On Wednesday morning, February 24th at 12:35am, I became a grandmother. Ezra Matthew was born after 16 hours of labor and some tense moments due to his position and reluctance to leave such a safe, secure place. Millions of children are born every day, and many have written about the life changing effect it has on them far more poetically than I ever could, so I will leave that to them. Instead, I want to share how much information technology has both improved and intruded on such an important life experience.
When Ezra’s mother was born, her father and I used the Lamaze method of childbirth, otherwise known as toughing it out while you use breathing techniques to distract your mind from the pain. Only 20% of today’s mothers still follow this method, while 80% opt for an epidural, which essentially makes the process pain free while allowing the mother to remain alert and involved. During Ezra’s entire labor and delivery, every vital sign of both mother and baby were recorded on a bedside computer system the hospital had installed only a few days before. The hallways were swarming with tech people with yellow t-shirts designating them as software experts, and they were called into rooms to help as the nurses entered data and checked outputs. Flat screen monitors in the hallway outside the room indicated what rooms on the floor were occupied, and the status of the occupants. All this and many more obvious technical advances made us feel things were under control.
On the other hand, technology also added to the stress of the situation. Our daughter is fortunate to have a large circle of loving family and friends to support her and husband. Unfortunately, that same circle was closing in on them from Tuesday morning, when they checked into the hospital at 8:00am until Wednesday morning at 2:30am when they brought the grandparents in to meet Ezra for the first time. With texting, Facebook, and cell phones, everyone has become accustomed to getting information instantaneously, and apparently having a baby is no exception to the rule. Initially, our son-in-law had his Blackberry on so work and family members could reach him in case of an emergency. It was amazing how many text messages and phone calls he received in the short period of time before he turned it off. Family members who came by during the evening texted constant updates back to family at home, and questioned nurses for updates until they were chased out of the hallway and into the official waiting area. Nature was working on its own schedule, and we simply had to wait.
I know it’s odd, but the strong sense of urgency I felt in the people surrounding the event reminded me of the urgency I see in society’s approach to investing these days. Hurry up and do something, tell me something – it wasn’t there over 20 years ago when we received annual investment reports and CNBC was nonexistent. I don’t believe that getting more information, faster, has made us better off in our financial lives either. We have to set a plan, wait, and let the markets work.
When both sets of grandparents met Ezra for the first time Wednesday morning, pictures were taken on cell phones and digital cameras, and transmitted instantly to people anxiously awaiting the news. When we got home at 4am, we posted pictures on our family Facebook account, and immediately got a response from our friend in Ireland congratulating us. When Katie was born we would have had to send her a birth announcement by airmail. What a difference! I appreciate all the positive changes technology has brought to us, and I am not making a case for the “good old days,” but I do believe the immediacy of information that technology has brought has made us less patient in all areas of our lives, and we need to be aware of it and how it colors our thinking and actions.
On that note, it’s Sunday afternoon, so I’m turning off my Blackberry and computer to hold my grandson while time and technology passes me by for a few hours.
Jeannette Jones, CPA, CFP®