updated 24 Dec 2010, 17:55
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Tue, Jun 15, 2010
The Straits Times
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Maybe baby? Not yet
by Fiona Chan

When a couple gets to a certain stage in a marriage - say one or two years in, just as 'I do' is starting to turn into 'do it yourself' - a curious thing happens.

Strange little lifeforms begin to pop up everywhere, like a squad of sinister stalkers that are impossible to ignore.

This species is extremely devious. To disarm you, they take the shape of small, plump, blob-like creatures that make you want to pinch their chubby cheeks and go 'oooh, coochie-coochie-coooo'.

To be fair, these cunning critters - or, as humans call them, 'babies' - are generally benign.

But once you reach your late 20s or 30s, especially if you're married, they start to become a real danger. Their mission: To brainwash you into having babies of your own so they can multiply and one day take over the world.

The irresistible cuteness is all part of their crafty plan. One moment you're gazing into their big baby eyes, and the next thing you know one of them has invaded your body and exploded into being, taking over your consciousness, your brain and, soon, your whole life.

I bring this up because I nearly fell victim to this conspiracy. Lately I've begun to notice babies wherever I go: on the streets, at family reunions, running around my condo - and even in the column to the right of this one.

Babies have also turned up in a most unlikely place: my friends' bellies. Friends who married after I did have already succumbed to the siren call of their biological clock.

That I have managed to hold out so far may seem like a Herculean effort, but it actually hasn't been that difficult. Even though my husband and I are prime candidates to help the propagation of the human race, I have a million reasons not to have children right now - or even at all.

There are the usual factors: not enough time, not enough money, not enough selflessness.

I love working too much to stay at home, my husband loves his collection of transforming robot toys too much to let kids get their grubby fingers on them, and we still cherish vague dreams of living in another country for a few years.

It doesn't help that every time I see a baby, more often than not I'm put off by the show of bratty behaviour - by their parents, who seem to expect special attention from the world just because they have a toddler in tow. If waiters, cashiers and all other service staff don't fall over themselves to meet their every need, they just throw a tantrum.

Babies also appear to make people 'stupider', a colleague pointed out. As he put it: 'Einstein before becoming a parent: E = mc2. Einstein after becoming a parent: baby want a mum mum?'

To be perfectly honest, I'm also terrified of being responsible for a creature that is basically a stuffed toy come to life and is about as helpless.

But there are also humanitarian reasons not to bring new life into this world: the rapid pace of environmental degradation, the overcrowding of the planet, the untenably high cost of living.

In fact, the more I put my mind to it, the more I realise that I can't conceive of a single good reason to have a baby.

That's not to say that everyone else is having children on a whim. Parents may not question themselves too deeply about why they want kids, but if you ask, they can probably come up with a solid reason.

For most, giving birth is just the natural next step that comes after marriage, a landmark event that turns them into real adults with new families of their own.

Those with sharper foresight may have kids to provide for their old age, or even to donate blood or a kidney if it becomes necessary. Others seek to raise a mini version of themselves, and do it better than their own parents did. Then there are the noble ones, who want to bring a new life into the world in time for their ailing parents to hold a grandkid in their arms.

While all these reasons are understandable, none seems quite adequate enough to justify the lifelong commitment that this major decision entails. People usually don't do the sums on whether they can support a child with special needs, or even ask themselves if it's fair to bring a baby into this world just so that it can grow up and take care of them.

Ironically, it seems that those who put the most thought into the issue are considered by many as non-ideal parents: single career-women mothers, same-sex couples, adoptive parents. Because they have to go out on a limb to have a child, they are a lot more prepared when it happens.

So rather than call women 'spoilt princesses' for not assuming their sole role in life is to be a baby-producing machine - as a Straits Times reader recently did in a letter to the Forum - perhaps we should consider that couples who wait until they're sure they want kids are actually trying to be more responsible adults.

Having said all this, I'd better reassure my parents and parents-in-law: I do expect that one day I will be expecting, if only for the prosaic reason that when you're happily settled and you want a kid with your partner, no practical obstacle seems insurmountable.

In the meantime, there's still the baby squad watching my every move. Oooh there goes one now... awww, look at his big eyes... coochie-coochie-cooo...

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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