The Weirdness Doesn’t Go Away

I realized that anyone who is not friends with my wife on Facebook hasn’t found out that we’re expecting another child.  So if you’re in this camp, consider this an official announcement.  He or she will be due around July 21st.  Baby #2 was early, but not unexpected, since we were starting to feel that we were ready for another, and we would like for our kids to be closer together in age.

I have to say, the first time my wife got pregnant, neither of us could shake the feeling of existential weirdness that being pregnant and having a baby evokes.  The life form growing in your wife’s abdomen, feeding off her with a cord, the kicking and hiccuping, the combination of genetic material from both parents, the fetus slowly gaining awareness and more detailed body parts, the whole pushing a human through a pelvis, etc.  It’s all just very alien and weird.

As someone interested in human consciousness, I wonder whether consciousness is something that is flipped on like a light bulb at some arbitrary point in the fetus’s development, or it is something that develops gradually.  Both seem equally unlikely.  Consciousness does not seem to be the sort of thing that you can sort of have – either you are experiencing qualia or you are not.  However, there is also no indication of a “critical threshold” of neurons necessary for consciousness to be present, and this seems equally bizarre – at 999,999,999 neurons one is not conscious, but at 1,000,000,000 suddenly you are?  Being familiar with the philosophy of mind literature out there, I realize it’s a lot more complicated than that, but underneath all the complexity the questions are still just that simple.  But this is not a post about consciousness.

In any case, the strangeness of it all comes to a climax when you’re holding your child for the first time.  In fact, the first words I blurted out to Gabriel after he was born were, “So many interlocking mechanisms.”  Apparently, this is incredibly funny, according to my wife.

That feeling of has not gone away for Baby #2.  Isn’t birth supposed to be the most natural thing in the world?  Weren’t we born to do this?  Yet, I get the feeling that my life is so distant from the natural world that even things like slaughtering animals and giving birth are completely foreign to me.  I struggle with this realization.  For me, life is learning facts, sitting in air-conditioned and heated rooms, trying my best to intuit psychological statistics, getting not very much sunlight, and trying to decide between Pragmatism vs. Realism. Yet at times like this, I wonder if those activities have anything to do with real life at all.  I mean, for goodness sake, the fruits I eat are grown in another hemisphere.

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