Children Never Born


Children never born,

Come up and whisper in my ear.

They sit under Christmas trees

Holding gaily wrapped presents.


I see them riding carousels,

Laughing as they chase lightning bugs.

In their trick or treat costumes

Eyes wide with wonder.


Children never born,

I hold them in my arms

Feel their warm breath,

As I weep for the future.


By Peggy Wheeler (Baker)


Silent Nursery

There is a small cluster of farms in the heart of America where it is neither very hot nor very cold nor very close to the sea.  Here people have lived for centuries, tilled the soil, educated their children and loved their ancient traditions.  Plain traditions they are with nothing flashy or intense. 

Children played on the farms, where every tool is placed with sharp edge down, every building built strong and regularly inspected to make it child safe, every meal served fresh and wholesome.  There was a pony and cart for the children, both local and those returning with the extended families for reunions.  The pony had been chosen with meticulous care as gentle and reliable.  There are orchards and crops and livestock.  The seasons follow each other with benign predictability and so predictably the children flourished, learned, matured and either moved away to join the westward expansion or to enter professions in the great cities.  Why should it not be true?  Why should there not always be children to laugh and play?  Why should they not bring joy generation after generation forever and forever?

The land like a good school marm is demanding but fair.  It does not pour out an excess of food in return for occasional hired sweat.  It only responds to endless hard work undertaken with planning and endless care.  Then and only then it repays with sufficiency and more.  Over the years this stern school mistress has drilled into the families sturdiness and independence.  It has made them patient and honest.  For centuries the major recreation after the long hours of toil has been reading; these are bookish people. 

Socializing there has centered around a church built of local field stones.  Once there was a cedar grove near the church.  There a farmer’s daughter met a visiting young minister, and it was in the grove that he proposed to her.  Years later when the grove was taken down be bought lumber and built her a cedar chest finished with care and craftsmanship unsurpassed by any professional cabinetmaker.  From a rich family, he adopted their self reliance and their appreciation of the beauty of a thing that was simple but well done. 

But things changed.  Families grew smaller.  Few moved away any longer.  There was less laughter.  There were fewer occasions to think about children. 

At last there was another reunion.  Relatives came from all over the country to share food and memories and to look at family heirlooms such as the uniform of a Civil War cavalry officer and his letters home right up to the final battle of Appomattox.  The handwriting was plain and functional, still legible after more than one hundred forty years. 

There was fun.  There were expeditions and meals.  There was a church service.  There was driving among lush fields which modern care still kept fertile.  There were grandmothers and maiden aunts and plump uncles from distant twigs of the family tree unhardened who had not farmed.  There were dozens of gentle kinfolk.  And there was a little boy.  He had come hoping, as children will, to play with others his own age.  But of all the crowd, there were only two younger than fifteen.  The other was a babe in arms. 

He was an only child.  He was an only first cousin.  He was an only second cousin and there was neither third cousin of appropriate gender nor fourth cousin of appropriate age if some day he should wish to marry a cousin.  The proof was evident at a glance.  There might be a fifth cousin somewhere but finding her would require a miracle.  And if he married a sixth cousin or anyone else in the world, about the best he could hope for would be another only child. 

Nurseries are falling silent all over the world.  The only child is usual.  Those sweet farms are not a distillation of catastrophes that have happened in a score of different places.  The whole tragedy has been replicated times too numerous to count.  It is worse but less visible in towns and cities.  Unless an effort of cooperation that has no precedent in history is made, the developed world – America, Europe, Japan, Brazil and about half the other countries in the world – have no future and the rest of the world is but a generation or two behind. 

The brutal facts explaining why so many couples have no babies are laid out on a website with the brutal name of To learn more, click on the name.  The easiest summary just now is probably a lecture given to a science fiction club explaining why there is no extraterrestrial civilization we know of.  Click on the link for October 26, 2009

M. Linton Herbert MD