Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fourteen (!)

Some people are getting just way too old, and WAY too beautiful.

Fourteen years ago today this young lady came into the world chattering. She didn't cry when she was born. The nurse placed her in my arms, and she looked into my eyes and started to tell me all about the previous eight months. It's too bad I couldn't understand the series of small noises she made to me.

Perhaps she could have explained to me why it was that even after an hour of pushing with all his strength against my abdomen, my doctor was unable to get her to turn inside me. Because she remained in the breech position, my doctor (who is a GP) was not allowed to deliver her, and we had to accept the OB on call. "Lucky" for us, the OB happened to be an elderly Czech gentleman who was not afraid to deliver her naturally; however, he had some interesting ideas about how to proceed. These involved tying my ankles to the stirrups and stretching my feet straight up so that my legs were perpendicular to the floor, while lowering my head to below my hips. Don't even try to picture it! He also planned to give me general anesthesia so that I would fall asleep after the baby's body was born but before her head emerged. What could I do? If he was the doctor I'd been given, I had to allow him to do everything in the way he knew how to do it. At least he wasn't planning to cut me open!

In my heart, though, I had already decided that there was no way he or anyone else was going to put me to sleep just at the moment when I was about to meet my child for the first time after months of waiting. I didn't know exactly how I would get around him, but I knew I would be awake for the whole birth.

When I felt the urge to push, my Czech friend told me I mustn't. I obeyed him, but I felt like my body would split up the middle. I turned to my husband and muttered, "Not pushing at this moment is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."

"Oh, it's not so hard," said the doctor. I hadn't even been speaking to him!

"What do you know?!" I shouted at him.

When he finally let me push, even working against gravity, I was a force to be reckoned with. I heard my doctor say, "Oh my God, she's still coming!" in total surprise. Simone was born, bottom first, faster than anyone could have slapped a mask on my face.

With my small daughter in my arms, I thanked this man who had made it possible for me to give birth without surgery. His response? "Oh, what do I know? I'm just a stupid man."

Perhaps I deserved that.

The poor little girl was bruised from the lower back to midway down the backs of her thighs; and because of her position in the womb and birth canal, her heels were up by her ears. It took a full twenty-four hours before she could straighten out her legs. In that ridiculous position, with her whole backside black and blue, she carried on her monologue in a series of small guttural noises that came from the back of her throat. Her dark eyes were so alive with intelligence! In fact, she stayed awake most of that first night, just looking at me, and I barely got to sleep at all -- it was impossible to doze with these eyes staring at me.

Happy Birthday, Simone Michelle!

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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."