PHILADELPHIA—I didn’t know that babies right out of the womb don’t like bright lights. I should have guessed it, I suppose, being as they have swum for nine months in the opaqueness of a mother’s watery womb.
I wouldn’t think they like loud noises either, come to think of it, since for nearly a year the blare of radios and screech of trains and human altercations came to them muffled through the layerings of a mother’s skin and fluids.
Nor did I think about the fact that babies would be cold when they came out. But, of course, they would, wouldn’t they. Naked come we into the world, from a temperature-controlled environ to a place where clothes must crudely compensate for what a mother did more perfectly for us: no buttons to tie, no zippers that stick, no too tight collars. It was like paradise. And the safest place to be, just inches from the beating heart of the one who loved us unconditionally before we had done anything good or bad.
The way I learned about babies’ likes and dislikes, and how to make them comfortable, was from the closing arguments in abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial. The prosecution, Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron, gave a moving appeal, the oration of his career, on the responsibility of doctors toward their littlest patients:
“Once a baby is born alive … it is a human being … it is the doctor’s obligation to give it care. … What courage comes down to is to protect the life of others, to save others … when a baby comes out of its mother. … Babies don’t like bright lights. … You’ve gotta make them feel comfortable. They feel cold.”
And if you had walked cold into the trial at just that moment, from a remote place like Togo or Belize where people do not know of the events that have transpired in the bowels of Philadelphia, you might have thought the man speaking was a lecturer in neonatology, training the bunch of us in the care and feeding of our newborn babies.
You would never have guessed by the speech about his dog receiving better treatment than Gosnell’s babies, or by the way his emotions seemed ready to erupt, that when the prosecutor said “babies don’t like bright lights,” he was talking about babies slated for death, and he was simply recommending that we drape them with a cloth until their inconvenient breathing stops.