THE COMMON CUCKOO
Samuel Patterson Stoddard
The average age of a mother bearing her first child is 24.9. Taking into account socio-economic factors, having children at the ages of 26, 29 and 32 will allow for optimal development of the mother and infant.
You knew this! Your wife knew this! You were young and in love! There was no rush! You were not ready.
45% of all pregnancies are unplanned.
You learned in high-school Health that broad-spectrum antibiotics can reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of most forms of oral contraception. You thought this was common knowledge—you were wrong.
Studies have found that in 10% of cases, “unplanned” is a misnomer.
That is not you! That is not your wife! Those are other people!
After the birth, a mother experiences an emotional bond to the infant within two minutes. This is not a conscious decision. It is a biological mechanism.
She asks you if you want to hold him. You decline. She tells you that he won’t break. You take him. Reluctantly.
Emotional bonding for fathers generally takes a few hours or days. In some cases, it can take longer. Genetics plays a role in this process. A newborn baby looks most like his father to help facilitate this.
He seems heavier than eight pounds, seven ounces, but that’s what the scale reads. He lets out a small yelp, and you hand him back to his mother. It doesn’t feel right—he doesn’t feel right.
Infants do not have sufficient physical senses to determine genetic proximity. They form emotional bonds based on hard-wired cues given by their caregivers. This is why the emotional bonding of the parent is so important.
You have brown eyes. She has green. This is not proof. The blue eye-color is a recessive trait, and up to 25% of children in your pairing may have had blue eyes. One out of four. Flip heads twice in a row. These are the same odds—this is not proof.
You pick up your son and he begins to cry. At three months old he can smile and laugh, but he will do neither for you. You hold him like you were taught: cradle his head; gently rock him. You sing the songs your mother sang to you: Rock-a-bye Baby; Little Bo Peep. Still, he cries.
A baby is asleep for between sixteen and twenty hours a day. These are not in a row, but in spurts ranging from an hour to two.
You give him to his mother, and he is silent. In two minutes he’s fast asleep. She strokes his head and smiles at you. She mouths the words, “I love you.”
The cost of raising a child can easily run upwards of ten thousand dollars in the first year alone. The toll on resources isn’t unique to humans–any species that rears its own young is severely disadvantaged when it has offspring.
She tells you it will be all right. She says you have enough in savings, and that her parents can babysit. She says these things happen for a reason.
Several species of birds have devised a clever way to turn this natural determent to their advantage. They engage in “brood parasitism”–leaving their eggs in the nests of other species: the Shiny Cowbird; the Black-headed Duck; the Common Cuckoo.
Your wife lets him sleep in your bed. She used to roll and kick, waking you up. Now she is a stone, steady and unmoving.
In extreme cases, emotional bonding can take up to a year. It is not a conscious decision—it is a biological anomaly.
You wonder if somewhere out there is a man who now rises at night, from the slightest sound, and doesn’t know why.
A married woman with multiple partners is more than four times as likely to become pregnant in the course of a year. There is a 75% chance that the child will not be that of the spouse.
You look at your calendar from last year. You check the dates nine months previous and circle every day you were out of town and every night you were away from her. You spent twenty-one evenings with her. On nine she was alone. This is not proof!
E-mail accounts are not difficult to get into. Most people will either leave them open, or have passwords that are easy to guess. Birthdays are popular, as are sports teams and pet names. Many people use a word plus the year of their birth or current age to meet security requirements and keep them easy to remember. Most websites will allow up to fifteen failed attempts before locking an account.
Your wife always loved the Steelers. She was born in 1987. Her birthday is May 27th. She is twenty-two years old. Her cat’s name is Ruby.
You find chain letters, recipes for pot roast, and daily news updates. E-mails can be deleted—this is not proof.
Hospitals have procedures to ensure infants are given to the correct parents. Despite recent advances, it is estimated that thirty-six hundred children in the U.S. are given to the wrong parents every year. That's ten a day.
Your mother says he looks like you. She says he has your cheeks and your nose. 68% of human noses have an angle between twenty-eight and thirty-seven degrees. The baby's is thirty-two. Yours is forty-one—this is not proof.
Modern over-the-counter paternity tests are only 99.9% accurate. This is important to remember. For every thousand tests performed, one person will not be given the correct results. A second test sent to a second lab will reduce the error rate to one in a million. A third, one in a billion.
You should be happy with the test results. They tell you there is nothing to worry about! The baby is yours—they try and tell you that it is a fact.
Paternity tests are most accurate when they are determining impossible parentage. A brother will usually share 50% of his DNA with any of his siblings. A positive test result does not convey parentage, only a genetic similarity.
You have three brothers. One lives in London, one in Los Angeles. But the third one? He has a 2% chance of being the father. Flip heads six times in a row. These are the same odds. This is not proof....
Over time, babies slowly lose their resemblance to their fathers. After the emotional bonding takes place, they are free to develop their own facial characteristics, their own identity.
Long after your wife has gone to bed, you stare at the little cuckoo in his crib, afraid that he isn’t yours; afraid that he is.
fiction poetry "fact" photography