A few days ago I wrote that, compared to other animals we are born early, and do an unusual amount of developing after birth.
On reflection, it would have been more accurate to say, "unlike other mammals".
Animals in general have a lot of weird and wonderful ways of managing the early stages of development -- laying eggs, for instance, and either sitting on them until they hatch, like most birds, or trusting them to their own fates, like frogs do.
But even among mammals, I've realised, we're far from being the only unusual ones:
The platypus and echidna are mammals, but they lay eggs.
Marsupials are mammals, but they emerge from the womb in a very rudimentary shape, and migrate to their mothers' pouches, where they spend more time developing than they do in the womb.
|Left: kangaroo at 5 weeks gestation, fastened on his mother's nipple soon after birth. |
Right: kangaroo surveying his kingdom at 5 months.
A more appropriate comparison would have been between us and the rest of the placental mammals, including rats, bats, cats, and whales.
Other placental mammals give birth to little ones who are livelier than we are in the days and weeks after birth, variously scurrying, flying, or swimming around while we're still lying on our backs, like Asa's doing.
So it's in respect to them that the "fourth trimester" idea makes most sense.
These reflections may seem weird.
All the work Jed was doing on that dissertation went to his head, some of you may be thinking.
He has finally lost it completely, others of you may have concluded.
Here's the inspiration for these thoughts:
Thinking about the stages of development that Asa has been through over the past months -- thinking about Asa in general -- gives me a new sense of the wonder of life. Not just ours, but all the humming, buzzing diversity of life that animates this planet. And a new sense of my own kinship with it.
On another level, these thoughts distract me from the sadness of being away from Selam and Asa. Today, for instance, I found a sponge in the shape of a fish that Selam and Kuri had used to scrub Asa with when he was here. That gave me a pang of nostalgia.
But in a few weeks, I'll be with them again.
Then the blog may become a bit more concrete.
Or maybe Asa will continue to inspire me to write about how wonderful life is.