“It’s selfish, that’s what it is, Trish!”
“How’s it selfish?”
“My body, my choice.”
“Don’t pull hippie bull-shit on me!”
“You’re putting yourself in danger and the baby.”
Mum’s been against self-birth since the beginning.
My friend Day is also having a baby, the normal way. Tells me that I’m brave. Doesn’t say it like it’s a good thing. Get the feeling she agrees with Mum. Don’t live far from Day, just ten minutes. I’m always the one visiting her, even now my bump’s showing.
People make space for their PODs (Pregnancy Observer Device) in their living-rooms or kitchen. Day has a special room for it. She’s been reading Pre-Birth; apparently if an embryo’s exposed to too much light it can cause ADHD, but too little’s been linked to autism. Spent a fortune on an embryonic lamp giving, ‘the perfect contrast of natural light proven to stimulate early cognitive abilities.’ It basically just turns off at night and on in the day, like the sun.
The POD Day bought cost a bomb. Her boyfriend’s face was a picture! Should’ve known better than to cross Day, “Just whack the embryo in a budget POD, it’ll be fine.”
“Our baby isn’t even fertilized. Already you don’t give a shit! Having second thoughts? Is that what it is, Mike?”
“No. It’s just that it costs—”
“Money shouldn’t be a factor in our baby’s health!”
They spent 9000 EE (English Erno). Had to take out a loan. Their POD has a double layer of silicon, meaning the artificial ‘womb’ lining is thicker; if it gets knocked or bumped it’ll be more protected. Most people don’t even move them though! Her POD also has an inbuilt classical music system. All proper studies say anything pre-birth won’t make a difference.
PODs have an inbuilt heater keeping an embryo at womb temperature. They’re basically a translucent football filled with liquid. Had a go at feeding Day and Mike’s embryo when I was over last. Formula’s pre-made, just add water. Day made me wash my hands six times before picking up the spoon!
There’s a little hatch on the outside; I flipped it up so I could pour the formula in. Watched it slide down the artificial umbilical cord, then seep through a valve connecting it to the biological cord transferring it to the baby. Started moving round a bit; reminded me of an axolotl, pink and half-formed.
Day wants a Birthing Party, or more accurately, ‘Baby’s Being Removed Party.’ It’s an American thing, but it’s taking off here. You invite everyone round to see the baby taken out, people bring presents and cards.
Day was in tears the other day, “I can’t do it. I’m an emotional wreck!”
She’d read in Pre-Birth that it’s common for ‘Mother’s-to-Be’ to have pregnancy induced mood swings lasting the POD incubation. Bollocks! Next she’ll complain of backache. Last time I was over she argued with Mike.
“Maybe it’d be nice if it was just you, me, and the baby. People could visit later,” he said.
“I ask for one thing. The soon-to-be-mother of your child!”
“I just thought it would be nice for it to be just the three of us.”
“I guess if that’s what you want, it doesn’t really matter what I want, does it?”
Mike’s now arranging the Birthing Party. They’ll probably get a nurse to take the baby out. Most people do. Though it’s becoming more popular to DIY it. There’s a step-by-step NewTube guide.
Day’s having a Hetro-embryo; Mike’s sperm is fused to her egg. The other type’s a Fembryo; where two eggs are used, one’s adapted and used to fertilize the other. They can’t make Menbryos yet. My baby’s slightly different; technically it’s a Fembryo; but, both eggs are mine. Some people don’t like it, think it’s like cloning, or worse, incest. They’re ignorant.
Cloning uses 100% of one person’s DNA. If two eggs are taken from one woman, the eggs are genetically different. And it’s not incest, as both eggs came from me; clinics don’t allow fertilization with anyone in your immediate family, but genetically it’s not an issue; all eggs and sperm chromosomes are screened before use. Not 100%, but cuts down on all types of disability.
People say that PSMs (Planned Single Mothers) are unnatural. We’ve gone far beyond what’s ‘natural’ anyway; Parents can even choose chromosomes deciding the eye and hair color of a baby! Price for that’s phenomenal though. Anyway, PSM wasn’t allowed till five years ago. I remember the SMBC (Single Mother’s By Choice) marches. Now it’s not that uncommon, or so I keep telling Mum.
“Trish, babies should have a Mum and Dad, Mum and a Mum, or Dad and a Dad! Single men can’t reproduce you know!”
“That’s just because they don’t have the technology yet.”
“You wouldn’t be giving the baby a good start.”
“You were a single parent. I’m fine.”
Mum put the cup she was holding down hard. “I didn’t choose to be a single mother! It just happened.”
“Lots of people end up single mothers. Planning it is far more responsible.”
“Aren’t you worried it’ll have eight eyes? You need two sets of DNA, like nature intended.”
I’ve explained that it’ll have two sets of DNA, just like other babies but it doesn’t get through. Partners make each other miserable; Dad made Mum miserable. She still complains and he’s not been around for 15 years. If Menbryos existed maybe Mike wouldn’t be having a baby with Day—LOL, only kidding. But seriously it’s great if it turns out ok, but what if it doesn’t? Two people that don’t get on are forever connected. I’d rather just have the baby.
Had my implant removed so my womb would work. When I was twelve a nurse came and gave it. Put it in all the girls, just above their hip. Not sure exactly what it does; lets off a chemical or hormone, making the womb uninhabitable but leaving eggs fertile. Didn’t give much thought to it. Boys don’t do anything. There’s an injection for them; implant’s inserted beneath the scrotum making sperm infertile post-ejaculation. Most schools don’t fund male and female contraception though, so just the girls are “treated.”
Remember being taught about PODs. Developed at the end of the 21st century by Dr. J. Hoelscher. Can’t remember what the J stands for. He was Swedish. Studied stem cells, which were all the rage at the time. His wife and child died in childbirth. It was rare then, but still happened. Dr Hoelscher spent the rest of his life trying to produce a device that could grow a baby externally. By the time he died his research hadn’t gone anywhere. He’d experimented on monkey embryos, but their heads grew too big. But then one of the big private health companies took an interest. They got it to a stage where it became feasible and it wasn’t long before it was being considered for use.
There were protests in the streets. We watched an old color clip on a DVD. Men and women with banners in their hands and chants on their lips, “Babies near the heart, not in a jar!” and, “Choose God, not the POD!”
Wouldn’t guess now, with all the stick I’m getting for Self-Birth! Anyway, by the end of 2190 pretty much everyone used PODs.
When I had the implant removed, it left a thumbprint-sized scar. Mum caught me looking at it, “That’ll be the least of your worries when you’re all stretched out. I can tell you that!”
Had to wait three months for my womb to kick back into action. My lady parts started bleeding for days at a time. What a shock! Apparently that’s a side-effect of a fertile womb.
I went to see my GP, Dr. Heath. She’s female. I had a male Doctor, but he was rude about Self-Birthing. Not at all impartial. Let’s not get into that. Dr. Heath had my eggs ready and fertilized. She’s never spoken against Self-Birth, but she did feel it necessary to read the long list of side-effects, despite us going over them last time: headaches; cramps; severe abdominal pain; stretched vaginal opening; organ rupture; death—to name but a few.
I collected my miniscule frozen embryo and took it to the hospital. Needed to have it inserted within three hours; otherwise, it gets too warm. Got a taxi to the hospital, not taking chances with the HB (Hover Bus). Went to the private section. Self-Births aren’t on the NHS now as it’s a redundant procedure. Cost round the same as buying a POD though. Two nurses took me into a purple room. I opened my legs. They had a syringe with my embryo inside. Squirted it through my cervix into my womb. Sharp pain, then throbbing.
Stayed in hospital for three days. It’s almost 100% successful, but I was warned not to do anything strenuous. Voila: I was preggers, old-style.
Day asked me why I did it. Everyone thinks that: why would I go through all this when I could have had it PODded? I just wanted to. Everyone thinks wombs are like the gall bladder, without a use. At secondary school I met one girl who didn’t even know women used to birth! When I told her she was horrified. But I think, wow! I have an in-built POD inside me, fully functional, like the Victorians and twenty-first century women. There’s something beautiful about it just being there, inseparable, home-grown. In a POD, it’s like a goldfish.
I’ve always known I wanted a baby, and one day I woke up and thought, FUCK IT, I’m doing this my way.
At the start Mum rang every day, “Sure you want to do this? Not too late to pack it in, get it PODded.”
She found out that you could get a baby PODded four months into pregnancy. Doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the implant’s not inserted correctly. ‘Cause most boys don’t have anything, it leads to pregnancy. The nurse responsible gets sued a shit-load. Remember seeing it on the news:
‘Help! There’s a baby inside me!’
Cut to an interview of a tearful nurse, “There were so many schools, had to do seven that day.”
It’s made into a big deal, but when the embryo’s small it’s pretty simple to just transfer it to a POD. That’s how they did it when PODs were first started anyway, grew it in a womb, then moved it. This procedure’s still on the NHS, another fact of which Mum reminds me.
Went to visit Day again. Knew exactly how she was doing—updates ImagePlate hourly with Mother-POD Selfies: Just me and spuddy! She’s got Mike’s forehead. 😀 😀
She hasn’t. You can’t possibly tell! I’ve hidden her updates, but Day messages me personally: Trish! I was thinking. How can you stand not being able to drink or smoke?!!! :O
It’s not hard, Day. I don’t smoke anyway!
She sent back a laughy face with a picture of her stubbing out a cigarette. Last time I went to see Dr. Heath I heard my baby’s heart-beat, inside me. No amount of wine could make that not worth it. I texted Day pictures of my scan. She wasn’t impressed: All shady. You can hardly tell the head from its feet! Can you tell the sex now?
Not Yet. :-/
Hers is beginning to press against the sides of the POD now. It’s a girl. With PODs you can tell that from the very beginning. I could have asked the nurses to sex my embryo, but I wanted it to do it the old-fashioned way, when a scan picked it up. More special that way.
Yesterday I waddled to hers.
“Trish, you’re so big now!”
I showed her the stretch-marks on my stomach. Some on my arms and legs too. She stared without blinking, “Why do they get big, too?”
“Water retention. Also it’s easy to gain weight when you can’t exercise easily.”
She sucked in her lips, stroking her flat belly, “Will it go back in…after?”
“Doctors say I can do sit-ups and stuff. It’ll get close.”
“Yes, I’ll always be a bit stretched.”
“I read a study saying women have evolved past reproduction.”
“Really. How come?” I asked, with a barb.
“Humans stand on two legs, instead of four, making our pelvic bone narrower and our hips smaller. We’re the wrong shape for it now.”
How interesting! Told Day I was feeling tired and left. She’s so up herself! Just because she and Mike are having theirs in a POD. I’m doing perfectly well on my own.
Turned out to be my last day at work today. Was going to go until six months, but they said they’d pay maternity starting now. All I needed to do was sit. I’m a receptionist. They insisted. Mum offered to pick me up, but I’ve been walking for exercise.
“Trish! You’ve put on weight.” Bumped into a guy I’d gone to school with.
“Nice cover.” He laughed through his nose.
“No, really.” I pulled up my jumper.
He looked as if I’d told him I’d got a brain tumor, then peeled back my scalp.
“What? Didn’t you realize in time to get PODded?”
“I wanted it this way.”
“Only Africans do that!”
Not PC, but usually only people in really poor parts of Africa Self-Birth. Some very isolated parts of Asia don’t support it either. In the UK if you earn under a certain amount you get a POD free.
“Well, I’m doing it too.”
“Who’s the—father, mother?”
“What? Like, both eggs?”
He glanced down at his watch, “Gotta go. Hope it turns out good.”
Dickhead. Should see the looks on people’s faces when they see me, fresh out the museum. An old lady came over the other day, “I don’t want to alarm you, but you may be pregnant. Get to the hospital right away. I’ll call a taxi.”
Took the taxi. Got it to take me home. Started wearing really big jackets. Mum goes to the shops for me now. Claim back pain; partly true, but I’m just so sick of people treating me like a one-woman freak-show. Mum’s moved in to help. She keeps covering corners with pillowed fabric, “I’ll not have my grandson brain-damaged ‘cause of you!”
I’m growing a boy. Found out at last week’s scan. Didn’t really mind, but it’s nice to know. Makes him seem more real. Every night now, before I go to sleep, I say good-night to him, too.
Sometimes I get hot and cold sweats. Threw up the other morning. Mum saw me in the bathroom, said, “Got no one to blame but yourself!”
He started kicking the other day. Felt odd, always knew he was in there, but now he’s really there, telling me he’s fine.
Asked Mum if she wanted to feel. She said, “No, I bloody well don’t! It’s creepy.”
The very last week before I passed four months she got old footage of birth from the 2050s. Didn’t want to see. I know what’s gonna happen, don’t want to think about it until it’s time. Mum insisted.
The woman screamed for a long time, her face was sweaty. Strange to think everyone in the DVD’s dead now, even the baby.
“Is that really what you want, Trish?”
“When she had the baby in her arms, she looked so happy. Like everything had been worth it.”
“That wasn’t happy! That was delirium. She was traumatized!”
Mum couldn’t believe it when I still wouldn’t get it PODded. Too late now! Eight months! Mum’s finally shut-up.
“Hey, Day, what’s up?”
“Getting the house ready for Birthing Party. Mike’s doing most of it, bless him. I’m curled up with a hot water bottle. Getting compassionate contractions. Pre-Birth says that’s not uncommon.”
She hasn’t come round to visit once since I’ve got big.
Compassionate contractions? She doesn’t know what a contraction is! We spoke on the phone the other day, I asked her about her POD, “You getting a nurse round, or DIYing it?”
“Nurse. Urm, Trish.”
“Do you think it might be easier, if you didn’t come?”
“Don’t worry. I can still make it.”
“It’s just that, Mike and I, feel that, you’d be uncomfortable. You know, with all the people. What if you can’t make the stairs, you might faint or something.”
“I’m pregnant not bloody disabled!”
“It’s just that, Mike and I think we wouldn’t be able to accommodate your needs.”
I slammed the phone down. Bitch! She was just worried I’d steal her thunder.
Eight and a half months now. Hospital’s asked me to stay for observation. Given me a room to myself. Brought my Spindle so I can access the Wi-Fi.
They’re going to induce me today. Not sure if excited or terrified.
Keep seeing the woman’s face from the DVD. Soon I’ll be holding Adam. That’s what I’ll concentrate on. That’s what it’s about. Mum’s pacing up and down. Day was supposed to come; apparently, it’s Harmony’s first check-up and it couldn’t be rearranged. Mum says she doesn’t want to see the birth, gonna stand outside when it starts.
My first contraction, sharp, more severe than I’d thought.
“Contraction!!! I’ve had a contraction!”
A nurse was waiting just outside the door. Big injection; epidural. It’ll kick in soon. Two more contractions. Four people are here; two doctors, the others nurses. My legs feel fuzzy, a warm feeling’s spreading my lower body. The nurse nearest looks very white.
“You delivered before?” My mouth’s dry and my words are croaky.
“Now don’t you worry, Trish. We’ve all done a lot of research.”
Mum’s holding my hand, “It’ll be OK, Trish. It’ll be OK.” People keep telling me to push.
I can’t help making noises. There’s a screen over the middle of me. Can’t remember it being put there.
Don’t know whether it’s been hours, or time just feels slow.
Sweating so much it’s dripping down my fingers. Sharp pains, dull pains, throbbing pains, all the pains! My body’s making shapes it wasn’t meant to. Maybe Day’s right about women being too evolved.
“Waaaaa!” The noise is shrill. I strain to sit up, but can’t. Nurse coming over. Holding him in a white towel.
There’s a red sheen round him, his eyes are closed.
“You did it, Trish!”
I made him, each of his tiny little toes and fingers. I don’t want to put him down, but my body aches and my lids keep dropping. Just gonna close m….
Was in the paper that week, front page headline:
WOMAN GIVES BIRTH!
A guy wearing a tie came from the BBCV. Asked whether I’d do it again. It was an experience: feel Adam’s mine. Truly mine. But I think: Self-Birth, once was enough. Can’t explain how good it felt taking Adam home. Knew I was having a baby, known that for nine months! But I hadn’t realized what that meant. Meant I was a Mum.
Me and Day started talking again. She feels more comfortable now Adam’s out. We go to Play-Day each week. Harmony and Adam are too young to appreciate, but Day insists it’s vital for “early socialization.” Didn’t tell the other parents I’d Self-Birthed. Wouldn’t let the papers use my name or picture either. Didn’t mind for my sake, but don’t want it to be something Adam gets picked on for. Day must’ve said something. Parents keep claiming they can tell he’s come out, ‘that way’ cos of his head. Babies have soft skulls; they squash a little for birth, but go back. Pointless explaining. They’re adamant Adam’s head’s too ovular.
Harmony touched a drumstick this week; Day practically rolled her onto it! She’s convinced Harmony will be a musical prodigy ‘cause of that classical POD.