Throughout the ages, babies have symbolized the beginning of a new age, a fresh start and bright hope for the future, and innocence unblemished by tragedy, disillusionment and meddling by society.
That was certainly the case in the baby boom following World War II, when America was coming out of the Great Depression and beat the bad guys in Europe and Japan.
But this is the new millennium. The United States of America, circa 2003.
In an article published in The New York Post last week, Dr. Jacques Mortiz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's Hospital, said the number of pregnancies his practice has seen has increased by 20 percent. The Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center also reported that more women are opting to have children earlier, a trend that was moving in the opposite direction when the economy was booming and the job market promising.
"Until the economy comes back, why not focus on the other things we want to do?" asked Jane Reilly Mount, a freelance writer.
At the same time, Frank Buckley, a health reporter for CNN, reported that some U.S. troops anticipating deployment to the Middle East are having their sperm frozen in the event they are killed in battle or experience the infertility or sexual dysfunction Persian Gulf veterans reported.
"I feel more hopeful with our future," said Angela Cruz, fianc?(c)e of Sergeant Patrick Atwell. "And if, God forbid, he doesn't come back, then I'll be able to have a piece of him still here; a little Patrick running around."
A baby you can't afford because you don't have a job? A baby you have to raise alone because the father is dead? What a novel idea! Where do I sign up?
I do support women reevaluating their priorities when it comes to having children. I happen to be vigorously opposed to women suddenly realizing they want kids at age 46 and start pumping their body full of hormones and spawning septuplets. After Sept. 11, 2001, I'm sure plenty of people started to realize the value of their family and loved ones and felt it was time to strengthen that aspect of their lives.
Given the recent corporate scandals involving companies such as Enron and WorldCom, not to mention the "dot.com" collapse, I wouldn't want to completely invest my life (or life savings, as the case seems to be) in a huge company that might pull the rug right out from underneath me.
However, I am against the notion of "bored room" babies, as the Post referred to them. Maybe I'm just getting narrow-minded with my old age, but last I checked, children were human beings. They are not a hobby. They are not a way of "killing time" until the Nasdaq churns out better looking numbers and the headlines of the Wall Street Journal project rays of light.
Granted, there was a time when men were the breadwinners and women stayed home and cared for the children. But if someone is accustomed to the luxuries of a two-income household and suddenly has to accommodate him or herself to a lower standard of living, I have a hard time believing that the time is ideal for feeding an extra person.
Besides, children are people with minds and bodies of their own, and eventually, they grow up and decide what sort of adults they are going to be, regardless of their parents' wishes.
In this case, I am referring to the (hopefully) future Mrs. Atwell. Putting aside the somewhat depraved or disturbing nature of getting pregnant by a dead man, saving sperm for the purposes of artificial insemination in the event of a man's death in battle calls into question a woman's motherly motivation. If Cruz can only think of her child as a "little Patrick running around," I would have to say that she isn't loving the child for who he is: The child is merely a physical representation of the man she lost.
Having never been married and therefore never been widowed, I can only imagine the suffering a woman experiences when her true love dies. There is a void in her heart where he used to be, and it's only natural to want to fill that hole up and try, in some way, to recapture the love and perpetuate his legacy. But who can live up to idealized memories of a loved one long gone? Intentionally bringing a child into a fatherless home simply to satisfy a mother's self-centered needs simply isn't right, no matter how deep her scars run.
Nowadays, there are many women who do just fine raising their children as single mothers. But having grown up in a single-parent home, I know how difficult it is - emotionally and financially - to raise a child alone. Any woman who intentionally puts herself in that position is very na??ve, if not just plain stupid.
Times have changed, and with them, symbols take on whole new meanings. When War and Recession fornicate, their offspring are Selfishness, Boredom, Loneliness, Suspicion and Panic. They're septuplets.