♪♪ -We're the same, me and you.
Well, kind of.
In one big way -- we were both...born.
♪♪ And it's not just us.
All 7 1/2 billion of us living on planet earth right now, we all got exactly the same start in life.
-We all started as one cell big.
♪♪ What a miracle is it that we are the complex beings we are that are capable of everything that we do.
♪♪ -More than 131 million humans are born each year -- 250 every minute.
♪♪ While our understanding of how babies develop and who can create life is evolving, the simple equation that begins all human life remains -- one sperm and one egg... ♪♪ ...that egg, formed before the mother was even born... ♪♪ ...an unbroken lineage connecting generations and defining what it means to be human.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ When you look at the history of life on earth, we humans are relative newbies.
♪♪ Only a few hundred thousand years have passed since our evolutionary ancestors created the first homo sapiens.
But in the last 50 years, we've witnessed a revolution in reproduction.
♪♪ Science is giving us extraordinary new insights into the miracle of life, from what's really happening inside the womb... to unlocking the secrets of attraction.
♪♪ And as the saying goes, it actually does take two to tango.
♪♪ -In dancing, we say, "One plus one equals one."
♪♪ So when you dance together, you need one couple.
♪♪ So not two people.
♪♪ My name is Alla.
-My name is Alex, and we're professional ballroom dancers in Los Angeles, California.
♪♪ ♪♪ -When I first saw Alex, I remember I kind of like, "Hmm, who is that guy?"
New guy in our dance studio.
There was something what I liked about his body, about his look, but I didn't like his dance partner.
[ Laughs ] I remember I was like, "He has to have a better dance partner."
-I remember the time when I saw Alla, I would never forget that moment.
When I danced with her first time, I was quite overwhelmed with how I felt.
Just the way how she moved on the floor, how she smiled how she expressed herself, then you get attracted to this.
♪♪ -Though it may feel like love at first sight, what you're really feeling in those first heady days is lust, the engine of sexual desire.
♪♪ And the fuel that's firing up your libido?
Those are hormones.
♪♪ -We tend to think of hormones as just this sort of vague notion or women being moody, but hormones have a specific definition.
♪♪ Hormones are packets of teeny-tiny chemicals released from one gland and targeted to another, faraway part of the body.
♪♪ -Turns out, sex is literally on our minds.
Just above the brain stem are the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
Those areas of the brain send signals down to the ovaries and the testes to start pumping out more estrogen and testosterone -- hormones that not only rev up your sex drive, they effectively shut down the logical part of your brain.
In other words, love literally makes us... dumb.
-When I'm around Alex, I'm always crazy.
♪♪ Every time when I touch him, when I smell him, I think I lose my mind.
I can't control myself.
-I have to run away from her sometimes.
She just attacks me, and I feel like I'm a gazelle and she... [ Both laugh ] -No, stop it.
-...and she's a tiger.
-You don't have to say that.
♪♪ -When your hormones are raging or when they're too high or too low, we're just talking teeny, little nanograms difference up or down, coming from our brains, coming from our ovaries and our testes.
These teeny, weeny, tiny chemicals that have such huge impact all over the body, on our growth, the way we think, on our behavior.
I'm just fascinated by that.
I'm attracted to them.
I'm aroused by hormones, I can say.
-When humans move from feelings of lust to attraction, a different set of hormones are released -- dopamine and norepinephrine.
This cocktail of chemicals causes our hearts to race... ♪♪ ...our palms to sweat, our cheeks to flush.
We feel more energetic, euphoric, giddy even.
Attraction also reduces our serotonin levels... causing new lovers to lose sleep and their taste for food.
-Our sense of smell, our sense of sight, our sense of touch all have to do with the way our hormones are reacting in our brains.
Precisely how, precisely how much, we're just beginning to learn.
♪♪ -When I'm close to Alla, there's a special scent, the smell of maybe peaches, right?
There's some kind of fruits that I want to eat.
It's very sweet.
-Alex always smells good.
He smells perfect.
[ Giggles ] I don't even want him take a shower.
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -Across the animal kingdom, bees and moths, elephants and mice, even fish attract others of their species through scent.
♪♪ These creatures and many others secrete special chemical substances called pheromones.
Pheromones signal that the female of the species is feeling kind of randy.
-Here's the real deal on pheromones.
If you're a female silkworm moth, and you want to catch your guy, a male silkworm moth, you can emit a pheromone.
It will travel pretty far, hit some guy, and he will come back to you like a sex slave.
He will mount you.
We can't do that.
Humans do not emit pheromones.
Most women, I think, can manipulate men, but it's through other ways, other than pheromones.
-Humans may not be slaves to scent like silkworm moths.
♪♪ But how a person smells does appear to sway our choice of mates.
One study found that, in a blind test, women preferred the scent of a man with a symmetrical face.
Body symmetry, where the right and left sides are almost mirror images, is considered a universal indicator of attractiveness.
♪♪ -The moment she touches me, I feel it going through my fingers to my heart.
♪♪ -I love to dance with Alex.
It's such an amazing gift that I can dance with someone who I really love.
♪♪ I'm a touchy person, so I need to touch.
For me to say, it's not enough.
♪♪ -In a lot of other social primates, touch is important for maintaining relationships.
For example, it's normal to groom each other.
It's also something that can be done sort of strategically to make alliances or to apologize.
So it's clear that touch is important that way.
♪♪ -Brain scans show that a simple caress on the arm activates an area of the frontal lobe that signals a coming reward.
Similar touch patterns have also been shown to deactivate regions of the brain related to stress.
-[ Giggles ] I have a surprise for you.
-Close your eyes!
Close your eyes!
-Open your eyes, honey.
-[ Gasps ] Oh, my God.
How did you carry it here?
It's so hot!
-[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -We got married in 2006 in Russia.
-[ Laughing ] We have three beautiful children, Daniel, Michael, and Angelina.
Daniel is 13, Michael is 8, and Angelina is turning 6.
-[ Speaking Russian ] ...papa happy birthday!
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ I cannot imagine my life without Alex.
He's my everything.
He is my world.
-I cannot envision what I would do without her.
♪♪ -When it comes to the human reproductive system... ♪♪ ...it's a tale of two extremes.
Males produce sperm, the smallest cell, while females produce eggs, the largest cell in the human body.
♪♪ -The structure of the egg is actually fascinating, because it's the only cell in the human body that we can visualize with the naked eye.
The egg is about the size of the tip of a pencil.
♪♪ -When a baby girl is born, her ovaries already contain all the eggs she will ever produce, somewhere around a million.
By the time she hits puberty, a fraction will remain.
Of those, only about 400 eggs will mature and have even the slightest chance of being fertilized.
A male, on the other hand, produces exponentially more sperm.
-In a lifetime, men will create 525 billion sperm.
Each second, they are creating about 1,500 sperm.
It's a fascinating number and means a lot of disposable sperm that we don't use.
♪♪ -A sperm is a blob of DNA with a tail -- not nearly as complicated as the egg.
Each ejaculate has about 200 million sperm.
Most of them never even make it close to the egg because they're most of them are losers.
They swim the wrong way.
It's a pretty tortuous journey to get to the egg.
-Completing that journey takes speed and stamina.
Recently, researchers discovered that sperm don't actually move their tales back and forth like eels, as was commonly thought.
Instead, they found that sperm actually move more like playful otters, spiraling in a corkscrew motion in search of an egg.
-The fascinating part about the sperm is that when a boy or a girl embryo are created, it is because of the difference between sperm.
One theory is male sperm swim faster, so they will get to the egg faster, but they die sooner, whereas female sperm swim slower and are more persistent.
They will actually last longer.
♪♪ -While the baby's gender may not be in the mother's control, the choices she makes day to day during her pregnancy will have a profound effect on her baby for its entire life.
♪♪ From what she eats to how much she moves, doctors are discovering new insights into how nearly every decision has lasting impacts.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Previously, I wasn't really ready to have a kid because of the idea that I had to stop everything that I was doing or everything that I thought was me.
When I heard stories of very powerful ladies, like, who were pregnant still dancing, I think it changed everything.
♪♪ My name is Jacqueline.
Most people call me Jacq.
I'm 31 this year.
I'm a dancer, a dance instructor in Singapore.
♪♪ The fact that I can be pregnant and still dance, it's like a dream to me.
♪♪ -Well, how is the pregnancy going on now?
-So, we are seeing the baby now.
So this is the hand.
You see the fingers just wave at us?
-Oh, my God.
-Do you see that?
-That's the fingers that was just waving at us.
-Jacqueline is nearing the halfway point in her pregnancy.
During the second trimester, her baby will triple in size, and unique features will emerge, from the pattern of its hair to its individual footprints and fingerprints.
-In the second trimester of pregnancy, the baby will go from being about 2 1/2 to 3 centimeters and grow almost up to several inches.
-Though Jacqueline's baby will grow rapidly in the next few weeks, its most impressive growth spurt happened at the start of her pregnancy.
If that pace continued, her baby would weigh 3,000 pounds at birth.
-It's an extraordinary fact that at one point, each of us as people were only one cell big.
Those cells divided in two and four and eight and then started to specialize as we developed as humans.
Cells can collaborate with one another to create very complex beings like who we are as humans.
They're really the unsung heroes of the body.
-So, you can see that the baby is in the amniotic sac.
This is the placenta.
The baby is taking nutrients through the absorption of the placenta.
♪♪ -The placenta is an organ that allowed us to grow offspring within our bodies to a much greater level of development than what you see in other mammals.
What this means is that the offspring's protected for a longer period of time, and it's also sort of efficiently nourished and maintained, and it's buffered from the outside world to a certain extent by the mom.
This is clearly a strategy that became quite successful, because in most areas of the world, placental mammals have seemingly out-competed marsupials.
-The placenta is a fascinating organ.
It's the only temporary organ we have in the human body.
♪♪ The placenta allows for the formation of the umbilical cord.
♪♪ Baby's able to get oxygen from Mom and get rid of waste and carbon dioxide all because of the umbilical cord.
It's almost like the amniotic scuba gear.
♪♪ -But that's not all.
The placenta serves as a critical buffer between Mom and fetus.
♪♪ If Jacqueline's blood were to mix with her baby's, her body would attack it as an outside invader.
But inside the placenta, a microscopically thin barrier of cells separates the two blood supplies.
-Okay, so we can see that some of the features are growing.
Can you see the eyes?
-Eyes are growing here.
That's the nose.
♪♪ The baby is really active.
Can you see that?
-Yeah, oh, my God.
-The legs are kicking.
Did you drink coffee today?
[ Laughs ] -No.
-Not touched coffee.
-Not touched coffee, okay.
-...at all since I found out.
-Since the last time we've seen the baby... -Moms are often advised to reduce caffeine intake during pregnancy, because it passes through the placenta and can cause the baby's heart to beat even faster.
♪♪ Though smaller than a thumbnail, the fetal heart beats twice as fast as the average adult heart, pumping an astonishing 100 pints of blood per day.
-So, let's listen to the heartbeat.
This is the classical moment.
[ Heartbeat ] So, the heartbeat is about 150.
-That's higher than the last time.
-Yeah, the heartbeat is very strong.
♪♪ -For expectant parents, few things in life top hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time.
That rush of excitement may even help make up for some of the side effects Jacqueline and others experience during pregnancy.
From nausea and swollen ankles to bloating and constipation, carrying a baby isn't always a picnic.
-[ Laughs ] Do you find that there's any changes to your taste buds at this moment?
-Yeah, lemon just makes me puke.
-Yeah, I don't know why.
-You used to like lemon when you were not pregnant.
-I like sour taste.
Like, really sour, I love it, yeah.
So I was quite shocked.
-Changing taste buds is a common side effect of pregnancy.
Medically, the condition is known as dysgeusia.
While the cause of dysgeusia is not fully understood, rising hormone levels are often blamed.
-I'm Chinese, so I love Chinese spicy food.
It's like my best friend.
[ Chuckles ] Cheers me up when I'm down.
Compared to before, I don't eat spicy food as often, 'cause it also causes some discomfort, like bloating, you know, especially in the first trimester.
Not sure what my baby's tasting inside.
If my baby could taste everything that I ate, it would be quite a ride.
[ Chuckles ] ♪♪ -At this point, we really want to make sure that Mom is maintaining her nutrition and her ability to rest, because the placenta needs to be able to continue to give oxygen to the baby.
[ Indistinct conversation ] We know that the baby's five senses have been really starting to be honed, especially taste.
-Yeah, everybody's like, "I think it's a boy," but I want a girl.
-You have an idea.
-What a pregnant woman eats and drinks not only provides nourishment, it may also influence her child's food preferences later in life.
♪♪ A baby develops taste buds in utero as it gulps down a yellowish liquid called amniotic fluid.
Think of it as a kind of "first food" -- a complex mixture of chemicals shown to contain both tastes and smells.
♪♪ -They've done studies with amniotic fluid where they had women eat certain foods that were considered to be a little bit more potent like garlic, and when they did smell tests, they noticed that people were able to recognize the smell of flavors like garlic.
♪♪ -But it's not only Jacqueline's daily diet that directly impacts her fetus.
♪♪ Research shows how much she moves can be just as influential.
-I've been dancing since I was 9 years old.
But of course, during pregnancy, I kind of have to buffer that explosiveness.
♪♪ I would like to think that every time when I move, the baby is moving, as well.
♪♪ Sometimes when I feel something in my womb, I don't know if it's actually the baby.
♪♪ -Most women won't start feeling their babies move until around the 16th week of their pregnancy.
These flutters are called quickening.
That motion is critical to its development.
Leg movement during the embryonic stage helps certain cells know if they're to become bone or cartilage.
-At our studio and company here, this is the first time that somebody is pregnant.
So we're all getting used to having a pregnant woman in the studio.
In Singapore, it's not that common, people that are pregnant being still active.
Everybody is, like, really careful with me.
If I slip just a little, everybody's like, "Take it easy.
I secretly feel like the baby enjoys movement.
♪♪ -It's not just Mom's behavior that so influences the health of an unborn baby.
From what we eat to the stress we feel, science shows us that the life experience of even the grandparents affect their offspring all the way down to the cellular level.
♪♪ We're talking about epigenetics.
-Epigenetics is essentially the genetics that we are born with but the environment changing them -- meaning if you took the exact same embryo, a twin embryo that had the same egg and sperm genetics, and you implanted it into two different woman's uteri or one woman at two different times of her life, the expression or the epigenetics of that particular embryo would alter based on so many different aspects that we can't even completely account for anymore.
-Think about smoking.
A woman who smokes is not only affecting her own health, she is affecting her unborn child and her unborn grandchildren, because of the effect of the smoking on the reproductive cells, not just on the fetus, but on the fetal reproductive cells.
That's an epigenetic phenomena that's three generations deep.
♪♪ -From lifestyle choices to environmental factors, epigenetic changes passed down through generations are shown to affect the fetal reproductive cells of females and males.
♪♪ Researchers are now zeroing in on whether this type of epigenetic inheritance may be to blame for a rise in infertility rates, particularly among men.
♪♪ It's estimated that as many as one in seven couples trying to get pregnant experience infertility.
♪♪ -Seeing Levi as a result of the trials and tribulations that we've been through trying to bring him into this world, it's amazing.
It's inexplicable, because this is everything you've ever wanted.
My name is Jenny Pierre, I am a wife, a mother of one, and soon to be two.
When you're young, you don't really think about children.
But when I met my husband, it was like, "Oh, my God.
I'm so in love, I want to see what we can make."
It was just a no-brainer that, okay, once we start trying, you know, as soon as I'm off birth control, we're going to get into it, and, boom, it's gonna happen like in two seconds.
Good job, Levi.
That was not the case for us.
♪♪ -Birthing as a metaphor to me is an example of what life really is like for everyone.
I tell patients throughout the entire process, "We cannot control what's going to happen, but if the end result gives us the yield that we want, which is a happy, healthy mother and baby, then it's worth everything," which is exactly how I would view life.
♪♪ -We made the decision to start trying in 2015.
After six months, you're looking at each other like, "Uh, what is going on?
Why are we not, you know, getting pregnant?
Let's go see someone."
I knew from the start -- I was told by my doctor -- that I had about two to three fibroids.
And she was like, "It's not anything you need to worry about until it becomes a problem."
♪♪ -Fibroids, like Jenny's, are non-cancerous tumors that grow inside and outside the uterine walls.
They're made of muscle and fibrous tissue.
No one knows exactly why fibroids occur.
♪♪ But it's estimated that up to 80% of women are affected by them.
That's 26 million people in the US alone.
In Jenny's case, she had 15 fibroids removed, one the size of a tennis ball.
-We thought my fibroids was the big hoopla, like, the big to-do.
But Paul gets a sperm analysis, and he has a low sperm count.
♪♪ -I was really surprised and couldn't believe it.
Come to find out that I had, what, var-- -Varicocele.
♪♪ -Infertility is actually a really big issue nowadays.
1/3 of infertility within couples will be because of the man, 1/3 will be because of the woman, and 1/3 will be unexplained.
In the man, there can be issues with the number of sperm or with the structure of the sperm.
This can be due to things that are anatomical, like something called a varicocele.
-Varicocele is a condition in which one testicle, often the left, is enlarged due to issues with blood supply.
It's kind of like a varicose vein and affects sperm formation, movement, and function.
Paul was able to have the problem corrected through surgery.
He also took medication to boost his testosterone levels and jump-start sperm production.
-So, now what?
My doctor said, "Until we run out of resources or options, we're going to keep going."
We called our doctor.
"Hey, we've decided that we want to go straight to IVF."
-In vitro fertilization is an amazing scientific-technological entity that now doctors are being able to perform all the time.
Essentially, they will give the woman a lot of hormones that are typically injected, a hormone called FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone, predominantly.
This will stimulate the woman's ovary to release many eggs.
♪♪ -I-I don't want to say it was scary, but, you know, you go to the doctor, and you come back home with all these prescriptions.
And next thing you know, you get this box, you know, arrives at your house filled with needles.
My hands were, like, you know, sweating and shaky.
-I think it was like 3 in the morning and 3 at night, and it was just, like, back to back, back to back, back to back.
-Lot of shots.
-A lot of shots.
-Lot of shots.
-Under ultrasound guidance, through her vagina, they will actually extract the eggs, and then the lab technicians who have the sperm available, the egg and the sperm, then create the embryo within the lab.
The embryo can either be frozen or can then be placed back into the woman's uterus to implant and create a healthy pregnancy.
♪♪ -Good morning!
We are on our way to get pregnant.
[ Chuckling ] Baby?
Whether you're a boy or a girl, we will love you unconditionally.
The moment that they transferred the embryo, you have to wait two weeks in order to know if you have tested positive for your pregnancy.
♪♪ It's torture for those two-week timeframe.
I went to the doctor, did a blood test, and she came back.
She was just like, "Listen.
You're, like, pregnant, pregnant."
Okay, okay, let me stop hitting myself.
[ Breathes deeply ] And we're just over the moon at this point and so excited to just start planning.
-Baby-proofing the house and changing doorknobs.
-I cannot deal.
And they always tell you not to get too excited, because you're not at the 12-week mark.
For those 12 weeks, you become so paranoid in a way.
♪♪ -Each year that a woman ages, her chance of getting pregnant does go down a small amount and the chance of a miscarriage does go up a small amount.
But at no point does it jump exponentially.
The likelihood of a miscarriage in pregnancies that we recognize -- meaning a woman has a positive pregnancy test, she's determined to be pregnant -- is estimated at anywhere from 20% to 25%.
So one in about four or five pregnancies will end in miscarriage.
That number is probably higher when you include a lot of unrecognized or very early pregnancies.
So that's estimated to be potentially as high as 50% of all pregnancies ending in loss.
Most of the time when there is a miscarriage, we can comfort the patient by saying it is the chromosomes that were abnormal and that's not something that's likely to recur in the next pregnancy.
-Alright, so, it's been a while since I've done this.
-And I don't remember, either, so...
So, this is not as quick as I thought it was gonna be, although we have practice.
Nothing is ready!
[ Both chuckle ] -The third trimester, your anxiety is at 1,000.
"How do I get ready for this baby?"
and, "Am I ready for this baby?"
-After 26 weeks or so we consider the third trimester.
The baby is growing about 1/2 pound a week at that point until what we consider the due date.
-The due date really is an estimate.
-Look at us.
-And those last four weeks of pregnancy, a lot of that time is just getting the baby nice and fat and a little extra sturdy to come out.
That's why babies that might be born like a week early or a few days or two weeks early, they might be thinner, but they're healthy.
They're fully developed.
-But you felt him move, right?
You felt Baby Brother move?
In my IVF journey, one of the hardest things was finding someone that looked like me that I could relate to.
I've taken it upon myself to be the poster child in a way.
What's going on?
-I am fine.
I have so many questions.
-[ Sighs ] Where do we start?
Today, I have my friend Elizabeth coming over.
She is quite interested in the IVF journey, and I'm hoping to share my experience with her.
I wanted to see a Black woman that said, "These are the difficulties that I'm dealing with."
I have a whole protocol sheet for you to look at.
[ Both laugh ] "Hey, guys, white people are not the only people that do IVF.
Asians are not the only ones that do IVF."
Those are the only two faces that I saw waving the flag and saying, "Hey, guys, I did IVF, and I'm proud."
This takes you through what your days would look like and how many shots you need to give yourself per day, 'cause, again, like I said, it's a lot.
When we came out with our story, the feedback was just ridiculous.
We, especially in the Black community, need to stop making it a taboo subject.
Just say, "Hey, guys, there is no shame in this.
I had fibroids.
Hey, my husband had low sperm count as a Black man."
I'm really hoping that I encourage some Black women or Black families, really.
Everything that it took to get here is worth it.
It's literally -- -Oh, yeah.
It's worth it.
-Absolutely worth it.
-It's so worth it.
-Jenny and Paul are nearing the finish line of her pregnancy.
[ Baby crying ] When it's time for her to give birth, it's her uterus that will be tapped to do the heavy lifting of labor.
♪♪ -There's actually controversy about what the strongest muscle in the body is.
Some people will say the jaw or the tongue, and while they are incredibly strong, many would argue that those ones are utilized every day, whereas the uterus is an amazing muscle and organ, because it's all of a sudden, without being exercised, asked to change in shape and grow and stretch to several times its normal size, which no other muscular organ does in our body.
And then, without, again, experience, it's asked to contract several times throughout the course of labor, asking the cervix then to open.
♪♪ -The cervix is the muscle at the bottom of the uterus that acts as a gateway to the birth canal.
Problem is, this passageway is about an inch too small for a baby's head.
So nature came up with an evolutionary solution.
-During labor and delivery, babies are preparing for this massive Houdini exit from a seemingly small space going through a cervix.
Now, we look at the human skull, the baby's skull, and sometimes we think it's one bone, but newborn babies have a special trick for fitting through a cervical canal.
The bone is actually five bones connected by sutures or kind of like expansion joints so that that baby's skull can actually literally smush through a cervical canal.
-During the birthing process, the brain actually also gets squeezed, they realized.
And that can actually alter what happens when the baby is born throughout the baby's entire lifetime.
-It may sound scary, but the fact that the baby's brain gets squeezed during labor is actually a good thing.
Early research suggests that the journey through the birth canal provides a kind of "healthy stress" that appears to have a positive effect on how certain genes behave down the road.
These genes are linked to immune responses, weight control, and some so-called tumor suppressor genes.
And that's not the only benefit of labor.
-We also know that babies born vaginally get coated with a lot of the healthy germs that are in the birth canal or the mother's vagina as the baby's coming out.
So babies do get some of their mother's immune system at birth, as they're then developing their own.
♪♪ ♪♪ -I started out as a doula about five years ago.
A doula is a emotional and physical support person who works with families during pregnancy, as well as postpartum, after they have a baby.
To be a companion and a witness to the miracle of birth, to be allowed in that space and invited into that space, is such an honor.
It's the best work that anybody could ever imagine.
My name is Mac Brydum, and I'm a doula and a family guide.
♪♪ Every birth that I've attended has been unique.
There's no one way that's right to birth.
It's really unique to each individual and their preferences.
Ultimately, the goal is that the baby comes out.
[ Chuckles ] Pregnancy never lasts forever, and that that bond between the birthing parent and the baby can begin.
Some of my favorite clients have been the queer and trans families that I've supported.
Bearing witness to their journey really inspired me to pursue that path of becoming a parent myself.
-Human pattern of childbirth is really kind of unique, because unlike even our closest living relatives like chimpanzees, human moms typically seek help.
This is what is called obligate midwifery.
What that means is that it's normal in humans to have assistance at the time of birth.
And this pattern is probably reflective of the fact that we have very difficult childbirth.
It usually takes us longer.
The process of labor is more dangerous for humans.
-Labor is probably one of the most physical endurance tests that any woman has ever had to go through.
The labor process itself can take anywhere from 1 or 2 hours in a very fast case, up to 24, 36, even longer.
Right as the baby is about to come out, there is that moment where I think everyone in the room is shocked that a head this big can come out of an orifice that looks so much smaller.
♪♪ -Hi, you guys.
-Hey, how's it going?
-Good, thank you.
How are you?
We just started getting all the nursery items yesterday.
Yeah, we're excited.
-I work from home, which is really wonderful as a new parent.
So, our time today is really just all about how to take care of your newborn.
I know you're first-time parents.
Becoming a parent is a really pivotal time in everybody's life.
Let's talk a little bit about newborn appearance.
This is my daughter.
This is Rowan.
I'm so in love with her that I just have to make sure that she gets little moments of glory in here.
[ Chuckles ] Rowan's 4 months old, and the first four months of her life have been a roller coaster ride, but a really fun one for the most part.
I think we had a little bit of a leg up because I am a doula, and I have some of the book smarts.
On the first day of life, baby's tummy is this big.
But, you know, she's a baby.
There have been days that have been really challenging, and there have been moments that have been really stressful.
Ultimately, she's an amazing little person, and I can't wait to see who she becomes.
-Gee, I wonder what's in here.
-As a doula supporting families, I thought that I knew what to expect through pregnancy and birth.
-Welcome to our nursery.
-But ultimately, once you go through it on your own and have that physical experience of gestating a baby and a birthing a baby... -We have cute photos and more cute photos.
-...I have so much more respect and awe for the families that I support.
-And a cute daddy.
-I'm a trans man.
I was assigned female at birth.
♪♪ I have a uterus and ovaries and the parts to be able to gestate a pregnancy -- at the same time, be true to myself as the man that I am.
♪♪ Before I met my spouse, I didn't have a strong sense that I wanted to carry a baby.
-Once I met her and started to imagine our life together, that's when the idea of being a gestational dad and carrying my baby felt like a dream that I could make a reality.
[ Baby coos ] -Yeah?
-A big piece of that was that my spouse did not want to carry a pregnancy.
But she has always wanted to be a mom, and I've always wanted to be a dad.
♪♪ Our process of getting pregnant was pretty long.
We realized, "Okay, we have half the equation to make a baby."
-I joke that we have an abundance of uteri in our relationship.
-We asked a friend of ours to be our sperm donor.
And then from there, I stopped taking hormones.
So, I was taking testosterone for about seven years.
Waited for a cycle to return, which took a little while.
And then we started doing inter-uterine inseminations.
-[ Gasps ] It's moving its arms!
-Eventually after several attempts, several more months going by, we finally did conceive.
I had a planned cesarean birth.
For me as a trans man, the idea of giving birth vaginally felt pretty incompatible with my sense of my body and myself.
In my work as a doula, I know that cesarean rates in the US especially are much higher than they need to be.
There are a lot of cesareans that are performed unnecessarily.
But in my case, it felt like the right choice.
-Whether they're born through a C-section or vaginal birth, when a newborn first emerges from the womb, their body systems are hard at work, adjusting to life on the outside.
The transition from fetus to newborn involves the most complex series of physiologic adaptations a human will experience in its lifetime.
-When babies are in utero, their lungs are filled with fluid, and there are certain channels in the cardiovascular system which are designed to bypass their lungs, because they get their oxygen from the umbilical cord.
But once babies leave the womb and everything changes, the atmospheric pressure in their new world triggers a big change in their heart and lungs.
They attempt to rid all the fluid out of their lungs, and their cardiovascular system immediately undergoes changes to accommodate this.
Their lungs slowly fill with air, and they're able to now live, breathe, and thrive in their new environment.
-Before Rowan was born, we got to the hospital really early in the morning, and a few hours later, she was there.
[ Baby crying ] -Hi.
-That's a good sound.
-The actual birth was incredible.
It was not something I'd ever seen before.
-There you are.
-It was intense.
It was beautiful.
Seeing her little face made it all worth it.
-Oh, is that nice to be back with Daddy?
-You know, it made every ache and pain and every time I puked during pregnancy and during birth, it made it all worth it, because I got to see my little person be born.
♪♪ -In the moments after birth, a newborn will experience hunger, thirst, cold, for the first time ever.
They'll be completely reliant on those around them for survival.
♪♪ But they do have a secret weapon to help them adjust to life outside the womb -- vernix caseosa.
[ Baby crying ] This white, waxy cream protected their skin from amniotic fluid inside the womb.
It contains a complex mix of proteins, lipids, amino acids, and antimicrobial compounds.
It's believed to be unique to the human species.
Outside the womb, vernix caseosa helps prevent heat loss, and research suggests that its scent may help trigger neural connections in the newborn's brain that are needed for breastfeeding.
♪♪ -Nice, warm bottle for you.
-For us, the idea of feeding Rowan breast milk was important.
I have had top surgery, and so I don't have the ability to feed Baby from my body.
We've been really privileged to have people in our life who are already lactating and have pumped that milk and donated that milk to us to feed Rowan.
♪♪ -Babies who are fed breast milk benefit from nearly 200 different sugars that the milk contains.
♪♪ Those sugars feed the microbes that will, over time, help the baby develop a healthy digestive system.
-Breast milk, the third most common ingredient in it is something called an HMO, a human milk oligosaccharide.
And human milk oligosaccharides are completely indigestible by babies.
So why is the third most common ingredient in breast milk something that a baby can't even digest?
It's because it's not there to feed the baby.
It's there to feed the baby's gut bacteria and help those bacteria to repel staph and other potentially dangerous bacteria.
So there's real symbiosis there between what's going on in the breast milk and what's going on in the baby's gut.
-Babies who don't breastfeed can also benefit from human milk oligosaccharide, as synthetic versions are added to some brands of infant formula.
♪♪ Rowan really completes our family.
When she was born, I feel like I already knew her.
I'd felt her kick inside of me, and it's a really big gift that so many dads don't get to have.
♪♪ -The assumption is that women want to have babies, and men can't.
Our family turns that expectation on its head.
Now that Rowan is here, it just doesn't really matter how we got here.
-The experience has been so empowering, because it's basically the ultimate definition of father as protector, and I feel like I've played that role from the time that Rowan was growing inside of me.
♪♪ -Regardless of where we live in the world, one thing that unifies all of us is that we were all born.
We all came into this world in much the same way.
-Why am I emotional?
It's just birth.
I knew scientifically there was no question that we all started as one cell big, and I knew that consciousness is something that develops.
And yet nothing could prepare me for living through the experience of incubating a new human, my little baby, wondering, when was she starting to think?
Is her personality starting to develop?
-The developing brain is fascinating.
From the first cells laid down during fetal development, the potential of the human brain is vast -- the capacity to learn, to feel and empathize with others.
Humanity is locked into those hundred million cells.
You're smiling at yourself.
-With each generation, the human species evolves.
♪♪ -While it's hard to say any one given baby is going to be born perfect, I do believe that we have this ability to really encourage children to move and grow and evolve into beings that are far better than we were.
♪♪ -And we really are an insanely fascinating species.
You strip away everything -- privilege, socioeconomics, race, religion -- we literally are the same organisms.
We go through the exact same physiologic struggles, and if that doesn't unify people, then I have no idea what's going to.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -To order "Human: The World Within" on DVD, visit shopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.