Not long after Santi came to stay with us, we discovered that Sebastion was having a tough time. We dropped by for a visit, and we noticed that the dogs were filthy, the supper dishes were empty, the fridge was bare, the sink was filled with dirty dishes, and the yard was a mess.
Sept got right to work, giving Lemon a bath.
Then, I heard the baby crying from the bedroom.
I peeked in to find to find Octy trying to calm down November.
“It’s OK, Novy! Pops will be right in. What do you need?”
November began screaming.
“It’s OK, Novy!” Octy said. “I know how to calm you down!”
He began singing a Vingihoplo nursery rhyme to her.
Baby November smiled and hummed along.
“I bet she’s hungry.” I turned to find Sept standing in the doorway.
A moment later, he brought in a bottle and fed his little sister.
Then he rocked her, and he sang, too.
“Star brother, brother-star.
My house was on fire!
Hear me brother-star,
I have a new house.”
“Sept, what kind of a song is that?” I asked, after he set the drowsy baby back in her bassinet. “It’s kind of scary. Is it traditional?”
He laughed. “Oh, no! It’s a Manny song. I think it’s the first one I heard him sing, actually. That’s funny. I haven’t thought of that song in ages. I guess it just popped into my head.”
I began to worry a few days later when I stopped by and found Sebastion standing over the bassinet while November hollered.
“Need some help, Seb?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he replied. “Just maybe a new life.”
He looked exhausted.
I asked Sept if it was like that when Octy was a baby.
“No,” said Sept. “I think we did really well. Of course, I was there to help, so weekends, before school, and after school, I took over so Pops could get some rest or do something nice for himself. We took shifts with night-duty, too.”
We decided we needed to step in. So during the rest of November’s infancy, one or both of us would stop by for half day or all day. We’d make sure the dog bowls were filled, the yard was clean, and the fridge was stocked with healthy snacks and meals that could be reheated. And we cared for the baby.
Sometimes, Santi came along. She and Octy became quick friends. He started teaching her our language, and she helped him with his Vingihoplo.
I enjoyed listening to their conversations so I could work on my Vingihoplo, too.
“Hey, after we eat, we’ll play, OK? Naa poppokē!”
“Naa poppoze,” Santi corrected. She had learned the modern form, which doesn’t conjugate verbs for person, only tense.
“Poppokē!” Sept shouted back from the kitchen. Sept, who’d learned both the modern and the archaic forms, insisted on the archaic. It was what the rebels spoke.
“We will play!” shouted Octy.
“Play,” said Santi. “We eat, we play.”
I felt thrilled to hear her speak in my home language. I began to hope that one day, we’d each be fluent enough in each other’s languages that we’d be able to speak freely, without hesitation. I figured it would take a few years, but I was willing to be patient for that treat. In the meantime, we’d share our feelings through music, dance, and the light of our eyes.
I loved it when it was my shift to care for November. I loved to hold her. She used to look at me with laughing eyes, and she would hum while I rocked her.
Once, I caught a glimpse in the mirror of myself holding her. She’d turned toward me, as if to nurse, and the expression on my face was something I’d never seen before. All these mother-feelings swirled within me–it was physical, emotional, hormonal, and it was overwhelming.
More than anything, more even than my life, I wanted to give birth to a child made from me and Sept. I was sure it couldn’t be, for we were different species, and I was a naturalist: I knew that to breed, living beings needed to come from the same species.
After I put the baby to sleep, I confessed my feelings to Sebastion.
“You’re so lucky you got to have babies with Xirra and Teko.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Pregnancy ain’t for the weak, though.”
I asked him if women could carry extra-T babies.
“Not that I know,” he said. “I’ve only heard of it being men. We’ve got a bigger abdominal cavity–no womb to get in the way!” He laughed. “You know, they’re not really mine, that is, they’re not made from me. I was just the incubator–the surrogate–for Xirra and Teko’s embryos. They don’t have any of my genes.”
“Nope. They’re sort of like clones of their moms.”
He explained the technology of self-fertilization. After the procedure, the ovules are held in storage until they can be placed inside a host, a living incubator, and then, they become embryos and are born.
“But where? How do they come out?” I asked.
He tried not to look too embarrassed. “They make a little incision in the abdomen. When the baby’s ready, the infant’s hormones open the incision from the inside, and the baby comes out.”
“Oh. So it’s like a C-section.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Does it hurt?”
“Heck, yeah!” he said. “I healed up really quick with Octy, but I don’t know if it’s because November is my second or if it’s because she’s a girl, or what, but it’s taking forever to heal this time.”
“I wish Sept and I could have a baby,” I said. “Even if it were genetically all Sept’s, and I just carried it, like you carried yours. I’d love to be his incubator.”
“You could adopt an infant,” Seb said.
“Yeah. We probably will.”
He heard the disappointment in my voice.
“Tell ya what,” he said. “Let me ask my baby-mommas! They’ve got some radical genetic technology, and if there are any options at all, Teko and Xirra will know.”
“Thanks, Seb.” I loved the way his face beamed when he said Teko and Xirra’s names. I could tell that he was so proud of them. We hadn’t yet met Teko, but we’d heard she was a high-level environmental scientist–an eco-warrior for the rebels–and Xirra was a powerful leader. It was funny to me to think of Sebastion, humble, modest Seb, as the man they chose to bear and raise their children. But then, he did a remarkable job with Sept, and perhaps they thought it an honor that Sept’s bizaabgotojo would be pops to their children.
As for me, I figured that if I couldn’t be a birth-mom, I could at least be the best bizaabgotojo to Santi I could be. And I’d do my darnedest to be a good auntie–or big sister-in-law–to November and Octavius, too.