The Art of Waiting

From Orion Magazine:

ArtMy name is called, and a doctor I’ve never met performs a scan of my ovaries. I take notes in a blank book I’ve filled with four-leaf clovers found on my river walks: Two follicles? Three? Chance of success 15–18 percent. On the way out, I steal the journal with the monkey on the cover. Back home, under the canopy of oak and hickory trees, I open the car door and sound rushes in, louder after its absence. Cicada song—thousands and thousands of males contracting their internal membranes so that each might find his mate. In Tennessee it gets so bad that a man calls 911 to complain because he thinks it’s someone operating machinery.

A FEW DAYS LATER, I visit the North Carolina Zoo, where Jamani, the pregnant gorilla, seems unaware of the dozens of extra visitors who have come to see her each day since the announcement of her condition. She shares an enclosure with Acacia, a socially dominant but somewhat petite sixteen-year-old female, and Nkosi, a twenty-year-old, 410-pound male. The breeding of captive lowland gorillas is managed by a Species Survival Plan that aims to ensure genetic diversity among captive members of a species. That means adult female gorillas are given birth control pills—the same kind humans take—until genetic testing recommends them for breeding with a male of the same species. Even after clearance, it can take months or years for captive gorillas to conceive. Some never do. Humans have a long history of imposing various forms of birth control and reproductive technologies on animals, breeding some and sterilizing others. In recent years, we’ve even administered advanced fertility treatments to endangered captive animals like giant pandas and lowland gorillas. These measures, both high- and low-tech, have come to feel as routine as the management of our own reproduction. We feel responsible when we spay and neuter our cats and dogs, proud when our local zoos release photos of baby animals born of luck and science.

More here.