Life Before Birth

FEATURE by Norm Levine

Life Before Birth

If the Evangelical Libertarians have their way in November personhood will be declared to begin at conception. Pregnant women shall drive in car pool lanes and our entire population will have gotten nine months older over-night.

I’m preparing for this eventuality by focusing in on my early life. It was a sultry June night when a twinkle in my father’s eye was met by a coquettish welcome by my mother. Together they proved that night baseball would never replace sex. I was the consequence of Dad’s Y sperm which got to Mom’s egg with a tremendous sprint in the final straightaway. Whether all this was on the advice of their accountant I’ll never know. After all, times were tough and another exemption wasn’t a bad idea. Their union was accompanied by a unison shout, as I recall, that rattled windows in two boroughs of New York and caused complaints from the family living on the floor below.

It’s all coming back to me, those days as a fish-like substance, how I swam the back-stroke in that embryonic sea singing a medley of early Irving Berlin’s biggest hits. I never forgave him for, Mammy, particularly when sung by Al Jolson and it also didn’t take long to have my fill of, Alexander’s Ragtime Band. But I was in no hurry to leave my cozy umbilical life. Most of the time I just floated around biding my time and humming, How Deep Is the Ocean.

When I heard, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” I knew all was not well in that outer chamber. Then, Stormy Weather, came along and I saw no reason not to stay put. I never got around to thanking my mother for tuning the radio on to the Hit Parade.

I could have told you then, had anybody asked, that ontology does not exactly recapitulate phylogeny but I came fairly close. Which is to say I did not go through all the stages of growth and development of our species. On the other hand it sure felt like Eden during my nine month lease. Before attaining personhood I was indeed more like a fish... and I have no regrets. Some of my finest days were spent gurgling and snorkeling.

I carry a faint memory of being 4 inches long and weighing in at about an ounce. Like most kids on my block I was enveloped in a fine placenta. Nutrients in, garbage out made me the chubby baby I was soon to become.

It was FDR’s inauguration speech that caught my fetal ear. Nothing to fear but fear itself didn’t make much sense but it had a certain ring to it. Eighteen days later I busted out down the canal into that etherized air and was greeted by the customary slap. Ouch. My first instinct was to make a U-turn but it was too late.

Had we’d known then what we know now I would have celebrated my first birthday three months later. But it’s never too late to mark the correction. Thank God for these God-fearing Right-To-Lifers, God knows, who hold pre-natal life, God love ‘em, in high esteem and care nothing for existence after birth.