My wife and I went to Barnes and Noble this weekend to look (just look!) at baby books. We started wandering through the store looking for the section on parenting but had a hard time finding the section. Bargain books (no), computers (no), relationships (getting closer!), cooking (narrowing in!), science fiction (uh oh, getting colder), religious fiction (redundant, but getting warmer again)…where the hell are the baby books?! In the end, we had to ask someone to help us find the section, which was innocuously tucked between the kid section (makes sense) and the higher mathematics section (don’t get that one).
The moment I laid eyes on the section I knew I was screwed. First off, almost all of them had pictures of pregnant women on them. Not good. I understand what is involved with the whole pregnancy thing, but don’t show me a picture of some pregnant chick looking as happy as can be, even though she’s not going to be getting any sex for the next six weeks (according to the books at least). Whenever I look at the covers of baby books with smiling pregnant women on them I imagine that future generations will laugh at those covers in the same way that our generation laughs at 1950’s homemaker pictures (you know, the ones where the woman is wearing high heels and a dress while scrubbing the bathtub.) So I was already off to a rough start.
I started to peruse the titles, looking for one that addressed my primary question of, ‘should you have a a baby?’ Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a book that addressed this question. Instead, all the books seemed to be based on the assumption that, ‘of course you want a baby,’ and, ‘there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to procreate.’ I’m not saying I don’t want a baby, I’m just saying I’m curious as to the reasons and arguments out there for why I should have a child. I understand that the primary reason for having a child is to 1) fulfill a biological drive to procreate the species, and 2) ensure that I have someone to take care of me as I get older. However, if one discards those two reasons on the grounds that 1) the human race is doing just fine (over 6 billion at last count and unless my child turns out to be Emperor of Earth or a Superbowl MVP, odds are my species won’t pay much attention to one more person) and 2) if I don’t have a child I’ll be able to save up plenty of money to ensure I have an army of waiting nurses to wipe my ass when I’m old, then what’s the point of having a child? The answer appears to be a belief that ones life will be infinitely enriched by the presence of a child, far more so than any material possession, but what happens if the baby is born and you don’t immediately feel that instant connection to your kid? This is my primary concern, as it seems to me that the only thing that allows parents to put up with all the crap (literal and figurative) of having a child is the love they feel towards their offspring. So, what happens if that love doesn’t develop? I’ve been told that a father doesn’t become a father until the child is born (OK, I wasn’t told that, it was a line from ‘Knocked Up’) but isn’t that an awfully big leap of faith to take? What if the baby is born and I’m not struck with a sudden and unbelievably powerful desire to destroy everything in my kid’s path? Does that mean I’ll fail as a father since there will be nothing to make up for the hardships of parenting? This is where the baby books are supposed to come in, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find one that directly addressed my concerns, but I was able to find sections that touched on the issue. The best snippet I found was a line claiming that 25 – 40% of new fathers and mothers don’t immediately feel a strong connection to their child. Whether this is due to sheer exhaustion, the nature of the parents, or any other combination of factors, the book assured me that I shouldn’t worry and that a bond would develop in due time, which was a major relief since that was my primary concern.
My initial child rearing fears subdued, my wife and I headed to run some more errands (Bed, Bath and Beyond, oh boy!) but on the way out I stopped by a display of X-Men comic books. My wife, who had been walking ahead of me, stopped, turned around and started to give me that look, to which I replied, “Bed time stories.”