Excerpted from Birth as an American Rite of Passage
Description and Official Rationale
The Apgar scoring system provides a standardized means by which birth attendants can assess the baby's condition at birth. Signs rated at two points each on a preprinted chart are skin color, muscle tone, breathing attempts, heartbeat, and response to stimulus, such as a touch or a pin- prick. Babies are rated twice, immediately after birth and five minutes later, because many babies, especially anesthetized ones, take some time to turn pink and to begin full breathing on their own. 10 is the highest obtainable score.
Mothers whose babies receive high Apgar scores reported feeling proud and pleased that their babies were so healthy; mothers whose babies received low Apgar scores at birth reported feeling tremendous anxiety until the second, higher score was reported.
Just as meat for the supermarket must be inspected, stamped "USDA APPROVED," and placed in a plastic wrapper that makes it look like it did not come from a cow, so must society's new product, the baby, be inspected and rated (and wrapped, and placed in a plastic box). If the rating is high, the institution, and through it, society, can then claim the credit for a job well done. If there are defects, they can be used as reinforcers of the standard cultural view of nature as dangerous, untrustworty, and inferior to culture and of the inherent defectiveness of the female birth machine. The Apgar score is but the first in a long series of ratings that society will give its new member; scoring the baby at birth sets up the mother to respect and rely on society's rating system to judge her baby by for the rest of its life.
© Robbie Davis-Floyd PhD, Used with Permission
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