Friday, April 18, 2008


A crayfish, not a lobster

It was 8:15pm, and I was sitting propped up on pillows in my bed, reading, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace. My husband, having been up all night with me the night before as I had "false labor," was fast asleep beside me. As I turned a page, I felt something, a faint twinge in my abdomen. Baby's kicking, I thought -- even though I knew I wasn't feeling the movement of a baby inside me, I was too annoyed to consider the alternative; after nine hours of strong contractions the night before, and nothing to show for them, I wasn't going to be fooled again. Another few pages, I felt another faint twinge. I looked at my watch: 8:30pm. It's nothing. I should turn off the light and get some sleep, too. But I had just gotten to the part in the first essay where Wallace is about to get caught in a tornado while playing tennis, so I decided to keep reading to the end of it. 8:33pm -- another annoying faint twinge. "...Neither of us had noticed that there'd been no wind blowing the familiar grit into our eyes for several minutes--a bad sign. There was no siren..." 8:36pm -- another twinge. "...The air temperature dropped so fast you could feel your hairs rise. There was no thunder and no air stirred. I could not tell you why we kept hitting..." 8:39 -- a little more insistent, but still possible to ignore. "...Then the whole knee-high field to the west along Kirby Avenue all of a sudden flattened out in a wave coming toward us as if the field was getting steamrolled. Antitoi went wide west for a forehand cross and I saw the corn get laid down in waves and the sycamores in a copse lining the ditch point our way..." 8:41 -- I really didn't want to wake my husband, sleeping so peacefully beside me. "...The big heavy swings on the industrial swingsets took off, wrapping themselves in their chains around and around the top crossbar; the park's grass laid down the same way the field had..." 8:44 -- Last night the nurse had told me to call the minute that labor began again: "It's called 'false labor' but it's not really false. It's like the body's warming up or practicing. What usually happens is that when it begins again, things go real fast. So don't hold off! Don't be embarrassed because tonight seemed like a false alarm. Just call. You promise?" 8:47 -- still not very strong, but these silly things were coming three minutes apart. "...but I couldn't have tried to run after a ball I had hit, but I remember the heavy gentle lift at my thighs and the ball curving back closer and my passing the ball and beating the ball in flight over the horizontal net, my feet not once touching the ground over fifty-odd feet, a cartoon, and then there was chaff and crud in the air all over and both Antitoi and I either flew or were blown pinwheeling for I swear it must have been fifty feet to the fence one court over, the easternmost fence, we hit the fence so hard we knocked it halfway down..." 8:50 -- I nudged my husband. "Honey, I think I'm in labor."

"Oh, come on! You're kidding!" My husband doesn't wake up gracefully.

"I'm not sure, it's just that they're coming three minutes apart, and the nurse specifically said I should call."

"You're having another one." It wasn't a question. 8:53. "Should we call Dr. Zum?"

"I don't know. Maybe?" 8:56

"Where's the number?" I rattled it off for him and he dialed. 8:59 After a brief conversation, he handed me the phone. 9:02 "He wants to speak with you." 9:05.

"Hello?...I'm fine. Yes. I don't know if you should come or not...Oh, you're on the way?...Okay, Steve will give you directions. I can't think straight...All right, then." 9:08, 9:10, 9:12, 9:15. I gave the phone back to Stephen.

"I think I'm in transition..." I stopped looking at my watch.

"Hang on a minute," he said into the phone. Then to me, "Dr. Zum says you're definitely in transition, he could tell by your voice."

"Where is he?"

"Don't worry," he said, still holding the phone to his ear. "Dr. Zum is telling me how to do this. I can deliver the baby."

I looked at my husband with horror. "Tell him to step on it!"

"He's trying to find a parking place. He want to know if you feel the urge to push."

"No!" I lied.

My husband hung up the phone and ran to answer the door. Then Dr. Zum stood in the doorway of my bedroom.

"I need to push!"

"Hold on," said the doctor, breathlessly. "Let me wash my hands!" He ran down the hallway to the bathroom. As soon as he returned, I gave one push, and my third daughter was born. It was 10:01pm on April 18, 1997.

Happy Birthday, Serena Marie!

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."