Boundaries Of Reproduction

Entry by: Wren

8th December 2017
Our Little Bundle

Mike caught the barmaid’s eye and ordered a pint of bitter. ‘What’s your poison?’
Terry sighed. ‘Just an orange juice for me.’
‘What, on a Friday night?’
‘I’ve been off booze for a month. Got an appointment with Our Little Bundle tomorrow. I’m on their pre-conception diet plan. Pain in the neck.’
'Whey-hey! Having a go on a Girly-bot are you?’
‘No, you have to pay extra for that. I expect they’ll give me a plastic cup and a dirty mag. Anyway, Stan tried it. Said it was like being molested by the Hoover.’
‘Yeah, Stan would be up for that. Everything has to be top of the range for him, even when their harvesting his sperm.’ Mike supped an inch of his pint. ‘Still, I hear the conception was successful. Baby’s due in a couple of weeks, I think.’
Terry sucked on his straw and grimaced. ‘Yeah, Val’s visiting Rosemary tonight to see how things have gone.’


Val nearly choked on her Chardonnay. ‘What on earth’s that noise?’
Rosemary laughed, ‘Oh it’s the Mummy-bot. She’s singing to the foetus in Mandarin. It’s a bit of a racket, I know.’
Now that her eggs had been harvested, Val was really enjoying her first drink in over a month. ‘Oh, so you went for the pre-natal education package?’
‘Yes, it sings lullabies in three languages in the evening, teaches arithmetic in the morning and behavioural psychology in the afternoon.’
‘Good choices. I hear the Watsons opted for Law and Sociology and now their ten year-old is suing them for child abuse because they limited his time on the X-box.’
‘Oh Lord!’ Rosemary chortled. ‘Whatever next?’
‘So how have you found the Mummy-bot? We haven’t chosen our model yet.’
‘Oh you have to get the best. I mean nothing is more important is it? Although even the counter-top model is better than the things our poor mothers had to put up with.’
‘I know. Puking up for the first trimester, then lumbering around like an elephant dressed in a marquee.’
Rosemary was turning red in the face her shoulder were heaving, ‘Yes, and Heaven knows what kind of carnage you might be left with downstairs by the time they’d finished with you.'

After they’d dried their eyes. Val launched into more gossip. ‘Did you hear about Sissy Adams?’
‘I heard the birth didn’t go well. What happened to the poor dear?’
‘Apparently, she bought a second-hand Mummy-bot down the market.’
‘Oh no, really?’
‘It malfunctioned after six months. Just shut down completely. So she phoned for an engineer, but they couldn’t come out until the next day.’
‘No. What on earth did she do?’
‘They told her to put the Comfy-Womb in the airing-cupboard, to keep it warm. Then she had to give it a good shake once an hour until the engineer arrived.’
‘Oh heavens. No wonder the poor mite is so small!’
‘That’s what I thought. And he hasn’t started walking yet, either.’
Rosemary topped up their glasses and they sat back to contemplate poor Sissy’s plight.
Val pressed on with her inquiries. She wished she’d brought a notebook. Who knew that motherhood was so complicated? ‘How did you choose a midwife?’
‘We went with Our Little Bundle for the midwife too. You see, all their midwives are qualified in electrical engineering. In fact on her last visit she sorted out a problem I was having with the dishwasher.’
‘Oh brilliant.’

Somewhere, in another part of the house, the Mummy-bot suddenly ceased its yodeling.
‘Oh. It’s finished singing for the night. I’ll get it down, so that you can have a look.’ She opened the living-room door and shouted. ‘Maya, could you come here, please?’
There was a whirring noise as the tubby machine rolled into the room on four fat tyres. It was about the size of a front loading washing machine, but with rounded, padded edges. It sported a rather attractive floral pattern. Through a window in the front of the machine the foetus was visible in the cloudy amniotic fluid, hanging upside down from the artificial placenta. Every now and then it twitched a leg and sloshed about the container.

‘Oh lovely, you got one with a viewing panel. He’s a lively little fellow.’
‘Yes, it’s good to keep an eye on him. Maya, tell Val you’re specification.’
‘My name is Maya.’ Val thought how comforting the machine’s soft lilting voice was. ‘I am a 4.2 Deluxe Nurture-bot manufactured by the Our Little Bundle Corporation of America. I feature a full-term removable Comfy-Womb for easy birthing. It is fitted with a wide-angle viewing window for state-of-the-art developmental monitoring by qualified medical practitioners and electrical engineers. With the daily input of nutrition and regular battery recharging, I will successfully nurture a human foetus from conception to birth. As an added feature I have been fitted with a range of educational programmes that are audible to the foetus in the Comfy-Womb to maximize pre-natal intellectual development. I am upgradable to a Nanny-bot for customers who require post-natal nurturing assistance.’

‘Thank you Maya. You can go and re-charge your batteries now.’
‘Very impressive.’ Val spoke to the robot’s retreating back.
‘Oh, Maya is a God-send. We bought the post-natal upgrade too. They just pop out the Comfy-Womb and insert a combined cradle and self-cleansing teats. You just need to pour the formula in the lid.’
‘Fantastic. But isn’t that really expensive? We were thinking about just getting a counter-top model.’
‘Oh no, don’t do that. You’ll be stuck in the house for nine months. If I want to pop out to the coffee shop, Maya comes with me. And for longer journeys we bought a ramp for the MPV. She can just roll into the back. If her batteries start running down, I just stick her lead in the cigarette lighter. Nothing could be simpler.’
‘But you and Stan have such good jobs. We just couldn’t afford it.’
‘Then opt for the credit plan, dear. You’ll have paid it off by the time the little mite’s ready for university. And think of the head start they will get. Have you chosen the sex yet? Stan wanted a boy with dark curly hair and brown eyes. I think he secretly wants to be Ryan Giggs father.’
Val giggled, ‘That’s not the relationship I’d want with Ryan.’

Just then the doorbell rang.

Rosemary knitted her brows. ‘Who could that be at this time of night?’
Val heard a short exchange in the hall before Rosemary ushered a smartly dressed young man into the living room. Rosemary held a hand to her mouth and tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Val rose from her chair to embrace her friend. ‘Rosemary, whatever is the matter?’
‘This gentleman is from Our Little Bundle. He says there is a problem with our baby.’
‘Oh no, please don’t alarm yourself. Your foetus is perfectly healthy. It’s just that when we delivered the Mummy-bot to you, there was a small oversight. I’m afraid it contained the wrong foetus.’
Val couldn’t believe her ears. ‘How on earth could that happen?’
‘Madam, you have to appreciate we are the stork to over 200 little bundles every week. A simple error with our bar-coding machine led to you receiving the embryo belonging to another couple. Fortunately, our DNA checking system has identified the error. So all is well!’ He clasped his hands in front of him and beamed a dazzling smile in their direction. ‘All we need to do is remove the foetus from your Mummy-bot and replace it with the correct one. It’s right outside. We’ve transported it here in our specially designed vehicle, the Incu-Bus.’

Rosemary was indignant. ‘Just one minute buster, I don’t know anything about this other baby. What kind of Mummy-bot was it nurtured in? Was it fed premium nutrients? Has it received a pre-natal education and, if so, what was the curriculum?’
His smile faltered and he nervously adjusted his cufflinks. ‘I’m sure that the baby was well looked after. The mother is very experienced. One of our oldest customers in fact.’ He ran a finger around his collar.
Rosemary stabbed the man in the chest with her finger. Val had never seen her so agitated. ‘I want details.’

He nodded and looked at the floor. ‘This will be the 12th child for this mother. She has successfully used the 1.2 model for the last eleven years and all her children seem to be thriving, despite the snug conditions in the family home. Given the large size of the family, you won’t be surprised to learn that the other mother opted for basic nutrition and did not buy the pre-natal education package. However, she did tell me that her other children regularly sang playground songs and, err…, football chants to their impending sibling.’
‘Football chants?’ Val caught Rosemary before she collapsed to the floor and helped her to a seat.
‘Yes, I believe they are enthusiastic Manchester City supporters.’
When Rosemary spoke again it was barely a whisper. ‘I’m not sure I want this other baby.’
‘Oh I’m afraid the law is very clear. The Artificial Human Incubation Act states that if an error is detected prior to birth, then the foetus must be returned to the genetic parents, regardless of the conditions under which the foetus was cared for. But really, the baby is very healthy and has achieved the expected stage of development at this time in the pregnancy. I have a full medical report.‘ He pulled it out of his briefcase and passed it to Rosemary. ‘We will, of course, refund you the additional cost of the premium nutrients and the pre-natal education programme.’ He reignited his smile.


Back in the pub Terry declined a fourth orange juice. He was getting heartburn. An alcohol-free beer couldn’t do any harm could it?
‘Actually, we have a bit of news on that front ourselves.’ Mike placed the drinks on the table.
‘Oh yeah? Gaia made an appointment to harvest your sperm, has she?’
‘No, Gaia’s expecting.’
Terry spluttered into his neutered pint, ‘Are you mad? Anything could happen. What about stretch-marks and the trauma of a natural birth?’
‘Oh come on. Our species has used natural childbirth for millennia. That’s how we’re both sitting here after all.’
‘You’ll be living in a cave next and riding a dinosaur to work. You did both follow a strict pre-conception diet didn’t you?’
Mike was sheepish. ‘We didn’t plan it, exactly. We got pissed one night and forgot to take precautions. But we’re both very happy about it.’
‘You want to be careful mate. It could end up with an alcohol-dependency. I don’t know how you can bear it. You can’t choose the sex or plan the colour coordination. And what about the pre-natal education?’
Mike shook his head. ‘Well, we won’t be in hock to Our Little Bundle until we’re old and grey, but, do you know, I don’t think that’s the best thing. Gaia and I think that the surprise is all part of the fun. I mean it will have all the right bits and pieces won’t it? And who wants to match their child to their handbag? As for all this pre-natal education malarkey, frankly we think it’s a load of rubbish.’

‘Well, Val and I think it’s never too early to give our child a proper start in life. You and Gaia are playing with fire, if you ask me. The way I see it, with Our Little Bundle what you’re paying for is peace of mind. Nothing can go wrong and, when you’re talking about your own flesh and blood, that’s priceless. I can’t wait to talk to Val tonight – after her chat with Rosemary, I bet she’ll back me up.’