Monday, September 14, 2009

Modern Medicine

We've been through a few "everyone-gets-it" viruses both at home and on the road. We've had injuries. We'll have more. Like most people, we've developed a bit of a routine around how we approach illness and trauma. And I had planned to give you an idea of our routine.

But as I started writing this, I felt the need to add a little context. So I'm going to start a little further back.

Before we had kids, Joe and I read quite a bit about pregnancy and childbirth, and decided to have our babies with a certified nurse-midwife at a freestanding birth center, instead of with an OB/GYN in a hospital. As I recall, certified nurse-midwives were our preferred practitioners for two big reasons: (1) a culture of non-intervention, allowing the natural birth process to happen, and (2) skill at identifying risk and recognizing emergencies, and then transferring women into the care of doctors and hospitals when the natural birth process needs help.

Through three pregnancies and uncomplicated births, I was able to stay under the care of the only independent midwifery practice within an hour of our home. I delivered all three of our babies in the very same bed. We went home within a few hours, each time. Wonderful experiences, as most births are.

As a family, we were committed to breastfeeding, which turned out to be quite easy for me and each of the babies. I nursed each child for at least two years, a practice called "extended breastfeeding". We adopted some other unconventional parenting practices, some of which are sometimes associated with "attachment" or "natural" parenting. Our babies slept in our bed (co-sleeping) and I "wore" my babies in a sling. We flirted with cloth diapering, off and on. Baby food? In a jar? Not for us.

Sounds pretty crunchy, huh?

At this point, some readers might be guessing that the next words out of my mouth are going to promote some of these ideas: chiropractic, homeopathy, life energy, herbal medicine, vibrations, the "evils" of childhood vaccinations, the shortcomings of "western medicine". Perhaps you expect me to use the verb "to manifest" in an awkward way.


While we have veered from the mainstream by appreciating and promoting ideas like midwifery and extended breastfeeding, we don't do alternative medicine.

Maybe it's because we're so penny-pinching; maybe it's because we're lucky in our health; maybe it's because we're approaching it from a rational perspective, which is (I've been told) not the ideal way to come to enlightenment about everything. Whatever the reasons, we like to see credible evidence of efficacy before spending time, effort, and money on our medical care.

There are thousands of pseudo-scientific services and products exploiting the desire to feel better, feel healthy, feel right, gain balance, avoid illness, ensure longevity -- to do something to improve our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Marketing materials from the soft and sublime to the bright and screamy offer guaranteed treatments, forgotten techniques, breakthrough therapies, exclusive access to the newsletter that will tell us all the secrets that the doctors don't want us to know... Sure.

The health experts we consult are doctors, nurse practitioners, and others who use evidence-based medicine. We respect and value their advice. We know they can't fix everything and don't offer "maintenance" plans. We're okay with that.

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