26 October 2008

Babies? Blame the Hormones...

Another quiet Sunday on which I slept later and got less done than I'd planned. I haven't even come close to reading all the papers from my classes, and I'm so far behind my e-mails it's laughable. And I didn't get to ride my bike until late in the afternoon, and then only for an hour.

But on my way out, I saw Millie with her next-door neighbors, all gathered around a stroller. Of course that meant Patricia's son, who is now two and a half months old and has his father's strong jawline and brown eyes--and all-around good looks. Not long ago, I would've sidestepped such a scene. But today I felt drawn to it.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that Millie and the neighbors were gathered around the baby. Then again, in times past, I didn't feel so compelled to see someone's baby, not even if he or she was born to a friend or family member. And I notice that, lately, I've talked to, cooed and touched babies of complete strangers, and no one seems to mind. Not only that, small children seem as drawn to me as cats and dogs.

All right. I'm going to upset some feminists and gender studies people I know. I can't help but to wonder: Is this another effect of the hormones and the accompanying changes? In the academic world, and in some other arenae, many people seem child-adverse and baby-intolerant. One prof said she tells her friends and acquaintances she's not child-friendly, so they shouldn't expect her to share their joy. She has openly expressed what, I suspect, what others feel. And, a male prof at the college says he doesn't like children because they represent the bourgeois idea of marriage and family: institutions of which he wants no part.

And then there are those feminist/gender study theorists who simply resent the fact that babies represent the oppression of women. In a way, I can see their point: Once a woman gets pregnant, she forecloses a lot of career opportunities. And her colleagues, and the rest of the world, see her as a breeder, both in Margaret Atwood's and ACT-UP's usage of that term.

Now, I'm glad I didn't have children because, given how conflicted I was about myself, I didn't think I could be a good parent. And I certainly wasn't about to have children with Toni or Eva. It was never about how I felt about kids: After all, I worked with them and found the experience fulfilling, often enjoyable.

Dominick and I have talked about adopting a child. He wants to take one in, even if he has to raise her (He would rather have a girl, as I would.) alone. I'd like to have a child, too, but I don't think I'd want to raise her alone simply because of my age. Some would say it's not a good idea for me to start raising a baby at this point in my life because I might not live to see her become a woman. They have a point, but I also feel that every parent takes a risk, no matter how small, that he or she may not always be there for the child.

At least Dominick and I both believe, with good reason, that I would be a loving and supportive parent. Others have expressed the same confidence about me. It's not that I no longer believe that the world is full of confusion and suffering, and that a child could be an heir to them. Rather, I now believe that knowing the nature of the life my child might inherit is actually the reason to raise one.

lightning crashes, a new mother cries
her placenta falls to the floor
the angel opens her eyes
the confusion sets in
before the doctor can even close the door

lightning crashes, an old mother dies
her intentions fall to the floor
the angel closes her eyes
the confusion that was hers
belongs now, to the baby down the hall

oh now feel it comin' back again
like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin' from the center of the earth again
i can feel it.

lightning crashes, a new mother cries
this moment she's been waiting for
the angel opens her eyes
pale blue colored eyes, presents the circle
and puts the glory out to hide, hide

The suffering and confusion are part of the circle, which is not complete without them. I'm sure that Millie and Patricia have experienced their share, as my mother has, and my grandmother did. And they bore--and, more important, raised--children anyway.

What you just heard isn't the hormones talking. But the cooing, the baby talk...Where did they come from?