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Went to the bookstore today, doing last minute Christmas shopping. They didn't have "The Transparent Society" by David Brin, which is supposed to be a rivetting book about privacy and accountability, and which my husband James really really wanted, so I ordered it off Amazon, and as is inevitable when visiting their seductive clutches, picked up something else as well, a book called "Mother Nature" which purports to be an analysis of learned vs. instinctive maternal behaviors.

Since I don't like kids and have no plans to have them, it's probably weird, but lately I've been obsessed with the whole question of maternal behavior. I think it's an outgrowth of my earlier feelings of wanting to do some kind of political art about abortion. In trying to take Pseudo-Manitou's excellent advice of find some a story and illustrating that, I've been gnawing the issue over in my mind for awhile, coming up with storylines, mulling them over, discarding them. There's plenty of documentation of women who are raped during wars, giving birth, and not realizing on any meaningful level that they have had a baby--they're in pain, the pain eventually stops, there's a bloody mess, they clean off the blood, get up and leave. Chimps do the same thing if they're raised without witnessing parenting by other chimps--they treat an infant like some kind of weird parasite and try to get away from it. In this country, you get girls with no sex education who go into labor in bathroom stalls--the one side calls this pre-meditated murder, but I suspect it's a lot more akin to what happens to the chimps. In many minds, these women (and possibly the chimps, for all I know!) should be punished for failing to be mothers--the notion being that they gave birth to a child, they're it's mother, and they have to take care of it. I think that's the assumption that underlies much of the abortion debate--you're it's mother, you have to take care of it.

The thing is, I don't think it works that way. Maternal behaviors are learned, in us as in chimps. Your body can get pregnant, the same way your body can get polio or the common cold or any of a number of things we'd prefer they didn't do, but the mere fact that someone's knocked you up will not turn a scared, stupid, functionally illiterate sixteen year old into a competent caregiving mother. Except that a large chunk of the populace seems to think it ought to, as if there is some kind of grace bestowed the moment a zygote divides--we actually talk about the "sanctity of motherhood" for god's sake. So I mulled this over for awhile, and decided that that was the thing that was nagging at me most, the assumption that all women are, by definition, potential mothers. I, for example, am not. Like our hypothetical chimp, I was raised in relative isolation from examples of parenting other than my own--I was an only child, had no fecund relatives, I have never changed a diaper in my life, and I have been exposed to exactly two babies for longer than thirty seconds at a stretch. (My experience is that they seem small, breakable, generate noxious odors and fluids, require constant surveillance, and cannot be reasoned with. This does not make me eager for the joy of parenthood.) I could probably learn it if I made a concerted effort, but it'd cut too much into my painting time.

So that's where I am--having decided that mothering is a skill one learns, not some state of divine grace that is bestowed promptly to all owners of a uterus--and that women don't deserve to be punished for not having this skill. And that, I think, is what I'd want any story I illustrated to be about--but the form still escapes me. I've mulled over everything from a mini-comic from the point of view of someone ignorant of all details of pregnancy (although my script immediately ran to fourteen pages and made me realize that 'mini' is just not in my vocabulary) to an episode of "Irrational Fears" with our faithful chupacabra playing battlefield midwife in the middle of war-torn Sarajevo (rejected due to lack of subtlety--because I hate it when comics stop trying to tell a story and start trying to preach a sermon, and I have no desire to turn Chu into some kind of freakish green Anti-Ziggy.) So I continue to mull. It make take months, or years, or it may never happen or I may be siezed with inspiration tonight at three AM, leap to my feet, and lunge for a pad of paper. The nice thing about being an artist is that you never know when inspiration will hit, but unfortunately, that's also the part that really sucks.

In completely, totally, and utterly unrelated news, I tripped over this at VCL the other day, and after my rant about fat animals, (and because I love Anna's work) I couldn't resist sharing this little gem.
Hopefully she won't mind...Check out the rest of her VCL gallery if you haven't ever done so, or I'll sic peeing vampire bats on you or something.


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Please.. go read her site, and talk to the woman, you and she will either fall in thick as thieves, or fight a lot, but in any case it may be entertaining.



"My experience is that they seem small, breakable, generate noxious odors and fluids, require constant surveillance, and cannot be reasoned with."

My thoughts exactly. Which is why I don't think I've EVER wanted to be a mother. The only time I played with "baby dolls" was when I was playing "the child's" not-the-mother protector. I was, unfortunately, the "Damsel in Distress" because I'd get "kidnapped" along with the "baby", but I was never the *mother*. :P (Erm, the daycare I went to at the time had watched "Willow" I think. Or at least a lot of us did.)

I remember when I transfered to my third high school and we were trying to figure out what classes to add to my schedule. The councelor suggested, "Family studies" or something, which she described was a class to teach you how to take care of kids and iron clothes and stuff. And that's actually kind of great and would be a good addition to a school's curriculum, perhaps even requirement for graduation. But my dad, knowing me so well, said, "I don't think she's interested in that." and the councelor looked at me in this horrified way and said, "You don't want KIDS?" and I was like, "NO!" I mean.. Jeebus cripes people.

"The nice thing about being an artist is that you never know when inspiration will hit, but unfortunately, that's also the part that really sucks."

Unfortunately, you are right yet again. :D

I should not check other LJs on the way to bed.

Mmmn. Sarajevo.

I can sympathize with the child thing. I want children, just not babies, and have no desire whatsoever to see something the size of a boom box (but possibly less pointy) pass between my legs.

Interesting point of view, but I still think that the average sixteen-year-old would be perfectly aware that they are killing a young, defenseless human that they took part in creating. Once it's recognizable as a child, I think that killing it is murder. At the very least, it's grave cowardice for not enlisting the help of others if the girl couldn't deal with the consequences of her decisions (like unprotected sex) on her own. Either an embryo should be destroyed long before it becomes an actual baby or not at all. But that's just my opinion.

As for Miz Anna, I doubt she'll mind at all. She's a fan of yours, after all. And everybody's a fan of hers. XP *chews on Anna-banana*

I hear you. For as long as I can remember, the idea of having kids... not only having to carry and birth a watermelon of wrinkly flesh, but also having to raise it from screeching infant onward... has turned me off. So has the idea of giving up my own interests and ambitions in favor of shopping for tiny outfits and cooking macaroni and cheese every night and driving to soccer practice three times a week. Maternal instinct is lost on me; half the time I forget to feed my fish, and it's a stretch for me to remember to toss fuzzy mice to my snake once every two weeks. I'd probably be the type of person who forgets her baby in a coffee shop or grocery store, only to later have charges pressed for negligence. "I'm sorry, officer! But I just honestly don't care about that smelly little thing, see. Is that a crime?"

Your body can get pregnant, the same way your body can get polio or the common cold or any of a number of things we'd prefer they didn't do[.]

Hah. Nice anaolgy. ;) I had a dream when I was eight or nine years old that I was pregnant, and it was one of the worst nightmares I can rememeber from that time. Ugh. Still makes me shudder to think about it...

Incidentally, you might be interested in the LJ community childfree (yes, I know, I used the user tag instead of the community tag. I can't figure out how to do the latter, and this works just as well, so there). Admittably, it's mostly people venting about dumb parents and/or their annoying kids, but it can always use more members with well-thought-out perspectives on childfreedom whenever an intelligent discussion does crop up!

Also incidentally, I realized you may not have any clue who this kattything nutball is who's been posting comments to your brand-new LiveJournal. Hi. 'tis oCe, or Amara Telgemeier, or whatever they're calling me these days. I promise I'm not some psycho stalker! Really! I just like reading what you have to say. :D

Awww...and here I was hoping for my very own psycho-stalker...*grin* No, seriously, glad to see you, and glad the ramblings are amusing.

You know, when you approach yourself to the creepy age of 30, people starts to look at you as an alien when you still haven't hatched a couple of cubs. It's annoying, really.
I'm starting to feel what's commonly called 'moterish instinct', but I'll have to ignore it, because I know perfectly what kind of parent I could be...
Most part of people still think that having a child is the only way for a woman to be a real woman, despite the fact that this woman would be an horrible mother. Who cares about the babies? they will get used...

I can somewhat understand anti-abortionist point of view. Yes, abortion isn't a good thing, and it leave very bad senses of guilt, but Hell! If you're an ignorant eighteen, and you got pregnant without almost knowing </>why</i>, and probably you'll throw away your child like an empty can on the garbage, or raise him/her through an horrible childhood and life, it wouldn't be fairier if you'd have the possibility to choose not to condamn him/her to such an horrible destiny?
Not counting the fact that, when abort will not be legal anymore, there will ever be the unofficial abortionist doctors (in italy, they're usually women called 'mammane'), that will practice their 'skill' with knitting needles, killing a good half of their patients...

I know very few women our age (20-30) with any interest in having kids, myself included. I shiver to contemplate pregnancy, childbirth, child raising, or anything associated with it.

I'm not sure how I feel about the 16 year olds who abandon their kids. On the one hand, I agree that they are not emotionally ready to take care of the kid. In fact, it would be awful for the baby to have such an incompetant guardian. On the other hand, most 16 year olds have some clue of how pregnancy and all that works, and there is help available, and adoption services.
On the third hand (bugs can do that), my dislike for babies is such that I can't care much either way.
Anyway, when are you going to draw the ever-pissing bat? :D

This is my favorite Anna pic Evar. Well, next to this one, of course. :D

I don't think Gothbat would ever forgive me if I started showing her in an adult diaper. On the other hand, that'd be a really great topic for a strip...

It would give her something to angst over, though... ;)

I think there should be some kind of licensing requirement for people to have kids. There are many people out there who are not fit to be parents, and don't realize it. And then, of course, are the women who get knocked up by guys who subsequently run away and are never heard from again, leaving the new mother to shack up with a new boyfriend who has no emotional attachment to this baby, since he didn't help create it, and then ends up shaking it in frustration one day. It's too bad we can't legislate against people like that

I'd comment from a behavioral point of view that mothering is a combination of learned skills and genetically wired behaviors... but that does not change nor deflate the point of your writings.

A comment on the mechanics of LiveJournal: When a post will run longer than a screen or so, it's considered "good form" to insert what is called a "cut tag". The reader clicks on the tag to see the rest of the journal entry, but does not need to scroll a lot to get past it later when checking others.

A basic cut tag looks like this, and produces the link "Read more...":

You can replace the "Read more" text with your own:

This is particularly useful if you are inserting an image on the page, and are a popular user. Popular you certainly are, and you have images a'plenty. (Links are less of an issue here.)

I hope you're well this morning. Best wishes.

===|==============/ Level Head

Arrgh. I double-checked with "preview" to make sure the cut tags would show up. But they do not in the final post, anyway.

All right; replace the braces with angle brackets for these:
Basic: {lj-cut}
Replaced text: {lj-cut text="And now, the rest of the story"}

===|==============/ Level Head

No problem--I was aware of the tags, but not how the etiquette worked. I'll endeavor to chopify in the future--courtesy in all things!

If there is anything that it is not objectionable to have a large quantity of, it is your work.

But not everyone might have the same taste. Or crunchiness. ];)

===|==============/ Level Head

Certainly if you KNOW you're going on and on, you should cut-tag. I was not aware it was the LJ equivilant of SHOUTING (all caps writing), however. Also, you should remember that "one screen or so" for Person A might only be a half screen for Person B, so there you go.

...can you imagine Leona and I raising a child. By the age of seven, by my estimation- we’d either mentally drive the child crazed up a clock tower with an arsenal, or shove so much mental frustration down the kid’s throat without even knowing it- the rugrat's head would pop, taking out several innocent civilians in the process. Either way, it would be tragedy worthy of the 6 o’clock news.

No. Leona and myself will stick to cats... pathetic as it sounds- it’s just safer for everyone.

We'll stick to cats, and dogs, and cows, and horses, and pygmy goats, and fish, and birds, and donkeys, and alpacas...

I have a maternal instinct, just not for human babies. *grins*
Bring on the menagerie! I don't know if that is spelled correctly but I've been awake over 24 hours. So I don't care.


If you are interested in some of the basis of women instantly being capable mothers when having a child you might want to look into Victorian era America. I read a book a long time ago called something like "Light of the Home" and it was about all the facets of life for women in Victorian America. There is a whole section dubbed "the Cult of Motherhood" that may interest you. This may be it, but as a reprint. I'm really not sure.

Personally, I think people need a test to become parents, but then I'm not one for imposing lots of rules. I don't think you should have a kid because you physically can or "oops". :P

I am beginning to realize that being a mom and a contributing member of the art and fantasy community is a very rare thing. I am a fifth generation only child and my daughter is a sixth. (Tubal ligation is a wonderful thing.) I am also a concept artist for a MMO and an illustrator for (currently) three publishers. You CAN be a parent and an artist at the same time.

I do also understand the concept of veiwing babies as rug larvae. Heaven knows I thought that until after I turned 30. No, it isn't natural to want to have a parasite living inside. Yes, it is flat no-holes-barred terrifying to think you will lose self and be consumed by this alien and all it's needs. (Babies are need machines!) However, personally (and before I get jumped on for this, I mean *personally*) I don't think I could have ever experienced offering unconditional love until I had a child. Love with an adult means give and take. Love given to a baby is without hope of immediate return. However, it is also some seriously powerful mojo.

As far as the 16 year old mom is concerned, the travesty is blatantly apparent and does not need to be chewed on further. We all know it sucks, why it sucks and have a pretty good idea on all the folks that are hurt by it. Nuff said.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is the apparent assumption that any woman who becomes pregnant without intent should have "done something to prevent it".
Why is it assumed that she didn't? Birth control of any kind (at least the non-permanent sorts) is not 100% effective. It can fail. What if the poor girl did everything she was supposed to & still got pregnant? (I've seen it happen)
Then there are the health risks of most forms of birth control, that seem to get worse as the prevention gets more reliable. Who has the right to tell a woman she has to take those risks with her own health and life?
I'm sure as hell not going to!

I'm one of those wierd type of people who WANT children ^_^;; Yeah, I'm wierd, and I'm proud of it. And I'm only 14. Wee. Go me!...I don't plan on having sex til marriage though. Go me!

Singing my own praises. Weehee. This is fun. And there's a mass murderer standing outside my door with a machete...Excuse me while I go get slaughtered...

One of the characters in Tepper's Gibbon's Decline and Fall (if I'm remembering my Tepper correctly) is a girl who is raped in an alley, gets pregnant, gives birth in the same alley, and walks away again -- who knew it couldn't be an actual baby, because babies come with "the stuff", the diapers, blankets, furniture, bottles, and all that, and a blood-covered lump of human-shaped flesh couldn't possibly be a baby. Like you said -- chimps.

And that's the rough part about being a writer too, as far as I can judge. The tricky bit being the occasional need to slog through even though the Muse isn't beating one about the head and shoulders to put down the latest blinding insight. . . sigh. (Why yes, I am failing to make progress on the novel.)

I feel the same way

Babies worry me. My fiancees' mother handed me her baby niece once and I just sat there with arms outstretched until his aunt rescued me. My biggest fear is dropping one because then you're in for it!!

I do believe that teenagers who have kids have that flight or fight syndrome, and it definetely kicks up when you're 16, your boyfriend probably ditched you, and your parents are gonna kill you. We can all be pushed into doing things that are wrong when we are scared. I personally can't imagine anything scarier than being totally responsible for the life of a creature that is completely helpless.

Humans aren't the only ones who feel this as Ursula has pointed out. I've seen many a broodmare (maiden mares who have never had a foal)"cross their legs" to the point where they can no longer hold the foal in. When they finally do give birth they look behind them in stark terror and highttail it to the other end of the corral. Most of these mares are show horses who are taken from their own mothers at an early age, and haven't yet observed normal bonding/herd behavior. (just like Ursula's chimp observation) I believe maternal 'instincts' kick in when you're prepared, and when you know what is happening to you. When you understand "That is MY baby" instead of "OMG what do I do, what do I DOOO?"

I have always wondered if a mothers' protection instincts are the same for humans as they are for animals. If a mother has more than one offspring, and they get into a situation where the mother can save only one child. Who would she choose? Would she be like most animals and choose the one she believes would be the best able to survive in the world, or would she choose the underdog?

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