Friday, November 18, 2011

the miracle of life

Because we're trying to conceive a child, and because Lilly is in a constant awe of babies that are in the womb and then come out of it, we checked out The Miracle of Life with timeless photos by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. Then we all sat down to watch it last Sunday afternoon. We expected the video to feature pictures of a growing fetus, but as it turns out, the video is more about what happens before anything turns into even an embryo.

Amazing internal photographs capture living, functioning reproductive systems as the camera follows an egg from its follicular development in an ovary, through the delicate, flowery fallopian tube for fertilization, and on to the uterus for development and eventual birth. Likewise, we follow the shorter journey of millions of sperm as they develop and strive desperately to reach the egg.

We explained as best as we could what the images were featuring. It helps that Lilly already knows all the correct words for the external genitals (both in English and Norwegian, though she's inclined to use the colloquial terms "tiss" and "tissemann"); now we moved on to the internal ones. And we kept waiting for the appearance of a fetus; something more recognizable to a three-year-old.

With no fetus in sight, we eventually turned off the video and moved on to books.

We didn't speak more of the video, but then a couple of mornings later, I got a phone call from Leighton:
Lilly just walked into the bathroom while I was showering to show me a drawing she'd made. She pointed to the right and told me it was my "tissemann" (penis), and then to the left, she said was mama's "tiss" (vulva). In the middle, she said, is "baby."

First thing she wanted to do after I had picked her up from preschool, was to show me this drawing (she also pointed out that the "baby" in the middle has a "tiss" to its right.)

I'm so amazed by her ability to process and make some sense out of what she saw. It's so great to witness her growing awareness and appreciation for the body's many amazing parts and functions.

Watching The Miracle of Life was good for me too. It's not that my body is "failing" to conceive; it's that it's a darn miracle that anyone's ever able to conceive. I've been fretting over my aging eggs and the deteriorating quality of the uterus lining. But what got me watching this video, was the vulnerabilities of the sperm cells that require optimal temperature and environment for production and survival.

And then the millions of sperm cells that die within seconds. Sperm cells with two tails. Sperm cells that are killed by the acidic vaginal fluid. Sperm cells getting lost in the wrong ovarian tube, if they even make it that far. Sperm cells that attacks any round cell, searching for the egg. Sperm cells that struggle to get through the egg cell's nearly impenetrable wall that surrounds it. With a prodigal wastage of the millions of sperm cells released in an ejaculate, only a few hundred make the arduous trip up to the egg successfully. If one makes it through the egg cell's wall, the cell immediately transforms its wall to a truly impenetrable barrier to the remaining sperm cells.

Whether you're trying to conceive or not, you've got to watch The Miracle of Life. It's absolutely mind-blowing.


  1. I'm impressed. As this strongly suggests, age-appropriate information/discussion about sex is important.

  2. I'm impressed. As this strongly suggests, age-appropriate information/discussion about sex is important.


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