another idea. He decided to reach a larger audience. So he wrote a book telling the story of her pre-life (and then some). We even get to see a picture. What good father can't resist such gloating?
In an entertaining and clear style, Bainbridge writes about pregnancy and its aftermaths the way popular science works should be written. He also includes a bit on the history of the science of how we came to understand pregnancy, notably featuring the work, achievements, and errors of William Harvey and Ernst Haeckel. Perhaps most interesting is his emphasis on the immune system and how this results in the embryo/fetus and mother getting along, or not.
There are so many fascinating topics covered in this book in addition to the ones mentioned above. Why, and how, did sexual reproduction evolve? What causes miscarriages? How do twins come into being? (I didn't know there were more than two possibilities.) Why is there really no such thing as identical twins? What about those who aren't born male or female or who change, naturally, from one sex to the other during their lifetime? What role does the mother's hormones and immune system have on the homosexuality of the future baby? And on and on with other important and interesting discussions. For those of you having a baby in the near, or distant, future there are also many instructions that may contribute to the health and well being of your child.
The book isn't perfect, however. There are at least a few mistakes that I spotted. For instance, on page 106, Darwin is credited with writing The Ascent of Man which was actually written over a hundred years later by Jacob Bronowski. Darwin, of course, wrote The Descent of Man.
I haven't mentioned perhaps my favorite aspect of the book and that is that it had me laughing at times. Making Babies isn't filled with jokes or corny one-liners, but Bainbridge's word choice is frequently priceless. For that reason alone you should read the book. The knowledge you gain along the way will just be added gravy.
from the publisher:
Drawing on past speculation and present knowledge, reproductive biologist David Bainbridge conducts us through the forty weeks of a human pregnancy, from conception to breastfeeding, explaining the complex biology behind human gestation in a clear and unassuming manner.
Making Babies sets the latest findings in pregnancy biology in a challenging evolutionary, historical, and sociological context, proving that when it comes to drama, pregnancy has it all: sibling rivalry, a battle of the sexes, and a crisis of gender identity. Along the way, Bainbridge revisits some of the key puzzles about pregnancy: What's sex got to do with it? How does the fetus hijack its mother's immune system? What is the point, if any, of morning sickness? Just how does a fertilized ovum develop into eight pounds or so of baby, with ten fingers and ten toes? Does the baby or the mother control the onset of labor, and why is it such an ordeal for them both?
Entertaining and informative, Making Babies shows how the study of human pregnancy can help us understand our genesis as individuals and our evolution as a species, and provide insight into who we are and why we behave as we do.
David Bainbridge lectures in Comparative Anatomy and Physiology at the Royal Veterinary College in London.
[Bainbridge's] insight explodes off the page...[Making Babies] reads like a whodunnit. A ripping yarn and irresistible--I read it at one sitting... You thought you were having a baby. This book shows that your baby is having you. --Miriam Stoppard, Times Higher Education Supplement [UK]
Bainbridge...tackles his subject by posing five major questions about pregnancy: Why do humans reproduce the way they do--in other words: why sex? How does the maternal body "know" it's pregnant? How is a baby...develop[ed] from a fertilized egg into fully-formed fetus? Why doesn't the maternal immune system reject the intruding fetus? And how do mother and baby survive the birth process? Meanwhile, all the wonder of the natural process is captured here. --Kirkus Reviews
What makes this book so good is that Bainbridge not only explains pregnancy clearly and easily, he does it in such an engaging way. Going beyond the usual anatomical fare, he gives the reader underlying theories and an evolutionary viewpoint of the biology of motherhood. Bainbridge does what too few scientists are able to do: write about science in a way that a layperson cannot only understand, but wants to read. This is an excellent example of how good science writing can be. --Meredith Small, Cornell University, author of Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent