"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Modern Medicine


     In studying this genealogy back through the centuries, a few things become incredibly clear. One of them is that we are all from somewhere else, and somewhere before that and somewhere before that. You may be right here, now, but in the grand scheme of time, this is only a stopping place. There will be others.
      My husband's grandfather, orphaned at the age of 9, went to live with his sister, Jane, and her new husband. That husband's name was Woodring, Jonathan Woodring. Before his people were Woodrings living in Ohio, they were Wotrings, living in Pennsylvania. When Abraham and Anna Wotring, boarded a ship in 1733 with their five children, ages 9,8,5,3 and 9 months, their name was Vautrin, from Lorraine, France, where the family had lived for a mere hundred years. Before that they had lived in what is today, Germany. There (in the early 1500s) the line disappears with a couple whose names were Paulus and Marie Vautrin, who were engaged to each other when Marie was only 1 year old. Paulus was 19 at the time. Marie began living with him when she reached her womanhood and had their children, a set of twin boys, when she was sixteen. There were no other children and she was dead by the time she was 29.
     That brings me to the other thing that is stunningly obvious in this search.  The women, once they married, usually before they were twenty, gave birth every two years, or less, until they could no longer conceive, or died. Most were having children well into their forties and the death dates for the mother often matched the birth date for the final child. That makes me immensely sad. Do not misunderstand, I love children, but having ten children in a row curtails any other dreams you might have envisioned for yourself. I'm sure some of those women were very happy surrounded by their large families. I am also sure there were others who saw their opportunities for learning suddenly evaporate, forever.
     The other day my Dad and I were having a conversation about how important the development of the birth control pill was; a hard right hand turn in the march of human civilization. He was telling me about the women who had come to him, in his medical practice, with botched abortions, full of infection, whose lives he had tried to save. Many never even made it to the hospital.
        Think of all the gifts and talents that have been given the chance to mature and evolve because women weren't tied to the birthing bed for their entire adult life, or dying in childbirth at eighteen. I know, Marie Curie did all of her research, wrote scientific papers, lectured to the leading scientists of the day, won the Nobel Prize in both Physics and Chemistry, and still managed to squeeze in a couple of children.  If you were able to afford Nannies to watch (raise) your children, is was better. Most people did not have that luxury. I suppose there were sometimes older cousins or childless aunts who lived nearby and could help.
     That isn't the point, however. The point is that the woman had no choice about whether or not she would conceive another child, or another child so soon, unless she could get away with saying no to her husband.  (A sad solution for both of them.)
      Modern medicine does indeed amaze and astonish. And now that we have mapped the human genome and figured out a little about stem cells, and have technology by the hind leg, science is soaring ahead by leaps and bounds.  I can't imagine where medicine will be in another hundred years.  Very few that are alive today will live to see that time, but I'm sure it will make what we do now seem very primitive. Isn't that always the way it goes.

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