The first pregnancy test had to have been lying, so I took a second—and then a third. Believe me, I tried to stop. Not because it was obsessive (it was), but because it was wasteful: Each kit was hermetically sealed in a foil wrapper and then placed in a paper box, which was, in turn, shrink-wrapped in plastic, just in case there was any rogue human chorionic gonadotropin lurking around the pharmacy. Already I could feel my carbon footprint expanding along with my uterus.
“Hello, Daddy,” I told my husband weakly, as I thrust the evidence under his nose. “Well how about that?” he responded with a smile, as if I’d told him I’d just bought new curtains. I’d seen the man get more pumped up watching USC face off with UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Briefly, I contemplated stuffing all three pregnancy tests, uncapped, up his nostrils, but ultimately decided that carrying a child to term in prison would probably be a huge drag.
I was raised Catholic, so I’ve always been a guilt-wracked individual, but I’ve managed over the years to channel that guilt into a healthy dose of agony over the state of the planet—and my role on it. I don’t consider myself qualified for sainthood by any means, but I’ve tried to minimize my impact on Ma Earth the best way I know how: My husband and I don’t own a car (subway’s just fine, thanks), we’re members of a community-supported farm, we buy organic and fair trade, we tote around our own reusable water bottles and grocery bags, and we’ve made the switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs. And at least till now, we’ve managed to avoid the pitter patter of little feet.
For years, I’d been torn between my husband’s hankering for a biological child and my own desire to adopt. Hollywood, with its baby-bump fixation (Is she pregnant or did she just cram in one too many Gordita Supremes? News at 10!), trumpets child-bearing as the pinnacle of womanhood. But alluring as the fecund forms of celebs like Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie are, the truth is we’re adding 77 million resource-hungry people to the globe every year. World population has more than doubled from 3 billion to 6.5 billion in a span of 40 years, and by some accounts, it will only take another 50 years for that number to swell to a whopping 9.2 billion. Could I really bring myself to put more pressure on the world’s already strained supply of fresh water, land, and fossil fuels?
But when I shared my apprehensions with a friend, I was immediately poohpoohed. “If no one but the polluters and the devil-may-care types had children, who would take care of the planet?” she asked. To which I replied that anyone who thinks they can impose their own eco-values on their kids has to be, well, kidding themselves. If the trouble I gave my own parents about their values and lifestyle choices is any indication, my own bambino will grow up to be an SUV-driving, McMansion-buying, Big Oil flunky who votes Republican and thinks composting is for the worms.
Yet there I was, even as the planet teetered on the edge of a global food crisis, about to add another human being to the fray. Obviously the stork and I got our signals mixed.
A few weeks after my doctor confirmed what several lines of chemicals and pee had already told me, I went in for my first ultrasound. Most of that session remains a blur, but I remember craning my neck toward the monitor and seeing my baby for the first time, in all its grainy black-and-white glory. “There it is,” the sonographer cooed. She hit a switch, and a second heartbeat drummed loudly above the roar of my own, strong and insistent. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones or the sudden realization that, oh my God, I’m growing a person, but at that moment I forgot all about the rainforests, the plight of the polar bears, and the Texas-sized swirling vortex of trash in the North Pacific. My baby’s heart was beating, and the world could wait.
The kid better learn to love hand-me-downs, though.
Story by Jasmin Malik Chua. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008.
Copyright Environ Press 2008