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Futures in Child Rearing

I’m trying to have a baby. I’d like to name her Ocean, but I fear the implications: the void, vast emptiness, the unknown, big whale shits, giant octopuses, or other possible hentai tentacle situations. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: Transaction Declined, it reads on the screen.

I’d like to name him Meriwether, but there is a hint of whimsy in it that I’ve been told is unattractive. Jupiter is an excellent name. Strong. Large. Fortunate. But I fear she will be gaseous, cloudy, and hurricane-like in nature. I can think of no one in the world named Jupiter whose example can confirm or negate the name’s good or bad qualities. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: Sounds like stupider.

I’d like to have a baby, but I fear I’ll resent all the compliments he’d get. Everyone will tell him, You are so cute. What will people say to me? You are a good mother is an insufficient compliment and overused most of the time. I know many mediocre mothers, and I always tell them, You are a good mother.

You Have Reached Your Destination is a strong name. He will not be lost. He will feel at home in the world. His arrival and presence has always been. I put my finger in the machine: Coordinates not found, rerouting, it says.

An older woman who lives in the apartment above mine tells me that sticking quail eggs in my vagina will stimulate ovulation instantly, that if I use this method I won’t need the machine. I go to the gourmet grocer who informs me the quail eggs are from special emerald quails. I charge five thousand dollars on my credit card for a dozen. At home I stick the twelve green speckled eggs into my vagina. It feels something like holding in an enema. I keep the eggs in as long as I can using a prolonged kegel and I go about picking up trash all over the house. As I take out the recycling, the eggs drop from my vagina and splatter a green mucus on the floor of my building’s foyer. The old woman comes down from the stairwell and studies the mucus under an ovulation microscope. “Didn’t work,” she says. Inside, I put my finger in the ovulation machine: You will never be able to pay off your credit card debt, it reads. The following day I find out the old woman owns several hundred shares in the Emerald Quail Corporation.

Having a baby will open me up. The experience will make everything I’ve been through worth it. The gifts that are bestowed. The rewards and honors. The love. Yes, there’s a price, though I’m told you can’t know what it is until you’ve been through it, but that is life. Yes, I may become fat, but that’s because my body will be doing what it needs to do to carry the baby. I hear if you keep positive energy, that’s all that’s needed and you won’t get too fat. Also, a juice fast for six months after birth as well as prenatal ballet classes five days a week at two hundred and eighty-five dollars per class. I look into classes that accept credit cards. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: You will always live with demons—forever with certain monkeys on your back.

My daughter will be beautiful, though her value will not be determined by her looks. She will look good in clothing and without. She will be adored but respected. She will follow a clear life path, free of too many obstructions, full of loving and successful friends who wear beautiful dresses, have lovely parties in the desert or at the beach, and who have about them an airy lightness. She’ll know how to go about getting what she wants. She will be capable. She will not have crying jags. She will not be burdened by the way the sun casts light midday or by the way some people walk. She’ll never have to purchase an ovulation machine. She’ll have a driver’s license and health insurance and a home free of trash. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: A fantasist’s delusions.

I’d like to have a baby, but what if:

  1. They’re ugly
  2. They’re too needy or colicky or strong-willed
  3. They’re not my type of person
  4. I resent the time spent investing in someone else’s future as I myself have failed to develop in any area
  5. They resent me for my massive credit card debt

Stress is a big factor in infertility. I’ll do yoga and deep breathing. I’ll move my body more and come several times a day using a baby bottle-shaped vibrator in a gender-neutral color so as not to influence the sex of the future baby. Frequent sexual release also leads to fewer crying jags and helps to keep the mind free from dark visions of the future.

I go to the crystal shop and charge six hundred dollars on my credit card for a piece of star sapphire that will align me with my higher purpose. The palm reader at the crystal shop tells me to talk to the stone, to confide in it. “I have eaten full-sized burritos with both guacamole and sour cream for lunch and dinner the past four days in a row. Each night I’ve made coconut mousse using the cream of coconut from a can of coconut milk containing two thousand calories,” I whisper to the star sapphire. “I am lost. SOS. Please send help. I spend most of my days watching old television shows or thinking of dessert, or both. The subjects of the programs I watch are cautionary tales about aging women with the inability to be truthful, even to themselves, about their age, forever engaged in dangerous and compulsive sexual behaviors to mask their extreme fear of death.”

Though the ovulation machine has refused to tell me when I’ll be ovulating, I suspect I am at this moment because of the viscosity of my vaginal mucus. I put my finger in the ovulation machine to see if it will be forced to do its job; the machine sends an electric shock through my body that feels something like a joke-shop hand buzzer: Hahahahaha.

Tunnel vision, while useful for things like football, can be detrimental when seeking to have a baby. I read about it in Beginning to Fear Your Mortality: Have a Baby to Help Distract and Comfort You from Your Decline. From the book:

The baby looks at you from the multiverse and thinks “There is a desperate, donkey-like person.” Who wants all that anxiety? Who wants to be born to a donkey-like person? The baby feels you are desperate. The baby sees your silent disappointments, everything you wanted to be that has not been, and your baby stays put, up in the multiverse, possibly somewhere within the Virgo cluster, but maybe not even that close.

I research the Virgo Cluster; there are so many places my baby could be. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: Get outside and/or a life.

I’d like to name him Horace. He will be a lyric poet and a Sagittarius. He will bat his eyelashes and men and women will swoon in the streets. He’ll write an autobiography dedicated to his loving mother who resides in a chalet in the Swiss Alps. I wave from the mountain as I ski down an expert slope while wearing top-of-the-line gear in the film about his life. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: A Horace is a horse of course of course. I do not want any son of mine resembling a horse facially.

I swipe my credit card through the ovulation machine in an attempt to bribe it into telling me something useful. Insufficient funds, it reads.

Studies have found that the Omega-3’s in fish oil can ease tension, irritability, tantrums, and wild mood swings in women. Studies have also shown that prolonged consumption of Omega-3’s in fish oil make women prone to flakiness more likely to follow through with things like making résumés and returning texts and emails. I charge a nine hundred dollar drum of fish oil to my credit card. I notice few if any changes as I start taking it, but maybe by the time the gallon is consumed, in five hundred and thirty days, there will be a difference. I’ve started to keep a fish oil diary:

Day 1: Took it
Day 2: Took it
Day 3: Took it again
Day 14: Haven’t taken it in a couple days, but took it today
Day 17: Took it. Back on track
Day 18: Took it, burping somewhat

I’m hopeful.

I switch my ovulation machine to the futures-in-child-rearing mode, which I’ve been somewhat afraid to do up to this point, and stick my hand in the machine. Child A, it reads across the screen, Post-partum depression followed by inability to lose baby weight. An unceasing tension in your body and a pain in your head as you hold your child, who can only fall asleep while clutching your hair too tightly and biting your nipple, with the intention of violence. I remove my right hand from the machine and place my left hand inside. Child B: Possible sociopath or narcissist personality disorder apparent from birth. A discontented boy prone to histrionics, tantrums, purposeful bed wetting, wrecking shit out of boredom, and not being able to wipe his own ass until he is twelve years old. Damien-like. Obnoxious. Manipulative in the extreme. Egotistical in the extreme. Lazy in the extreme. Complainer in the extreme. Delusions of grandeur. Sits on his duff and demands very particular homemade sandwiches. Frequently strangles domestic animals. I switch back to my right hand. Child C: As an adult will work at Best Buy.

I’d like to name him Rueben Remus, but I fear he’d be a hypnotist and fancy talker. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: Ain’t no doctor. I think every mother would like the potential for her son to be a doctor, but as I’m not a mother, I can’t speak to that.

You’re OK is a good name because I always liked when people said that to me. There is reassurance in that name. She’d reassure herself and others in instances of injury such as falling down the stairs, getting hit in the head by a soccer ball traveling at high speed, slipping on ice and hitting her tailbone so hard she would like to cry but doesn’t, or being knocked down by a rogue wave while wading in the ocean. On the other hand, there may be an element of mediocrity associated with the name, because of the “OK,” that I’m unwilling to accept.

Atta Girl is a sweet name. She will always receive encouragement, especially in softball; people will support her, cheer her on, be kind to her. She’ll have a sense of pride and accomplishment. I put my hand in the ovulation machine: This is torture, it says on the screen. I knock the ovulation machine from the special hexagonal mosaic-tile pedestal, made especially for ovulation machines, which cost me four hundred dollars on my credit card. The ovulation machine begins to print receipts of all of our transactions, every response it’s ever given me. It prints a tally of my credit card purchases, including the ten thousand dollars I charged for the machine in the first place. I rip up the receipts and give the machine a swift stomp. The ovulation machine prints out the secrets I’ve been telling the star sapphire. Through the receipts, I see the reality of how bad my burrito and coconut mousse eating habits have become, how my meals are the only thing I’ve been whispering into the stone that is meant to align me with my higher purpose. I collapse on the floor and cry for several jags. Once I collect myself I pick up the pedestal, from which many mirrored mosaic tiles have broken off, and I place the ovulation machine back upon it. There’s a dent in the machine from where I stomped it. The screen lights up: Due to recent damage, potential used retail value for this OM has gone down considerably.


Jen George

JEN GEORGE writes out of New York City.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2016

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