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Bandwagon Breeding
By Christine Palau

Sometimes I wonder whether motherhood is a biological instinct or merely a trend. Where the tabloids once boasted surveillance shots of celebrity cellulite, they now display what might as well be publicity pictures for the religious right's anti-contraception campaign. Julia, Gwyneth, Britney, and even my favorite ass-kicking secret agent Jennifer Garner have all jumped on the bandwagon breeding express.

But when people I actually know start having kids, that's when I need to bust out the Xanax because invariably, they think I should be next.

Take my office: On a monthly basis there is a collection for at least one of the employees who just had a baby. And with every new birth comes the reinforcement that I've already been married two years, am almost 33 and (gasp) still without child -- I haven't even had a miscarriage yet. What they should really be doing is thanking me for saving them 50 dollars -- the amount of the damned baby fund.

Instead I get, "You're dooming the human race," as a co-worker once told me at the water cooler. Another colleague gave me a set of what looked like playing cards but was actually "52 Rules for the New Mother." And every day the women at my office ask me when I will "get a baby." Yes, they use that term, partly because English is not their first language, but mostly because they think of it as something that doesn't require much thought, kind of like getting a drink of water.

These comments, as traumatizing as they may sound, could at least be chalked up to cultural differences. I work at a Korean company and have always been the freak of nature there -- the token white girl whose outlandishness at once disturbs and charms. The fact that I remain elusive about getting pregnant is probably more of a novelty to them than anything else.

Now, take my uber-Catholic family, where everyone is hip to having babies -- hell, my 18-year-old cousin has already pushed out two. But the most recent casualty is another cousin, a year older than me, who got married last week. For a while, she was my most solid excuse.

"Well, I couldn't possibly have a baby before Holly, that would be rude," I would selflessly proclaim.

Then at her wedding, I shuddered when I spotted her generously swollen breasts. Sure enough, Holly's mother was proud to share the news of her daughter's "bean in the belly".

Once the word spread, I could sense that my own mom was getting uncomfortable. It's bad enough that Holly's wedding outdid mine on several levels (the ethereal-voiced vocalist belting out Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" while guests sipped from posh blue-bottled, imported Welsh water was only the beginning of the trumping), and wedding envy will plague us for the next few months, now we have to deal with yet another pregnancy in the family that will not result in her being the grandmother.

My parents know me well enough to avoid actively badgering me about having kids; nevertheless, I can sense their disappointment whenever I call not to give them "the good news". And I'm still not sure how to interpret my mom, who's never been one "to scrapbook," all of a sudden compiling my report cards, locks of hair, foot prints, drawings and letters into a binder for my safe keeping.

Even while asleep I'm assaulted by guilt. The other night in a dream, my father demanded I have another wedding because I didn't do it right the first time. In reality, I couldn't have done it more right: getting married in a Catholic church, going on the "Engagement Encounter" retreat where my husband and I spent the weekend getting schooled on the rhythm method, and worst of all, allowing myself to be berated by a priest for premarital cohabitation. In my dream however, according to my father's estimation, the part I got wrong was that I didn't conceive on the wedding night.

I suppose I can simply address the elephant in the room and tell everyone that I'm just not ready to be a mother and frankly, don't know if I will be. But isn't this a private matter? Although it may take a village to raise a child, shouldn't it only take a woman (and her sperm donor of choice) to decide to have one?

Fortunately, my husband is with me on this and won't bully me into bearing little ones. Despite the fact that his younger brother's girlfriend is going to give birth soon, and his best friend recently announced his prospective fatherhood, I doubt my partner-in-crime will fall victim to the, "Well, you are getting older" spiel.

I have to be honest though, occasionally I do have baby fever -- the fat cheeks, sausage arms and gassy gesticulations can send me swooning. But the key word here is fever and that's exactly what it is, nothing a weekend of babysitting wouldn't cure.


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