Why a Low Birthrate
An immigrant in a Man’s World / Why the Birth Rate is Low
I applied after years of observation in a co-ed public school,
and flew into the world of sexual freedom on the birth control pill.
I revelled in my new land: sex without pregnancy and equal pay;
I had found where I wanted to live.
I honoured my origins with makeup,
with my bra and boots as flag, I declared my background
in this new land I loved.
Then the man who supported his wife spoke to the
“rising young man” who supported his wife
in a language I didn’t understand, and wasn’t supposed to hear.
But this was my place; I had earned my way and arrived here
and I belonged, I insisted.
Then my birthright called, and called.
I decided to see if a child would come
while I stayed in this world
of old men and “rising young men”
(and women who knew their places).
It was a slow gestation and a hard birth.
Women whispered to me and men looked away.
The wives who were supported accused me
of inadequacies, and the old men
reminded me that I had to keep up
to the men who had wives who succoured them.
I had friends and a good mate, but it was a hard land,
a hard time and place, living as a stowaway in a man’s world,
too tired and busy to organize a union with the other stowaways,
to have our citizenship in the world of work
recognized, and our needs as parents honoured.
The nanny was not a wife, good to my daughter
but leaving for her life when I arrived home.
My mate was there, and helped, but we both
I was the mother, with all that had meant
before I’d emigrated
to the man’s world.
So I became neither and both, a mother
living in a man-shaped world –
watching a meeting while breastfeeding,
watching the man who supported his wife scheduling
to help another man who supported his wife,
ignoring my mothering needs requests.
both mother and job-holder,
but blocked the chance
of another child.