Head in the Clouds: When The Picture in Your Mind is Not Reality

Posted on May 31, 2013


Okay, here’s a bit of weird news to close out the week:  “Couple Plans Dolphin-Assisted Birth.”  Adam and Heather Barrington of North Carolina have traveled to Hawaii to plan a dolphin-assisted birth at the Sirius Institute.  Seriously?  Why?

Apparently, this is some kind of New-Age, “natural-childbirth” thing.  “Dolphin-assisted childbirth is an option that some expectant parents are embracing, claiming it is a more natural, relaxing way to deliver a baby,” reports Marc Lallanilla in a story for CBS News.

Okay… I think a review of the term “natural” is in order here.

Human = ground-dwelling omnivorous primate.  In our “natural” state, we are hunter-gatherers and sometimes we are meals for things like lions and tigers and bears.  Sure, we can swim (most animals can), but we don’t hang out in the ocean all that much as our primary operating environment.  It would actually be more “natural” to give birth up in a tree to avoid the leopards.

Dolphin = ocean-dwelling carnivorous cetacean.  In their “natural” state, they swim around and eat fish.  Are they intelligent?  Oh, yes.  There are numerous reports, dating back to ancient times, of dolphins assisting humans in trouble.  They are also smart enough to know how to seek help from humans, like the one who approached divers to free him from a tangled fishing line.  Their reputation as a “friendly animal” has been well-earned.  But they are still wild creatures. We are fools if we think we can know what is in their minds.

The fantasy.Reality.  This happens more often than you might think.

The fantasy.                                   Reality.  This happens more than one might think.

Reports of dolphins killing humans are very, very rare.  Reports of dolphins injuring humans are more common.  Are dolphins friendly?  Reliable?  Trustworthy?  Not always!  They can be aggressive, even murderous, toward their own kind, and can be aggressive (including sexually aggressive)  toward humans.  They have been known to attack humans as well as helping them.  Some injuries to humans occur apparently by accident, but the fact remains:  this is a large, heavy (600 or so pounds), muscular, wild animal with sharp pointy teeth.  One that has been known to intentionally kill infants of its own species.  Is that – or a group of those –  really what you want around while you are birthing your baby?  For that matter, do you really want to be immersed in the ocean where wandering sharks, or more likely, wandering bacteria, could threaten your newborn’s well-being?

I’ve seen the whole childbirth thing in person.  It is distressing, painful, and messy.  There is a good bit of blood.  There may be laceration to the birth canal.  Finally, after (hopefully after) the baby is born, a big blob of bloated blood vessels known as the placenta makes its appearance.  And all of this distress, flailing and tasty blood will take place in the presence of large, powerful marine carnivores.  And this is a good idea?  Really??

No, thanks.  Lila has a rule:  when anything is all risk and no real benefit, scratch it off the list of things to do.  Maybe the chance of something going wrong in a “dolphin-assisted birth”  is small, but what’s at stake is just too important to take that chance.  No way would I put my distressed, blood-oozing, child-birthing self… not to mention my newborn… at the mercy of powerful and ultimately, unpredictable creatures.

Amazingly, the Sirius Institute claims that it receives 3-4 requests per week from people looking to “birth with dolphins.”  Although… looking around their website… I don’t see any evidence that anyone has actually done it.  Maybe Adam and Heather Barrington will be the first.