The choice to become a mother never comes easily. There’s so much external pressure from family and society. As well as internal pressure not to squander the opportunity to create another life. But what about what I want for myself? Why should I have to be a mother just because I’m the last Sumatran Rhino ever to live on this planet?
Becoming a mother means putting aside your own ambitions; if I did so, I would have to give up my dreams just because the entire fate of my species is resting on my strong leathery shoulders. What about my burgeoning folk music career? What about Paris? As I stand on the dusty concrete of my enclosure, I imagine beautiful zookeeper Sven, making love to me in starlight on the banks of the Seine. None of those dreams could come true if I have a baby.
Any mother will tell you that she couldn’t have done it without the guidance of strong female role models. Unfortunately, my mother was killed by poachers and her bones were ground into a cure for leprosy. With no example, what kind of mother will I be to this new life (whose name will be chosen by Twitter poll)? Will I be a relaxed, cool mom, letting my little one roam our enclosure freely? Or an overprotective helicopter mom obsessed with getting my child into the right schools and meeting the right reptiles?
Choosing the father of your child is one of the most important decisions a woman can make. Sven tells me they’ll use the frozen semen of Marty, a rhino who died three years ago at The Memphis Zoo. Who is this Marty? Sure, we share a species, but do we share a sense of humor? A passion for the poems of Amy Lowell? Did he always tip, even when the server was stressed? All I know is Marty enjoyed eating birch saplings, died from a lung infection, and we are genetically dissimilar enough to make reproduction possible. Not much to go on, if you ask me.
Motherhood means less time for yourself and I’m not sure I want that change in my lifestyle. When will I have the time to hit my giant rubber ball or scratch myself against my rock or get a manicure? As I sit in my mud wallow for 2-3 hours every afternoon, I watch the mothers bringing their children to the zoo. Frazzled women cleaning children’s sticky fingers as they suck on rhino shaped popsicles. They look at me and say how sad it is that I’m stuck in a wildlife refuge. I look at them and see that, if you really think about it, they’re the ones in captivity.
In this world of climate change and scarce resources, is it even ethical to have a child? I’m bringing this baby into a world of cruelty, destruction, and troublingly limited mating options. And for what? So she can face the same predicament I now face? Maybe it would be best for the species to end with me. Maybe it would teach humanity a lesson about destroying their planet. Maybe I’d be free to travel the world, a shirtless Sven at my side. I’d be living my life not held captive by society, motherhood, or the bars around my enclosure, but as a free rhino. Isn’t that what every woman wants?