Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Known Unknowns

We had an interesting/frustrating appointment at the doctors' office today, which Joni has blogged about. I find that what frustrates me the most are all of the "known unknowns." In the early days of the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld was quoted as saying:

"There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know."

I'm frustrated by the known unknowns, and not the unknown ones. This is a tricky part of uncertainty. I've been reading a book on the history of risk (dealing with uncertainty), and was reading it at the doctor's office. How people make decisions in the presence of uncertainty has become quite the science in the past 30 years after slowly developing over the last thousand.

What we know:
Elias is relatively big.
Elias hasn't dropped much.
He's fine, not in distress.

What we know we don't know:
How big Elias is.
How fast he's growing.
How big the birth canal is and whether he can fit down it easily.
If there's anything else wrong (like GD, which we'll know soon).

What we don't know we don't know:
I don't even worry about these. So many unknowns have been identified that there just doesn't seem to be many unknown unknowns possible.

So, the frustrating thing is that we know exactly what we don't know, and there is no data. There are no given probabilities. The only data we got from a doctor today is that for every 1,000 c-sections performed, 1 baby is saved that would have been lost by going through a natural birth. The reward rarely outweighs the risk/cost involved. They also told us they don't want to cut anybody, and do a bunch of other precautions just so we don't file a lawsuit afterward (yes, she said this outright... two visits in a row, which is honestly refreshing).

The doctors would bet money that this will end in a c-section, but they admit that anything could happen and nothing is certain. There's still a good chance Joni could go into natural labor any day. Tonight, tomorrow, next Monday, never?

What I'd love is for someone to say:
20% chance Eli comes in the next three days. 50% chance he comes by next Tuesday. 5% chance Joni never goes into labor on her own. 50% chance he comes by next Friday and 50% chance he's too big to be born naturally (so a 25% chance of both those things happening simultaneously).

But, we can't get those and we won't ever have those. Such probabilities are known only to God, Who also knows what the outcome will be. So, we have to rely on faith.

So, add that to the list of "knowns": God is in control.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Well, I tried to Google the longest a woman has carried a baby before going into labor. I got some really weird stuff, but no useful info. I even looked on the Guinness Book of World Records web site, but to no avail. Maybe Joni and Eli could set some record . . . I think you get a free t-shirt or something.

I know this is hard right now, but it will soon be over and all that will matter is that miraculous baby boy.