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The Beginning of Life

hath, generation, born, normal, child and mother

THE BEGINNING OF LIFE The normal life of man falls obviously into seven natural divisions: before birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, early maturity, full maturity, and old age. It is the poet's number, but not precisely his boundaries, for we are concerned less with those external signs of man's development which Shakes peare mentions, such as his indigestion, his school books, his oaths, his sword, and his cane, and more with his essential functions and the peculiar prob lems which his progress through the course of life presents. And so we discover the child not in the nurse's arms, but at the moment of annunciation, when the young wife hears a welcome salutation: Hail, highly favored, blessed art thou among women. Fear not.

And she is ready to answer: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.

Every woman, in the sacred hour when she knows that she has become the lawful custodian of a new life, a life for whom all things on earth, aye and in heaven and in hell, are possible, may well feel, as Mary of Nazareth felt before her cousin Elizabeth, 15 a magnificent exaltation, not unmingled with deep humility. This child which is to be born, it may be in a cramped tenement, in the alley, in the alms house, even in the stable, shall also be the son of the Most High.

He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden . . . From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. His mercy is for them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.

No one else is so sublimely sure of the truth of these strange sayings as the expectant mother. The hope of ultimate justice and good will among men rests upon the constantly repeated miracle of the creation of new lives. If the passing genera

tion of men could to-day be conceived as locked in a life and death struggle with the forces of bar barism, without the reinforcements for which we are accustomed to look to the coming generation, who would dare be an optimist? Every mother has a right to feel that none can set bounds to the promise of her unborn child. The proud, the mighty, or the rich, who in their wealth, their might, and their pride think otherwise have to reckon with two things beyond their power, stronger than their pride, not to be touched by their wealth : the unexplored potentialities of a new life, and the unbounded faith inherent in a mother's love.

To insure a fair start in life for the individual—a normal beginning of the normal life—reliance must be placed chiefly on the individual and the family. Society may, to a limited extent, by conscious effort, determine what kind of children shall be born, and what kind of care they shall receive after birth, but in the main the important services of society at this stage are indirect and advisory: the pro vision of such education as will make individuals lead clean and wholesome lives and act wisely, when the time comes, about marriage and parent hood; of such industrial and social conditions as will make it possible for women to bear healthy children without exhaustion; and of such assis tance, chiefly in the way of advice, as will enable them to care intelligently for their babies after they are born. The selection of parents for the next generation is at present in America, and is likely to continue to be, left to individual choice ; and the only satisfactory method that has yet been found for getting babies safely through the first year of life is the strictly individualistic plan of attention to each one by its own mother.