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Baby fever

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MAY 16, 2017

I’m sitting in coach, wedged in a window seat on a flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Somewhere behind me, somebody’s ugly baby is wailing for some relief that it clearly isn’t getting. My headache is getting worse.

“Why do I want a child?” I ask myself sort of numbly, dejectedly even.

Baby fever is a plastic, far away feeling for me. I don’t have ovaries, nor does my boyfriend, nor have most of my sexual partners. But part of me wants to get somebody pregnant someday, and I don’t mean a surrogate.

In all likelihood, I’ll get to cook a baby in a tube. In all that immaculate conception and scientific achievement, I know I lose out on something big. My mother gave birth to me without an epidural or a C-section. Don’t I deserve the same perfect vision? I don’t know what the word “natural” means, but I’m desperately attached to its pull, probably hoping to right my sexual deviance with rectitude.

Another best-case scenario: I adopt. I get to pick up a 9 year old with a history and a life already etched in their little brain. I reach into the foster care system and pluck out a suitable offspring and call it mine. I give it birthdays and teach it to read and dance and draw, and I fill it with love. I’m some kid’s second chance. A privilege, without question. But still, I feel in spite of my compassion, as though there’s some authentic way of rearing that I probably won’t get to participate in.

I shouldn’t complain. I would treasure any child that I could call my own.

A few rows back, the infant is now wailing. Its parents seem sort clueless; they keep bickering and looking around for someone to come to the rescue. I’m assuming it’s their first.

When asked whether I want children over the years, I’ve been pretty inconsistent with my answer. Ambivalent shrugs at the question of parenthood soon became “babies sicken me” and then turned into “I’d kill to have a kid.”

To set the record straight: Yes, I want children.

But perhaps we shouldn’t even consider having babies to begin with. I once read in a book by my favorite twitter personality (cue a well-deserved groan) that “bringing a child into the world without its consent seems unethical.” Who am I to dare to bring someone into the world? This may be the (former) Episcopalian coming out in me, but self-awareness to me is an unforgivable original sin.

Somewhere deep in me I feel as though the species was a valiant experiment whose chapter it may be kinder to draw to a close. I’m a parasite. My body is weak, and my heart is overcooked. No child of mine could ever be good. Who am I to bring another somebody into the world?

Again, cue the groan. I know how I sound: another mawkish white boy, another lame kid that read Cormac McCarthy once and imperiously declares that humankind wasn’t worth it.

I assure you, that’s exactly who I am. Then even more, who am I to ask for a child, self-loathing and embarrassing as I am? “Don’t give children to damaged faggots like me,” I think. “Give them to someone pure.”

One of the two parents finally manages to get a binky in its mouth or change its diaper or something. I don’t really see, because it’s all happening behind me. It quiets down a bit, thank god, but it’s still sort of grumbling. I’m sure it’ll start up again if its ears don’t pop soon.

I grew up an only child; my parents raised me with the greatest outpouring of love I think I’ll ever receive. Still, it’s lonely being the only one. I couldn’t help but be distant. Naive little me always pictured something else for my children. In spite of my reservations, in my vision I see a family too big for me to financially support, the rooms of my house filled with the little rodents, bouncing off the walls, crawling on the ceilings and leaving handprints.

I’ve produced a lot of children in my life. I don’t mean the real flesh-and-blood crying kind, of course. Everything I make and love is a child of mine. Every stuffed animal or toy I ever had was given a name and a story. I couldn’t just play with them; they had to be my children. Nowadays, my writing is a kind of baby. I birth it, nurse it to health and raise it, and in return it becomes my teacher.

Finally, the plane lands. I get off and wait at the gate inconspicuously. I watch the parents get off, and they look gay as hell. I’m not sure why I assumed otherwise.

I look at the baby. It looks to be one or two. Its nose is a little runny, and its face looks red. But it’s smiling real wide. All things considered, the kid is beautiful.

Justin Knight is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected]. "Off the Beat" columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer's regular opinion columnists have been selected.

MAY 16, 2017