– Ben Martens

Odds and Babies

Humans are terrible at evaluating risk. Did you know that you’re seven times more likely to date a super model than to die in a plane crash? Or did you know that 115 people die every day in car accidents which means you have a 0.015% chance of dying each year in a car accident? The odds of simply being in a car accident in a year are 2.2%! Or did you know that on average, you have a 0.84% chance of dying each year? Yet how many people are afraid of their cars or heart disease and how many people are afraid of planes or some random health story they read on the internet? We get distracted by the grandiose stories of dramatic events and focus on those relatively minor possibilities.

As prospective parents, our first few visits to the doctor were a barrage of testing options. There were a seemingly endless number of diseases and defects that we could test for, but most of the tests couldn’t produce a guaranteed conclusive result. So if the odds of defect A are 1 in 4000, then even if you get a negative test, you haven’t ruled it out. You’ve just decreased the odds to something like 1 in 20,000. I never thought I’d be using my math degree in a place like that.

But it doesn’t stop there. The doctor presented us with a few things Tyla could do to reduce the odds of defects like avoiding alcohol and smoking. Those seem like no-brainers, but the list could potentially go on and on depending on whom you believe. Some have medical statistics to back them up and some are old-wives tales. Good luck telling them apart with a lot of effort.

But it doesn’t stop there. As we read through baby books about the various purchases we need to make, there are many statistics that state things like 7 children died last year due to faulty X. Most of the odds are incredibly low, but it’s still a possibility and it makes you think.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in these wild odds. If 1 in 4000 babies has defect A, then 3999 in 4000 don’t. If I told you there was a 99.975% chance it will be sunny, would you pack an umbrella? Tyla and I will take a lot of precautions like avoiding specific food and drink, getting recommended vaccines, and skipping our couple’s chainsaw juggling class, but we’re not going to let these random possibilities rule our lives. Given the odds, the most dangerous thing we’re doing to our baby is letting Tyla get into a car.

There’s a great song from Caedmon’s Call in the late 90s’s called Table For Two. The lyrics contain the phrase: “Given a chance and a rock see which one breaks a window, And see which one keeps me up all night and into the day.” It’s all in God’s hands so what will we gain by stressing out about it?

Also remember that statistics can say anything and you need to stop and think whenever you read one. For example, did you know that only 93% of all humans in history have died? Does that mean you have a 7% chance of not dying?