I thought that coming to Peru would soften my views on babies and young children. I thought, being surrounded by the little ankle biters, I would find that really I actually adore them, or even somewhat enjoy being in near proximity to them. No such luck, I'm afraid - if anything I now loathe them more. It's very similiar to the beggar situation - in concept I feel great compassion and altruistic sensations towards them - but in practice when I've got one whinging and tugging on my arm, my hand just tingles to administer a much-deserved slap round the chops. I think it's the sheer volume of babies and young children over here that really get to me. Bored, unwanted, unplanned-for, snot-nosed, hungry little kids hang around town begging all day. Vacant-eyed pregnant women with a baby on the tit and a toddler on the lap implore you to donate cash for their plight. I'd gladly give them a handful of condoms, but they'd only sell them in the market. Basically, in Peru the Catholic population simply accepts children as inevitable products of sexual union, never something to plan for, but as something that just happens. Hello? This is how women lived for thousands of years when we had no choice. Peruvians ladies, take note, the pill is free from doctors and costs only 8 soles (just over a quid) in the pharmacy! Why do even normal, educated, middle-class women here still believe themselves to be baby machines? The children I know here, my little nieces and nephews, are very much loved, but seem to vary from badly disciplined to totally out-of-control. Why? Because no Peruvian couple ever sits down and says "Hey, let's plan for a baby. How do you think we should raise it? What are your beliefs? Do we have enough money? Let's research this." No, the woman suddenly cries "Shit! I'm pregnant! We have to get married now and live with my parents!" and the man agrees out of a sense of duty, and resents her for trapping him forever after.
But there are plentious other reasons why I hate babies:
1) They often look like fat little slugs and they get horrible spotty rashes
2) They have no sense of danger (ie. they will totally ignore when you tell them not to climb the stairs, but when the smash their face in when they fall down you'll have to bend over backwards to comfort them)
3) They scream random syllables at the top of their lungs for hours on end ("MAAAMAAAPAPAPIOOPIO")
4) They won't let you do ANYTHING in piece (ie. if you are reading they will drag the book out of your hand and chuck it on the floor repeatedly, and for no apparent reason)
5) Everyone assumes that I, as a woman, am crazy about babies and constantly thrust their little bundles of poopiness into my unwilling arms where I have to jostle them about and coo and hang them upside down to make them smile... when I'd really, really, truly rather not.
The burning question of the moment, since I'm getting married shortly is: And when will you be having babies?
And the answer is when, and if, we are ever bloody ready to - and not one minute before that - so don't hold your breath!!!