In the Beginning

What's going on in there?

You are pregnant. You found out by taking a pregnancy test as soon as your period was late, so you know that fertilization took place roughly two weeks ago. In the bewildering official terminology of embryology, the product of conception is first a one-celled “zygote”; after division into two, then four, then six, then eight cells, and so on, the cluster of about thirty cells is called a “morula”; at about four days, it’s a hollow “blastocyst”; once there is differentiation and full implantation in the wall of the uterus, it’s an “embryo”; and at three months it’s officially a “fetus” (although colloquially it’s a “fetus” from start to finish). “Conceptus” is another term sometimes used for the initial product of conception. Whatever the terminology, now that you’re pregnant, amazing changes are taking place every day.

As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, I became obsessed with fetal development, poring over every manual and website I could find. The whole process seemed so excruciatingly slow—one day followed another, and it seemed as if we were still an infinite distance from the finish line. Being pregnant with twins, I was particularly susceptible to morning sickness. The philosophical parent will notice a curious thing about morning sickness. Nausea isn’t simply an isolated sensation; rather, it’s intimately connected to cognition. In the throes of nausea, the whole world seems different—smellier, slimier, moister, more insidiously dangerous. Fortunately, all of that stops for most women around week sixteen. After a few months of relative calm, I went into premature labor and spent two months in the hospital enduring all sorts of medical interventions. At thirty- six weeks, my children were born at the staggering weight of seven pounds apiece—but I’m getting ahead of myself. There are plenty of interesting questions for the philosophical parent to think about during pregnancy.

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