Confronting the need to breed.
***image2*** Death and taxes, they say, death and taxes. But I'm going to go ahead and add babies to the list of things that are apparently inevitable. Sure I've heard of people who never have babies; I even thought I knew quite a few who would fall in that camp, until I got into my 30s. All of a ***image4***sudden babies are everywhere, like teething, pooping locusts, and it's just a matter of time before I'm another guy trying to keep the changing pad from poking out the corner of my messenger bag and talking stroller suspension and quick-change techniques with the fellas.
***image7*** This is how it happens: First, you wake up one day and notice that you've allowed people who already have children into your circle of friends. They're more or less the same age as you and they seem plenty cool and interesting but, confoundingly, they're toting a 7- or 10-year-old. This breaks down your first line of defense by promoting the idea that fraternizing with miniature people is somehow normal. Next, whichever friends are most hippy and earthy will announce they are pregnant. We'll call them George and Amanda*. Shortly after their little vegan-powered hatchling is on its way, Tim and Mirasol announce that they, too, will produce a little hairless monkey. Tod ***image8***and Jasmine throw their hat into the ring, but, like, who didn't see that coming? Then the wife's good friend, Marny, is knocked up by the Croatian carpenter she meets on a train, Morris and Ally decide to adopt from Colombia and Rex and Trixie announce that they are already five months into the whole reproduction shebang. Rex and Trixie? They're artists! They're bohemians! How could this be happening? Won't being parents interfere with Trixie's curiously promiscuous approach to marriage and Rex's drinking problem? Won't this interfere with Trixie's performance art career and Rex's, uh, drinking problem? It turns out the whole thing is just another experimental project in their eyes.
As luck would have it, when Morris and Ally's son, Hidalgo, arrives in Santa Fe ***image2***via Colombia he turns out to be the most beautiful child on the face of the earth and within weeks of touching his golden flesh, Mark and Lidia are pregnant. June and Daryl as well. Also August and Jillian, Dennis and Constance, Carl and Elsie, Ralph and Lisle, a minimum of two ex-girlfriends and, oh yeah, Tim and Mirasol are having a second child. In the flash of an eye, our peer group has become a totalitarian regime and, although no one says it overtly, it's clear that if we don't breed soon, they'll ***image3***come for us in the night, either to intern us in re-education camps or to mash our bodies into a pulpy, nutritious formula.
It's true that my wife has always known that she wants a child. It's true that I signed on the dotted line knowing full well what I was getting myself into. I guess in the way that some people will tell their partners, "I love you just how you are," while having every intention of changing them into something else altogether, I thought I could say, "Sure, a baby would be ***image5***cool," and then sort of feint and dodge my way around it until, I don't know, death. My first ploy was a puppy. Having a wild, hairy creature with long sharp teeth running free in the house did calm the baby chatter for about two years, but it slowly crept back into the rhythm of daily conversation:
Her: "Let's talk about a five year plan and where a child fits in."
Me: "Um…let's get another puppy!"
OK, so I'm creatively challenged. The second puppy ploy didn't even last for six months. So, now we have two giant, untrained canines and I'm fresh out ***image8***of anti-baby distractions. It also turns out that I'm not immune to Hidalgo's charms and whenever I see him, his long lashes and earnest stare lull me into a sense of baby complacency. His rubbery little body still strikes me as unnatural, but I'm getting used to it. We even took him for a day-long test drive. I was surprised to learn that caring for an 18-month-old is actually no problem and very low-stress provided, of course, there are two of you and you have absolutely nothing extraneous to accomplish. Like showering or eating. Our friends have assured us, however, that when we have our own baby, we'll soon claim the time we need and stop worrying ***image1*** about the child when it's running with scissors or eating leftover chunks of rawhide doggie treats. Tim has even developed a theory: Parents are run to exhaustion by their children as a natural safety mechanism-if new parents were operating at a level of full alertness, they would be driven insane in short order.
***image7***Bolstered by the possibility of sleepwalking through infancy and toddlerhood, I've accepted the unholy trinity of death, taxes and a tiny, wriggly alien which I am meant to love. The only question that remains is how. Adoption offers the chance to help someone in need, to curb population growth and, best of all, to lord a sort of moral superiority over all the straight-up breeders we know. On the other hand, there's the, gulp, miracle of childbirth, the health of the mother during pregnancy and the questionable ***image6***opportunity to see what my wife would look like if she had my nose. Either way, I'll have to stop leaving screwdrivers on the floor, hide my motorcycles and confine my binges with Rex to the occasional snort during long shifts of grinding the bodies of non-breeders into exciting new flavors of mushy goop.
*Certain names and locations have been changed to protect the identity of the author's breeder friends.