Baby jumpers and breast-feeding envy
It was the smallest pair of shoes I had ever seen, hardly big enough to contain a grown man’s thumb. The shoes came with a matching hat and jumpsuit that would have fit tightly on a loaf of bread. The expectant mother held up the outfit to the crowd, and a chorus of “ohhhhhs” echoed off the walls. Next to be opened was a gift called a “baby jumper.” A baby jumper is one of those gadgets that insure that modern mothers have it easier than our parents did. The child is strapped into a climbing harness and suspended from a sturdy beam with two bungee cords just long enough to allow the feet to barely touch the floor. The babe is then free to leap around like an intoxicated monkey without fear of falling. No wonder the kids love this thing: It’s more fun than breast feeding ” I’d like to have one of my own.
The gift-opening phase went on for almost an hour. Gifts ranging from toys (I gave the upcoming bundle-of-joy a matching rubber knife and throwing hatchet) to butt-cleaning gear were ceremoniously opened. All the mothers in the crowd delighted in the practicality of the gifts, informing the expectant mum how useful they all would be.
No one mentioned my offerings, and comments ranged from “Your child is going to love the Tugboat-Annie bath toy with the built-in Mercury engine” to “My Jimmy won’t take a bath without his, and he is almost 20.”
At this gathering, parents, or soon-to-be parents definitely outnumbered the barren couples. Ellen and I sat there like eunuchs at a topless bar. Periodically, friends noticing our discomfort would tease us with the taunt: “Hey guys, the clock is ticking, what are you waiting for?”
It didn’t seem appropriate to point out that, given the choice between a newborn and rats in the cellar, I’d stock up on cheese. What is wrong with me?
My mother had six babies, of which I was the youngest and cutest (just being honest here). By the time I came along, I think my mother had reached her baby saturation point; she encouraged me to grow up quickly. When I was about 4, my next-door neighbor Abby Ullian and I would play house in her sandbox pretending we were adults and married. She would fill a cup with sand and call it “tea.” We would sit in our imaginary kitchen drinking dirt discussing our day. I’d want to go frog hunting, rock throwing, or, better yet, play that doctor game she invented. But invariably she would send me out of the sand box and off to work so she could tend to her quiver of dolls ” our imaginary family. I hated those dolls.
The expectant mother just opened the last gift, a rectal thermometer fashioned to resemble the head of Dick Cheney (it was a liberal gathering). We all adjourned to the kitchen where we drank decaf and cut into a cake shaped like a diaper. The air was filled with conversations about due dates, breast pumps and water breaking: It was time to leave.
Ellen and I walked towards home in silence. The stars were so bright we could travel the trail to our house without a flashlight. I could not see her face, but I knew she had something on her mind.
I was concerned she was feeling sad that it wasn’t her shower and her baby. Fact is, early on in our relationship we made the decision to remain child-free. This would not only free us up for our own selfish endeavors but also allow us time to donate to causes and councils we believed in.
I’m happy that good people are having children; I’m happy my parents did. Moreover, I’m happy to pay my share of tax dollars to educate, to (some day) provide them health care, and to assist parents in raising them in a loving home. That said, I do maintain that, worldwide, more people are having children than should.
“You’re awfully quiet. What’s on your mind?”
“Come on, tell me.”
“Ellen, we’re in this together, tell me what’s on your mind.”
We walked in silence for a few more minutes. I thought she wasn’t going to share her feelings, but then she blurted it out.
“I know we talked about it, I know we agreed it wasn’t practical, I know it is expensive. But I’ve changed my mind: I want … a new ski-pack.”
God! I love that woman.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio, and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.