Monday, January 12, 2015

4001 Strange baby

January 12, 2015

"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about
human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.
We've created life in our own image."
 --Stephen Hawking--


I recently read an article about a woman who went to the emergency room with back and abdominal pain, and one hour after discovering that she was pregnant, she gave birth to a full-term baby.

It happens occasionally.  Especially if you are very heavy you don't notice the belly getting bigger, and large women frequently have irregular periods because fat flattens out hormones.

It reminded me of something that happened when I was very young, probably 10 or less.  It was when we lived in a tiny Pennsylvania village, you know, four blocks by five blocks big.  We're talking mid-'50s ish.  In those days, kids my age knew literally nothing about sex (if you didn't live on a farm).  Babies appeared magically.  Couples on TV slept in twin beds.

There was a shopkeeper - I believe he was the town baker, whose one-man shop was in the first floor of a converted house on the main street.  He owned the house, and rented out the second floor apartment.  Big middle-aged man.  Married.  Lived with his wife and children outside the village.

He rented the apartment over the shop to a youngish woman.  Single.  She didn't seem to have a job.  I don't know what she lived on (although my mother had her suspicions).  Anyway, she was very large.  Had to be pushing 400 lbs, maybe.  I'm not good at weight estimates.

One day I came home from playing and my mother was hopping with excitement.  She was overloaded with juicy gossip, and just had to spill it.  It seems that the woman had been stricken with horrible stomach cramps, and an ambulance had come and taken her to the little hospital in the town 20 miles up the road.  She had been anesthetized in her hospital bed, and a few hours later awoke in the same bed with a baby in a bassinet next to her.  (Remember, this was the '50s.  Women were put to sleep through labor and birth.  No muss, no fuss.  (Also no DNA tests.))  The nurses told her it was her baby, and she refused to believe it.  Flatly.  Insisted that it was impossible.  Screamed until they took the baby to the nursery.  Her theory was that some rich bitch'd had the baby and didn't want it, so the hospital was trying to fob it off on her.  She was no fool, by damn!  Last heard, she refused to take the baby home and was going to sue the hospital.

Everybody in town was laughing.  Everyone knew exactly where that baby came from.  Everyone who bought bread, anyway, and everyone they talked to, which was everybody else.

It seemed that sometimes when you went to the bakery, it was closed.  Temporarily.  When it was supposed to be open.  This being the '50s, air conditioners were rare, so when it was hot, you had windows open.  If you stood on the stoop of the shop, you were right under the open windows of the woman's apartment.  Her bedroom must have been in the front, because as you stood on the stoop of the closed shop, you could often hear interesting and unmistakeable sounds coming from the window just 8 feet or so up.


That's as much as my mother told me that day.  I never heard anything more, and there's no way I was going to ask.  Here it is 60 years later, and I still occasionally wonder what happened to that baby.

I hope the woman wasn't bullied into taking it.  I can't imagine her ever having been a good mother to it.  I can't imagine her ever having accepted it.

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