"It's a Boy!"

Merriam-Webster English Dictionary:

parasite(n): 'par-&-"sIt: [ ... ] 3 : something that resembles a biological parasite in dependence on something else for existence or support without making a useful or adequate return

The parasite infests its host.

It starts its life as a small, barely noticeable bundle of cells, but its effects are already being felt. Biochemical changes affect the host's body; resources are diverted to the parasite as it uses its insidious influence to make the host provide it with an ideal environment for its growth.

And that growth occurs rapidly. Within hours it has doubled in size, [exhausted parents...] then it doubles again -- and again. Exponential growth can't continue forever, but while it does the parasite consumes ever-larger amounts of its host's energy and food resources.

As it grows it also causes further biochemical changes. The host becomes sick, with some days beginning with uncontrollable vomiting. Skin rashes, hot flushes and nausea plague the host. Hormonal changes make her crave bizarre food combinations that ordinary, uninfested humans would never think of eating.

Many of these symptoms continue for months. Other symptoms set-in too: Muscle soreness and joint pain, for example. Some effects are permanent, too -- Others have the potential to act as triggers for conditions which may adversely affect the host's later life, many years after she has overcome her parasitic infestation.

Some of the hormonal changes it triggers have more subtle effects. A normal human reaction to a parasite is to attempt to expel it, kill it, destroy it. However, psychological changes triggered by hormone release stimulated by this one make her want to actually *care* for it. Trained medical staff who might attempt to cure her suffering by poisoning or removing the parasite are greeted with violent hostility, a situation unique in the range of human experiences: A disease that makes you want to keep it, rather than cure it!

Cognitive dissonance sets in: One moment she'll be complaining about physiological changes which have made her life almost intolerably difficult, describing the aches and pains, sickness, wierd itches and loss of functionality; The next moment she'll be extolling the virtues of these "interesting" new experiences. If you believe her descriptions of things, it's actually *nice* to feel sick, sore, hungry and exhausted.

Growth continues. The host must consume ever larger quantities of food -- In return she gets ever-smaller amounts of benefit from it, as the parasite steals the food from her body. Its growth makes her body bulge outwardly, stretching her skin tight and paper-thin. As the animal within her gets stronger it kicks and punches at the inside of her body, further stretching her flesh, its violence disturbing her sleep and distracting her from normal human activities. She tells everyone who will listen that it's a "unique" experience that she's enjoying -- But we don't believe her, do we? We know she's just echoing something akin to a bizarre post-hypnotic suggestion placed in her mind by the chemical triggers implanted by the parasite.

[a picture of a somewhat blotchy baby]Finally, after many months of monotonically-increasing suffering, the parasite enters the next phase of its life-cycle: It is finished with this host, and must now leave to reproduce, to infect other humans with its offspring. In a scene reminiscent of some of the more nauseating parts of "Alien," it bursts forth from her tired and tattered body, while she, grateful to finally be rid of it, pushes it out with all her remaining reserves of strength.

Sobbing, exhausted, wracked with pain, high on endorphins, she gazes down at the parasite that has infested her for nearly a year: Except we can't call it a parasite anymore, at least, not until it's a teenager.

His name is "Sebastian."

Sebastian was born at 9:26pm on Tuesday June 16th after a six hour labour. It was a water birth, attended by a midwife (who carried out her duties knowledgably and efficiently), Crispin (who was a bit confused and helpless), and, of course, Kirsten.

Kirsten was in the loungeroom of the house she shares with Crispin, in a bathtub filled with warm water. Sebastian took his first breath a few moments after leaving the womb when his face broke the surface of the water. He didn't cry.

Crispin reports: "I didn't know if he was alright when he didn't cry. I kept telling myself, `The midwife looks relaxed, so it must be ok. The midwife looks relaxed, so it must be ok.'" He felt a bit out of it and wasn't sure what he was doing, so the umbilical cord wasn't cut for many minutes -- The midwife thought he was going to do it, he thought the opposite.

Sebastian was lifted up to have his gender confirmed: With this crushing first onslaught of society's sexual stereotypes his calm composure broke and he cried for the first time.

He seems to take after his father: Not only does he share some aspects of physical appearance, but he seems to be happiest when he's sucking one of someone else's body parts in his mouth, and he doesn't much care [a picture of dad with his new son]about the gender of the body part's owner, which part he's sucking, or whether he's met the body part's owner before. I think he's going to grow up to be a tenor.

He would have to be the quietest baby I've ever seen. He whinges a bit when he needs his nappy changed, but other than that the only thing you hear from him is contented gurgles. Some babies cry when they're hungry, cold, hot, sick, or whatever; Sebastian just grunts a bit and uses facial expression to convey the exact meaning of the grunt. Crispin and Kirsten have been progressively narrowing down the meaning of each expression by trial and error, so he's coming to understand that his needs can be met without the squalling and screaming some babies inflict on their parents. My visit lasted six hours and he didn't cry once throughout that time; Crispin indicates that that's in no way unusual.

Consequently, both parents are getting reasonable amounts of sleep, something that's almost unheard of among new parents. Sebastian sleeps in his parents bed, so they are almost at the point where they can assist him with breastfeeding without waking fully. Experience relayed to them by other parents indicates that those skills will only improve, to the point where they'll be able to feed him at night without noticing what's happening, possibly without even remembering they've done it when they wake up in the morning.

I was in Perth from Saturday 20th June 'til Friday 26th June. I visited [a picture of Perth's Swan River]Crispin and Kirsten on the Saturday, when Sebastian was four days old. They weren't calling him Sebastian then, mind you: He was still "Wiggle," because they hadn't settled on a name. Crispin asked me what I thought of "Sebastian Nicholas" mid-way through the afternoon, and I get the feeling the baby would have ended up with a different name if I raised an objection to it; I feel quite honoured to have been asked for input on such an important matter.

While in Perth I also visited an ex-flatmate of Crispin from when he first moved to WA. Mike said, "Yeah! When I first heard that Crispin was going to be a father the first thing I thought was, `Unbelievable. He's with a *girl!*'" And it's true: The 1998 Crispin is a far cry from the Crunch we knew when he lived in Adelaide. Gone are the heady days of TDI, with their implications of sexual promiscuity, "relaxed" preferences, devil-may-care irresponsibility, drunken orgies, that silly squashed-up grinning expression he wears on his face when he's high, and all-night [Hasn't he changed?]partying. Crispin in 1998 is monogomous. He truly cares about life insurance and superannuation. He hands out business cards, and lusts after job titles which include the word "Manager." He thinks about five-year-plans. He hasn't worn a sequined jacket to work since 1995. He uses Microsoft products. An ignorant observer could be forgiven for thinking his spirit had been broken, but those who know him better understand that it has merely been turned to new directions.

While observing him picking up a folded nappy from his bedroom floor and placing it in a cupboard:

"Having a baby really changes things. Soon I'll even be keeping my room tidy."
[ pause, while he observes me casting my eyes about the pristene room ]
"This is the third time I've cleaned this room in the last 24 hours. Shit!"
The concept of Crispin changing a dirty nappy is difficult to visualize, and must be seen to be believed.

Of course, Sebastian won't get a conservative upbringing, no matter how down-to-earth his father has recently become: There are hoards of PUCSters and FUCSters who will *literally* drag Crispin over the coals at the slightest hint of hypocrisy. We're all committed to making sure that Sebastian repeats his father's mistakes if he wants to -- And enjoys every minute of it. Kirsten seems to count herself among this group of concerned onlookers too.

The signs at present are that there's no chance of Sebastian having a boring childhood anyway: His life has been unconventional from the start. From the water birth to the fact that his parents spent so much time fussing over him that he wasn't actually named until four days after he was born, Crispin and Kirsten seem committed to enriching his life at the expense of the conventions that society would otherwise wish to impose.

To be truthful, I don't think I've ever seen a pair of parents more committed to that ideal. The concept of choristers having children seems scary at first, especially when one considers that one of the choristers involved in Crispin Harris. As the saga unfolds, however, I find myself envious of their new son, because I know that he'll receive care, understanding and opportunities enjoyed by very few people.

Crispin and Kirsten can be reached by email via crispin.harris@novuswa.com.au. If you're feeling clucky, then (a) you have my sincerest sympathies, and (b) you can get more photos here.
Mark Newton, the FUC in Every Port (thanks, Benno!)
Written for Chorus Interruptus, July 1998