If you’ve ever taken a peace studies class, a sociology class, social work, environmental science, history, women’s studies, well, being in college brings me in contact with a lot of information that feels really hopeless. Humans are doing a great job of messing things up on this planet. Even the simple, three-letter word “war” holds so many varied kinds of pain and death that it makes me sick. But the crazy thing is, there’s actually a lot going on here that works pretty well. Things are running smoothly right under our noses. That’s why I believe in babies.
Babies have got to be one of the most incredible works of art ever imagined. In just over 9 months, this thing grows from the size of a period on your paper to an animal who can digest food, move itself, and pump blood around its tiny little body. Newborn babies can already recognize their mother’s voice, and their eyes focus at exactly the right distance to see whoever is holding them. They also have incredible reflexes. Some of the reflexes help them be born, some help them stay warm, and some help them nurse. Some reflexes we don’t even know why babies have yet. There is a lot going on with babies already immediately after birth. Not to mention all the activity taking place in the skin, under the skin, in the muscles and cells, working and growing unbelievably quickly. For all the sleeping babies do, there sure is a lot happening in there. And during those nine months before birth, the mother’s body produces 5 pounds of extra blood and lots of tissue and food for the baby. This happens without technology or surgery. The mother doesn’t even have to think about it. The simple fact that our bodies can do this all by their selves makes me think that humanity hasn’t completely gone off track. When it comes down to the basics, we’re pretty stunning.
What’s more, this process is happening all over the place. The exact same steps are going on inside mothers on American Indian reservations, at the University of Buenos Aires, in office buildings throughout Cairo, and in the rice fields of Vietnam. If we can’t stand together for anything else in this world, we are forced to stand together about babies. There is no way to avoid it. Even if you, personally can’t or don’t want to have a baby, you were once a baby and chances are you’ll be in contact with babies or someone who has one at some point. Babies hold every culture, every race, every religion together. To me, babies are a sign that we’re all on this planet together, and we have a reason, an obligation to keep trying in whatever way we each can.
And these babies I’ve been talking about have a lot of potential, too. These babies are going to grow up to be farm workers and teachers and gay rights activists and dentists and fathers and friends. There is so much good stuff that can come out of all these cells. If this isn’t reason to hope, what is?
With all these intricate little babies happening everywhere, there’s a big potential for error, I know. I worked this past summer in a group home for mentally and developmentally disabled people. It’s not many people’s first choice to have a baby who has developed differently than other babies. Of all places, this should be one where the thought of babies is sad. But even these people, some of whom couldn’t walk, talk, or reason normally found ways to shine their light in their smiles, touch, and cooperation. If light from these people who are so disadvantaged can shine so brightly, then all the babies are brighter than the sun.
My favorite part about babies is birth. A really incredible number of babies are born without any medical interference. In some US birthing centers, it’s as many as 19 out of 20. That’s almost every time a new person comes into the world. The mother’s muscles contract with the right pressure at the right times and the mother can manage the pain to bring out an entire, real, healthy baby. Sometimes two or more. Future farmers or presidents or whatever. When human bodies can so successfully work together to create new people, I have hope for what happens during the rest of their lives.
Besides babies being one of the most ingenious inventions ever, the hope that they represent keeps me going. Each great person, no matter how famous, was a baby once, and each baby will contribute to the world in some way. This I believe.
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