When Characters Get Baby Rabies
Right now I’m reading a quite interesting book called: “The Baby Matrix” about challenging the assumption that everybody needs/wants to have babies. And so this, of course, is making me think about my views on this issue, which I do periodically, as well as about choices some of my characters in the Pretverse make over the course of the series.
“Baby Rabies” is when a woman, usually in her thirties, suddenly develops the inexplicable NEED to have a baby. Many people call this the “biological clock”, and for some women it seems to tick quite loudly. I’ve done a lot of research on this topic because it interests me. I guess from a sociological perspective I find it fascinating how horrible pregnancy, child birth, and parenting sounds (to me at least) but yet, how glowy and amazing and “all worth it” it can be presented to the population at large, and how many people go for it based on the fantasy/myths versus actually thinking it through and then still deciding to go for it.
When I was a still a kid I decided that I didn’t think I wanted any children. Of course the assumption was always that I would (by everybody but me.) My mom and grandmother would sometimes say: “Just wait til you have children some day.” It was never even a question of whether or not I would choose to be a mother or not be a mother. It was just an assumption. I was female, so of course I would procreate. Duh. The environment I was raised in, it was just understood that a married woman who wasn’t a mother had something wrong with her body that wouldn’t “let her” have children, and was to be pitied. I mean, nobody came right out and made these direct statements, it was just one of those background assumptions we all took for granted. People couldn’t really fathom this as a legitimate “choice.”
Thankfully all members of my family are supportive of my decision now. They have finally gotten to the point where they’re like “Well, I guess she really doesn’t want children.” I’ve been the black sheep for awhile and there are so many issues I’m so different from them on, that now just about anything makes them shrug and go: “Well, that’s Zoe.” They’ve now put all their hopes and dreams on my brother and his wife… who want 4 babies… God love them.
As some have pointed out, birth control was never really intended to give women the choice not to have babies, but just power over “when” to have them. We were still all socially expected to get around to it eventually or remain single to justify our childfree existence. Or have something “wrong with us” that everybody was supposed to pity. Bad eggs, bum fallopian tubes, etc. etc.
But the whole procreating concept just never really appealed to me. As I grew up I maintained the viewpoint but all my family around me would say: “You’ll change your mind some day.” It was assumed that when I was “mature enough” or “found the right man” or “got married” or whatever… that of course… I would want to reproduce and make some mini-me’s.
However, everywhere I went and everything I saw pretty much made this idea seem less and less appealing. I mean, do you ever go anywhere where you don’t see some haggard-looking parent yelling at their kid and some kid acting like a mutant or neanderthal? It’s ubiquitous. And yet this is what I was expected to devote most of my “good years” to?
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of Miles [my BFF's kid], but as much time as I spend around him and as much as I love him, the time I get to hang out with him reinforces for me that I am right that raising a kid isn’t for me. I like challenges, but I have my limits. And, also… since I realize MOST of you are probably parents—given that it’s the cultural norm and all… let me say: I have nothing but RESPECT for what a parent goes through. You have the hardest job in the world, and that’s exactly why I haven’t put in my resume for it. I don’t envy you, and I wouldn’t trade places with you, BUT I respect you. I don’t think you’re stupid or wrong. I’m just glad it isn’t me. That’s just a mild disclaimer so we all can stay friends.
As a child I, and probably many other people, were given the mixed message of: “You can do what you want when you’re an adult and you’re making the rules” and “Someday you’ll understand when you have kids”. Well, how do you get to make the rules and do what you want if your life is scheduled by a small child and their wants and needs and limitations? (i.e. not every venue or activity you might want to do is child-friendly… like bungee jumping and five year olds. Those things aren’t mixy.) How do you go where you want and do what you want when you have financial and time commitments to that child that never end?
When I got married to Tom, I assumed they must be right… “some day” like maybe five or six years down the road, after we’d had sufficient alone time (whatever that means), I’d of course want to make a little version of me and Tom. But, each year I wanted to do that less than the year before. It was actually kind of a relief for us both to have the conversation where we decided, no… we just don’t want to procreate. While I like kids, making my whole life revolve around one (or more), just doesn’t interest me and never has. It was a huge weight off me to be able to just admit that, have an open conversation about it, and let that issue be settled. And I was extremely grateful to find Tom reach the same conclusion. (Nothing would have sucked more than us not being compatible there, because it’s a deal breaker issue for me.)
But before that, the assumption by everybody I knew was always that I would contract a case of the “baby rabies”, but now that I’m getting into my mid-thirties this dread diagnosis has not materialized. After much research on the subject (because what woman wants to suddenly become a slave to her biology and lose all her reasoning capabilities, making life-altering choices based on nothing more than hormones—instead of what she wants?), I determined that my opinion is: human beings have no “drive” to procreate.
We have an evolutionary drive to have sex. Children often result from that drive but they aren’t the thing we’re all “biologically” driven to do. Baby rabies, instead, IMO, is culturally and socially driven by all the expectations and messages sent to us over and over both subtle and blatant that just “assume” all normal adults will make parenthood a primary focus in their life.
And don’t get me wrong. Parenthood is valuable. Kids are valuable. Kids can also be awesome and hilarious. I totally get that. Miles can be funny as shit, and sweet and adorable, and so I see the appeal for some people, I do. And we kind of do need SOME kids, but on a planet with 7 billion people, a lot of us can safely sit this one out! I’ll sit it out so those of you who want them can have room to have babies here. Yup, I’m just that generous.
At any rate… I do have a point here, which I’m slowly making my way to. Given my personal stance, you would think that none of my characters would have babies. Since I’m not particularly attracted to the idea of pregnancy or childbirth or child raising, you’d think nobody would have babies in my books. Alas, that is not the case.
Though they don’t really get baby rabies so much as… shit happens. But, it’s a little different in the Pretverse.
In a human lifespan, having children, which will change your life forever and seriously impact your finances and lifestyle for about 2 decades… is a BIG commitment… much more than a puppy. (Can I get a “No, Duh” here?)
But in the Pretverse, these characters have such long lifespans that raising a kid is a drop in the bucket for them. It’s not taking up that much of their whole lifespan. It’s not the same kind of life impact as it is for us regular human folk. So yeah… there will be some pregnancy and babies in the Pretverse. But you shouldn’t interpret this to mean I’ve somehow contracted baby rabies. It serves the greater story arc, they didn’t plan it, and it won’t take that much time out of their existence.
And if you’re interested, check out “The Baby Matrix”, it’s a really interesting book. It’s not there to make people feel bad for making other choices or to pressure people not to have kids, but to open a dialogue. I think it shows a lot of progress that we may be FINALLY reaching a point where a girl/woman can legitimately question whether she wants children EVER, not just whether she wants them right now.