Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, often described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. In the course of developing this experiment, he coined the term Verschränkung — literally, entanglement.
Schrödinger's Cat: A cat, along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead.
Back in High School, my boyfriend's cat had kittens and being the bleeding-heart animal people that we were, my family took one of them in. We named him Schrodinger. Which people in-the-know (quite a few, given my dad's job) thought was absolutely hilarious, and people who didn't probably figured it was a high-falutin literary reference or a little-known German composer. Schrodinger was big, fat, long-haired, entirely black, and very sweet but with chronic medical conditions involving his bladder and kidneys. Which often led us to perhaps wish he would undergo some demise in a box, just not by our accord. He survived a heart attack during an attempt to put him under for a medical procedure, and the decision was made to simply make him comfortable until he finally couldn't get up any more to go check out the birds in the yard. At which point my mom (I had long since moved out) determined it was time. Strangely, as much angst as this cat had given us, we were all quite sad at his passing.
Little did I know the significance of this theorem in my life.
I now see my womb as the box, the baby (Maddy or current resident or any baby for that matter) as the cat, with a random occurrence standing between the baby being alive or dead, none to know until it is removed. Of course the fun of the theorem is that you don't open the box, which turns a quantum mechanics principle into a philosophical one to some degree. Because while the box is closed, things can be either -- they can be both. But this box will be opened, the truth will out, and the world shall see the results.
I should name this child Schrodinger.
I just got back from grocery shopping and I noticed putting a few things away that they had expiration dates beyond when this baby will be born. Which is just a really odd thing. I'm staring at a yogurt container as though it was an oracle: You must know something. You will still be here! Tell me what happens, yogurt!
But it's that odd sensation that so many of us got after the ugly: time stops for us, but continues on for everyone else, including my yogurt. Except now I can see it coming -- the seedlings that have sprouted will be put in the garden. Bella will attend a few summer camps, which will be good for her regardless. My house that I'm not preparing will look exactly the same. People who have offered to help will do so regardless of outcome, and they will still go to work and school and pick up kids and eat dinner per usual. Sure, if things go well I'm expecting a few "Well Finally!" Happy-Mongerers to jump out of the woodwork, but let's face it -- there are a good handful whom we've lost over the past three years that will remain silent, no matter what. The dogs will still need walked, the grass will still need mown, dinner will still need made. This yogurt will, according the stamp, still be good.
It dawned on me last night reading to Bella that unless I expire during this process too, I will be exactly where I am now in a few Sunday evenings. A few weeks from now, I will be right here, reading a story to her, or listening to her read one to me. Her room will be lighter thanks to the arrival of summer, but everything will be in it's place -- the fishtank, the bookshelf, the bed, the rug, the curtains . . . and what will we be like, us two?
It's what happens to us internally, that which will change us permanently -- again -- that makes me cringe. And I hate that something out there might know something that I do not. I'm tired of waiting. I want to know. But I fear opening the box -- because while the box is closed, things are alive and dead and I've grown quite comfortable with that 50/50 proposition. Entanglement has become my raison d'etre, and it suits me fine. For perhaps the first time in this pregnancy, I'm a bit afraid and am longing to be one of those things that will remain unaltered in the upcoming weeks. Oh, to be someone else, or a bookshelf, or a towel, or a container of yogurt.
Oh, to not have to open the box.
Last week I was in the enormous store -- you know the one where you buy things by the metric ton? -- in large part because they always have nice (read: appropriate for actually swimming in) girls' swimsuits at ridiculously low prices. And there as I trotted down the kid's clothing aisle, was a table spread thick with Nice-Swedish brand-name organic baby sleepers for about 60-70% off what I know they retail for. Any other normal nine-month pregnant woman would undoubtedly pick one of each pattern and throw them into her cart. I would count well within the bounds of normalcy making scary claw gestures and cat noises at anyone who dared venture close to the table while she sorted through sizes. I held up a tiny 0-6m sleeper covered with animals and stared blankly at it, unable to fathom what could possibly go into that thing. I set it down, and walked away.