The Embryo’s Eloquent Form
Embryology can be investigated qualitatively by “reading” the expressive gestures of the development of the human egg and sperm, their approach to each other in the “pre-conception attraction complex,” their union at conception, and the subsequent development of the embryo. These gestures tell a remarkable and consistent story. Much of this story has to do with the play of complementary opposites, and with the “conversation” that takes place, first, between the gametes, and then between the embryo and the mother. We can recognize complementary, or polar, opposites in the contrast between male and female, between center and periphery (“embryo proper,” on the one hand, and the fetal membranes and placenta, on the other), and between self and other. But in each case the play of opposites is a tension within unity. Moreover, the gestures at issue here are not gestures in the usual sense where we speak, for example, of the use of our limbs. Rather, they are growth gestures—the expressive movements by which the limbs and organs first come into being.