Crisis at the Circulation Desk

Scene: the circulation desk at the public library. Behind the counter, a young man and a middle-aged woman. In front of it: two very pregnant women, with small children in tow.


A discussion ensues, instigated by Alex (who else?), about babies in mommies’ tummies. We share due dates, smiling and laughing, because our daughters were enthralled by each other only a few minutes ago at the play kitchen set.


It begins when Alex says he thinks we need five babies. (You might notice, BTW, that he’s increased his ideal family size in the last few days. hehehe.) The woman behind the counter says something like, “Or you could have eight at once, like that one woman. It’s just sickening.”


“W-well,” I hedge, knowing these are deep, dangerous waters, and I don’t really want to navigate them, “I’m all about big families, but not like that.”


Snort. “I’m not all about big families. I believe in zero population growth.” Sardonic shrug; then, realizing she’s overstepped the bounds of common courtesy: “But to each his own.”


Well, okay, then.


Do I say, Excuse me, you do realize you’re talking to pregnant women? Like, on the verge of delivery pregnant?


Do I say, children are a blessing, regardless of how they got here, and no, I can’t stand what Nadia Suleman’s doing either, but the children are holy?


Do I say, siblings are a gift to each other?


Do I say, yes, we need to take better care of the earth, but not at the expense of having children, who are quite possibly the best thing that can happen to a person, because they make you grow, and teach you to view the world in a whole new way?


Do I say, So where does my daughter with Down syndrome fit into your “zero population growth”? Does she even get a place in your utopia?




I draw a stunned blank…I smile weakly and say nothing at all. I pinch my lips shut, put the kids’ books in the cloth library bag, and head out the door. And I comfort myself by thinking that I get to teach my kids to value family, and children, and the earth…


…and that nothing I might have said would have made any difference anyway.