I am certain I was aware as a baby in the womb. Let me tell you why I can make this statement, which will only serve to inflame the abortion debate. An unconsidered principle will be discussed here.
There is a story to tell. To me, everything I am about to reveal is real to me; which means, my basis in reality, our shared reality, is as a flawed mortal human.
My mother, God bless her soul, had a twenty-two inch waist when she got married. There are pictures that prove this. During her pregnancy with me, her first baby, my mother had nothing to keep her busy as I gestated within her. As I would be her first born, there was no family that required care. My father was away in the military.
To fill her empty days, my mother would play the piano. She could play very well, and that I can attest to as she can still sit down at a keyboard and rip off Claire De Lune by Debussy. Oh, I can only imagine how many consecutive hours on consecutive days she must have played so beautifully. That was her style, you see.
She was offered a position in a prestigious American symphony as a pianist, but she turned it down to marry my father. In the course of this story, there will be some appropriately timed recollections of events that involve my mother and father. How many, I do not know yet.
Anyway, my mother played that piano as hard as a firefighter fights a fire right up until the moment her water broke. I was about to be born. It was January 23, 1958.
Well, wouldn’t you know it. I turned out to be a big baby and I refused to be pushed through that previously tiny twenty-two inch waist of my mother’s. The doctor wanted to cut me out.
But back in January 1958, the surgical expertise did not exist to repair a C-section type wound, so a hysterectomy would have to be performed on my mother after I was cut out of my rather cramped quarters within her.
Everyone was on board with that decision, except for my father. He was a convert to the Catholic faith and wanted the BIG family…lots of kids…you know. Having just this one big baby was not going to suffice.
“Pull him out,” he ordered the doctor.
There was a lot of back and forth between the doctor and my father over the next two days, but on January 25, 1958 at 11:20 AM, my father’s wishes were followed.
The first attempt with the forceps tore off my nose which would become a big Italian nose one day. They tore off my right ear, too. That was about all the damage they did which was on top of having already endured two days of heavy labor contractions my mother had endured as well.
In the end, I was pulled free. After quickly and carelessly sewing my nose and ear back on, I was weighed in at 11 pounds 6 ounces.
I was twenty inches long and my hair was ten inches long! Read that again. My hair as a newborn was ten inches long! (One of my future brothers also had ten inch long hair when he was born. Weird, huh?)
So the doctor put me in an incubator and wheeled me out past my waiting father. He told me often enough about what I looked like in that incubator.
I was not moving. My ten inch long hair was matted in blood and swirled around my face. My entire body was covered in blood and bruises. He said, “Brian, you looked like a dead river rat.” (And so began the eventual relationship that would be developed between us, which best explained is this. I am not part of “his” immediate family in a full and complete way.)
Oh well, huh? Still, it is not important to this story. Too bad, so sad about my relationship with my dad. Just move along.
I recovered well. I was named Brian (which means “strong”,) My father wanted to name me Sylvester Aloysius. Ha! Ha! Ha! Funny! I owe my name to my mother, God bless her soul. Ironically, I grew up to be really strong.
Now, another question. What would a mother who had a compulsion for piano playing do with her brand new baby? Sure. She would put that baby right beside her in a crib, and when the baby got bigger and coordinated, right up on the lap.
My mother had me on her lap when I was barely ten months old.
What does a normal ten-month old do with presented such a big present as a piano?
Well, don’t most babies bang on the keyboard? Sure. They bang away with both of their little pudgy hands.
My mother told me that I did not bang on the keys that day. According to her, I stuck out one finger and played a simple, eight note tune.
This is the part where the story merges with the thesis statement on page one sentence one. How did I know to play the piano and not bang on it? Every other little snot nose bangs the black and whites when they first encounter them. Why didn’t I?
Abortion advocates will have something to say right now in their defense. They know where I am going with all this. They will say “He was gifted. He had a natural talent. He was a freak of nature.” I think they will say the last one most often. And not surprisingly, for once, they would be right.
I know for a fact that I had both a conscious and subconscious mind as a fetus. I heard my mother playing the piano. That means my ears worked pretty well. I probably felt the temblor of the piano, too, on my body.
The natural question will be exactly when did my fetus mind capture the concept that you play the piano and not bang on it? Was it later on in gestation? Or did it begin much earlier…much much earlier, which would, in legal terms, make me a sentient human being for my entire time as a fetus within my mother?
If legally I was sentient as a fetus, and I am a human being, then all human beings are sentient as a fetus as well, being we are all equal in this manner of how we become alive on the planet Earth.
And if all this is true, what is abortion then?
My first conscious memory occurred on on June 6, 1962 at approximately 7:30 PM. At that moment in time, in a small auditorium, everyone in it was giving me a standing ovation. Yep, my first memory is a standing ‘o.’ I had just finished playing the Tarantello Vico by Giovanni. (A mildly amusing overhand piece that spans four octaves.) I was trapped in a black booster chair, that was up against a classic black grand piano. My clothing, a black velvet jumpsuit was a bit odd, and that is probably why I have an aversion to wearing “formal attire.” I prefer wearing the fewest possible items of casual clothing.
Okay okay…the outfit I wore the night of my first recital was a black velvet jumpsuit. I must have looked like a little done-up chimp. But a damn talented chimp! The applause and accolades were thunderous and it shocked me right into conscious thought. I cannot recall ever taking lessons before that moment, nor practicing, or for that matter, even playing the piece of music just moments before. The people clapping and whistling. That is what I recall.
Being a bright kid, I pretty much recall everything else after that moment, and one of the more deeply embedded of my memories is my belief in God. I have never experienced even one moment where I doubted God’s existence and acknowledge that He was the reason I was even around in the first place. Jesus, and His sacrifice for us is, of course, central to my core belief. Along with all the other “little gifts” that have been bestowed on me is one of unquestionable faith in God. Since I was practically a baby, I knew of Him and had no doubt that He knew me, too.
My love affair with the piano continued for nine more years until June 1971. I was now thirteen years old and I was performing my ninth piano recital. Halfway through Edvard Grieg’s Piano Sonata in E Minor, my head went blank and I could not remember the rest of the piece. I tried starting over again, but with the same disastrous result.
When I got outside, my father decided to change my life. He declared that the piano lessons were over and that the following morning, he would put me to work digging ditches.
Between 1971 and 1985, I played the piano with some garage bands. Yet, I kept up with practicing classical pieces.
In 1995, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. My surgeon recommended that I record any music I wanted to play as soon as I had recovered from the corrective procedure. She said I my hand strength would only last for a short time after the operation.
She was correct. My hand strength gave out in 2001 and I am unable to rip away on the piano anymore. But in those six years I managed to record some of my favorite classical pieces. They are available here for download free of charge.
My auspicious beginnings on the piano turned into a handful of memories, and this body of music. My favorites are the four movements of Mozart’s Eine Klein Nachtmusik, Debussy’s Claire De Lune, and the two movements by Rachmaninoff.