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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Happy birthday, Carmen!

My wife Kate gave birth to our (briefly nameless) daughter, Carmen Alessandra Cortesi Wheeler, at 10:13am on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009. She was 7lb 7oz, with half an inch of dark brown hair. So far, she is preternaturally calm (famous last words) and loves to put her hands on her face, dodgy since she has the long fingernails of a two week-late baby.

Labor was intense and long, starting Monday night, pausing completely for part of Tuesday, and then going fifteen hours from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning. Kate worked amazingly hard and with stamina I didn't know was possible, finally collapsing with the baby on her chest. Kate and baby (and soon I) are now sleeping deeply.

A critical mass of cuteness occurred this evening when My sister's six year-old and three year-old called up to sing Happy Birthday to the baby. Jasmine, the six year-old, has been waiting for her new cousin for years; while on her way to a lunch the day after our wedding two years ago, Jasmine mused to her mom, "I wonder if she'll bring the baby?" When told these things take a while, she revised herself, predicting instead that Kate would just have "a big belly".

Carmen is a Latinate name taken from the Hebrew "Carmel", meaning vineyard/garden/orchard, adapted to match the Latin "carmen" (meaning song) while keeping a Judeo-Christian connection. Christian and Jewish history in Europe is full of this kind of roundabout inclusion of pagan names in the religious canon. Thus her Hebrew name could be Carmel or something completely different... to be determined some time in the next thirteen years. Carmen is and has been mostly found in Spanish-speaking countries, perhaps because Castile was one of the areas outside Rome whose Latinate creole stayed closest to Latin (along with much of Roman imperial culture). But it is used as a name in many Romance countries, as well as in English. In the Bizet opera, Carmen is a gypsy, though Carmen is not known as a Gypsy/Romani name.

Alessandra is many things: Italian, through Kate, and a longtime contender with Carmen for this baby's first name (it's the Edwards to Carmen's Kerry); my brother Alex's name (you can see him in the last picture holding the baby), transformed across language and gender; Jewish, thanks to the honorary position of Alexander as a Jewish name because he was such a refreshingly non-brutal conqueror (the story was later expanded to include the claim that on the way to destroy the Jerusalem temple, Alexander encountered a bunch of rabbis and was so struck by their holiness that he was compelled to bow before their feet, realizing the error of his ways); and last, an echo of my great-grandfather C. A. Wheeler, a good man (though not a good father, as I understand it) who represented the indigent as a lawyer in Texas in the early part of the last century (he was a law partner of Sam Rayburn), and who represents for me the other Texas (of Ann Richards, Molly Ivins and Kinky Friedman), and the other America -- the one where active citizenship, responsibility for others and appreciation for your opportunities are unremarkable traits.

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Anonymous The Subtle Rudder on Thu Jun 04, 11:18:00 AM:
Oh, she's lovely...welcome, Carmen!

My word verification is "soneo," which seems just right for celebrating a beautiful new human.

Yay and congratulations, dad!
Anonymous Alice's mom on Thu Jun 04, 07:30:00 PM:
She's beautiful. Congratulations to all of you.

Alice's mom