Tomo and Brad are having a baby. That is the correct terminology among liberal, upper middle class couples in the United States, where having a baby is a scrupulously planned, much anticipated, and widely shared event. Tomo and Brad are two of the three owners of Bikram Boston, a trio of yoga studies that offer upwards of twenty yoga classes a day at a cost of up to $22 per class. They teach yoga, they take yoga, they are healthy and vital, engaging new-age entrepreneurs. Tomo, a slight woman from Japan, and Brad, an alum of the University of Colorado with all the hip good naturedness that implies, have been married for several years.
Right now Tomo is at 25 weeks. Brad teaches the Sunday morning class I attend and has a penchant for inserting personal revelation into his dialogue. These days that means a baby update at some point in the class. We all know it’s a boy, that Tomo craves seaweed, and that Brad likes to rest his ear against her tiny swell of a belly. His excitement and pride is palpable.
Tomo teaches on Saturday mornings, and though she also infuses her class with personal vignettes, hers is a more acerbic humor. She tells us things like, “Here is my status report. I can no longer reach down and tie my shoes.”
We regulars enjoy hearing about the baby. At check-in and check-out, when I see them one on one, I inquire how Tomo is feeling, whether her family from Japan will come when the baby is born, and their move to a larger condo in South Boston. The entire Bikram Boston community has a vested interest in this baby.
When I am in Haiti, every day I walk from the orphanage to the MoHI School. Near the base of the dirt road is a collection of a dozen or so houses, some concrete, others just sticks and tarps. One woman sits in front of a woven platter of packaged snacks for sale, though I have never actually seen her sell one. The rest of the women squat on their stoops and chat. There are many children; I do not know which belongs to whom.
Two of houses share a narrow exterior gallery, no more than three feet wide, with a covered roof. One woman sits there, absorbing whatever draft filters through the space. She is silent, never acknowledging my ‘Bon Soir’ as I pass. Children clamor over her hugely pregnant belly as if she were a rock, some obstacle to their merriment. Sometimes another woman occupies the passage with her, equally mute.
One day when I walked down the hill, the woman was not sitting in her space; she was standing along the side of the road with her hands clasped tight and high on the trunk of a flimsy tree, her hips shot out behind, her belly hanging free. She swayed imperceptivity as the breeze, her eyes blank, teetering with fear. I did not speak to her; her body language announced her private agony, as if trying to rid herself of the burden of her belly.
In a few months, if all goes well, Tomo and Brad will be parents. A child will be welcome into this world, surrounded by love and a community of avid supporters. We will follow the little tyke through his first steps and his first tooth and where he goes to kindergarten. We will hear about his birthday parties and his first sleep over, the agony of middle school and every trophy he earns in high school. He will be nurtured for twenty years or more, given every opportunity to become as fully formed as his potential allows.
In a few weeks, if all goes well, a baby will be born in Haiti to a silent mother with no evidence of a father. The burden of her belly will be shifted to her breast. She will nurse it as long as she can, then find food for it as best she can, until it is big enough to let roam on its own, another face in the hordes of children of Haiti.
How we enter this world is the most arbitrary fact of life.