Boundaries Of Reproduction

Entry by: jaguar

6th December 2017
‘So there’s a strong chance,’ Jan’s voice was evaporating at Ian’s expression, ‘my future baby will have what you’ve got unless…’
He frowned. ‘What?’
‘I let the scientists intervene.’
‘What’s that to me?’

Jan stood, aware she’d been over-shadowing him, more aware that he didn’t know her from Adam, hyper-aware that she was trying to get this disabled boy to make her decision and should be ashamed of how selfish she was being. Yet she had to know. She’d tried talking to friends and family, she’d batted it back and forth day and night with her husband but none of it helped her decide.

‘I’m sorry.’ She sat on the wall next to Ian, hugging her knees to her chest. ‘Someone told me that you’re happier than other kids. I wanted to know if you felt you were, if yours is a better life than your friends.’
She nodded. ‘Yes. Are you happy? I know I’m bothering you but I’ve lost touch with what’s wrong or right.’

Ian dug in his bag while Jan wondered if he’d had enough of them talking or had forgotten her question. Did he know what happiness was? Mind you – did she? She thought she was happy until this week, but one test result had sent her into a turmoil. Yet they said she was capable of carrying a child. The Doctors told her that a tiny piece of genome engineering could almost guarantee a perfect baby. Perfect except it would have been created in a lab, not in a warm body. It would come into being without her.

Ian held something up. A large gold coin labeled IAN's MORAL COMPASS. Transfixed, Jan reached to take it from him but he snatched his arm away and snarled: ‘It’s mine. I do it.’

Jan held her breath, startled by his anger. Everyone said he was happy, smiling all the time. No one mentioned aggression. How would she cope with that? She breathed out slowly. ‘OK. How does it work?’

‘Mum says you ask it something, something yes or no.’

What was her yes or no question? Should she use science to play God with nature? Should she have a baby at all? Should she have a baby like this boy whose eyes narrowed even further at her silence. She played for time. ‘What happens when I’ve asked my question?’
Ian shrugged. ‘Won’t tell you. You can’t know. You must ask first.’

Just like life then, you can’t know what will happen in advance. Jan felt simultaneously cold and clammy as she asked: ‘Should I get pregnant naturally?’

He threw the coin with a jerk. It was a series of reflections in the air, a somersaulting golden girl, a string of lightning flashes. Jan ran after it. Ian shouted at her not to touch so she crouched down by it, using her upper body as a shield. Ian laughed as he scampered to her. ‘Heads or tails?’
‘Yes,’ he nodded at her.
‘Yes I should?’
Ian nodded again but this time at his coin. ‘Said yes.’ He put it back in his bag and watched her.

So much for Ian’s moral compass! It had given the wrong answer. Why not accept a little help to get her child the best start? Why resist having more certainty? Times had moved on and it would be shooting herself in the foot not to take advantage of that. Her husband was right, she was being a luddite. Jan wrestled her writhing feelings but they filled her mouth until she had to speak. ‘It got it wrong!’ Jan blurted out as Ian shrank away from her.

Ian’s mother materialised to shake her head at Jan. ‘Don't worry about Ian's feelings, will you? The head or tails isn’t the Moral Compass’s answer. Your reaction to the head or tails is. It works every time.’

‘Oh. Yes, it got it right then. I know now. Did he…’ Jan gestured towards Ian, ‘did he understand what I meant?’
Ian looked at Jan with contempt. ‘I’m not stupid.’
‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Thank you.’

Mother and son watched Jan leave in silence. Ian sniffed and sat down. His mum offered him a tissue and put her arm around his shoulders. ‘For that stroppy madam the compass gave the right answer, Ian. She’s clearly not special enough.’