My daughter entered my life late one spring while I was making other plans. Even as I declared that two sons were enough, I was already pregnant with her. Only I didn’t know it. But that didn’t stop her. Her little heart was already beating. About the time my second period went missing, she had started developing her arms, legs, and lungs. (Take a peek at the video at the end of this post.)
Fast forward to February. Intense labor, rapid-fire delivery, and there was my husband shouting, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” and me weeping with joy and surprise. I had a daughter! She was not the son I had expected. She was her very own self, entirely different from her brothers. I held her and laughed and cried. A girl... a daughter. All those months I had pictured a boy growing in my womb. But she was busy being a girl.
When did she become that girl—my daughter?
Obviously, the night she burst head-first into the room from within my body, she was my daughter. But it would be silly to say that earlier that morning, while she waited for birth, she was not. So when did she start being my daughter?
How about a month and a half earlier, when she was about half her birth weight and her organ systems were all ready to go? Her eyes could respond to light. Her head was covered with hair. Was she then my daughter? Yes. She certainly wasn’t someone else.
Maybe it began at 6 months’ gestation, when she probably weighed about 1½ pounds? Scientists say she could hear my voice, my breathing, and my heartbeat. Her eyes showed signs of REM sleep, so she may have already been dreaming. Dreaming! Before I even dreamed of her! Was she my daughter then? It sure sounds like it.
Go back a month earlier. That’s when I began to feel someone moving in my womb. Somebody was kicking, turning, stretching. Somebody had already chosen her own favorite times and positions for sleeping. Was that somebody my daughter? Definitely.
Was she my daughter at four and a half months, when she developed her toeprints and fingerprints? Yes. Even the police would testify that she wasn’t anyone else.
Before she was three months along, she had begun all her major organ systems—digestion, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, circulatory, and so forth—in her tiny two-inch long body. Because she looked so clearly human at this stage, doctors would call her a “fetus”(Latin for “young one”). She was poised for a major growth spurt: she would triple in length and put on 30 times her weight in the next two months alone. Was that “fetus” my daughter? You bet. Those arms and legs and kidneys and intestines belonged to no one else.
If we go further back, we’re talking about the time before my pregnancy “showed.” Before I could feel anything but morning sickness. Was I already carrying my daughter?
Meet my daughter some time. You’ll find out that she’s incredibly smart. When did my daughter get so smart? Scientists might tell you it began around 10 weeks’ gestation. Two and a half months into her development. When her little brain was growing 250,000 neurons a minute. (People have to start making their brain cells early. Soon after we’re born we can’t make any more.) That little brain definitely belonged to my daughter.
Hang on a minute. Around eights weeks of development, we’re now talking about an “embryo.” Is an embryo human enough to be my daughter? Peek at an embryo in this ultrasound video:
My daughter has a remarkable sense of taste. She can tell one brand of cheddar cheese from another. Guess when she developed those fine-tuned taste buds? While she was an embryo. Yep. Scientists have discovered that her taste buds were forming by the time she was about eight weeks along. She may have been only half an inch long, but she was getting her taste buds—along with those legs and arms and lungs I mentioned at the beginning. Was that my daughter? My daughter the taste-tester? Quite certainly.
Her little poppy-seed-sized heart was beating 21 days after sperm and egg met. It’s been beating ever since. The developing body around that heart was my daughter’s—only smaller and simpler than it is today.
That fetus? My daughter. That embryo? My daughter. So what about sperm plus egg?
The sperm alone couldn’t be anything but a sperm. Same for the egg: it can’t be human alone.
But together? Bingo! My daughter. Everything she is today began the moment that one particular sperm joined that one particular egg. There was no other starting point, no additional instructions to be delivered. My daughter’s unique DNA, her life-code, was complete at that moment. She was herself, and no one else. From that moment on my daughter merely had to grow up.
And she’s been doing a fine job of it.
If you are facing a "surprise" pregnancy, too, and wondering whether you really have choices about what to do next, stop in at Choices Pregnancy Center. We can help you face the future with confidence, knowing that you have the information, the personal support, and the resources you need to feel like celebrating your surprise!