Belize Survivor, part 48

Over the next few months, Max and Alexis became happier as a couple than they'd ever been before. They checked the pregnancy book at least once a week to monitor the baby’s development. Alexis acquired the rosy flush of pregnancy, eating only pure foods to give the growing baby the very best nutrition. Of course, there were times when Max became overbearing about what she ate, how much, and when. But they were both committed to the same goal: to deliver a healthy child. Alexis went to the obstetrician every month and everything appeared to be progressing normally.

As planned, they had opened the little shop in Old Town Key West. Sales were good, and Alexis continually replenished the large artistic inventory, taking in consigned works from their friends as well.

"Check out this book I found in the bookstore,” said Max, one evening. They were sitting outside on the little veranda of the cottage under the shade of the rubber banyans. "It was written by that Stephen Gaskin guy who did the bus tour across the country and wrote Caravan."

"Oh, I remember him. Stephen Gaskin. Remember Mark Donovan from Berkeley used to go to his Monday Night Class?"

"Yep, same guy. Apparently, when they were done touring, they decided not to return to California. Instead, they purchased a back-to-the-land retreat and established a commune in Tennessee. They call it ‘The Farm.’ It's all right here."

"Let me see," said Alexis, leafing through the book. "They grow their own organic food, build their own houses, and use different types of New Age energy. Looks like they're big on soybeans and brewer's yeast. It says that they contributed to the relief effort in Nicaragua after the earthquake by shipping sweet potatoes and beans."

"Read on a bit. It also says their chosen sacrament is marijuana, and they also offer a free midwifery service for people looking for natural alternatives to hospitals. Is that great or what? I don't like the thought of our baby being born into a sterile environment of bright lights and bullshit,” he said. “The first thing they'll do in a hospital is put silver nitrate in his eyes, and whack off his foreskin."

"What?” Alexis exclaimed, with some alarm. “Not have the baby in a hospital? Dr. Monahan says plenty of things can go wrong during a birth, especially a first one. I'd be scared to have the baby at home. There's placenta previa, breech birth..."

“Come on. Don’t be a wimp. Women have been having babies since the beginning of time. Back in Africa when the Zulu women are ready to deliver, they put down their hoes, go behind a rock, pop out the baby, strap it on their backs and go back to work."

“I'm not a Zulu,” she protested, uncomfortable with his tone. “Besides, that's a little exaggerated, don't you think?"

"Well, maybe. But the point is still that the process of birth is a perfectly natural occurrence. I don't see why it has to be seen as something unnatural and cost a fortune to boot."

Alexis flinched. She was remembering an earlier time, flashbacks to California when Max had gone into a tirade about fasting and the evils of antibiotics.

“You mean you never intended for me to have this baby at a hospital?"

"Of course not. Why? Did you? I just always assumed we would have it at home. You know, natural.” Suddenly, he eased off, remembering his promise. “Tell you what. Let’s just look into The Farm as an option."

"I guess it would be a happy medium between a hospital and a home birth,” she conceded. “Besides, I do like the idea of natural lighting, and submerging the baby in warm water like the French method."

Business seemed to grow as fast as Alexis' belly. Besides macramé, stained glass work, leather, and other consignments, Max and Alexis discovered a new faddish jewelry called heishi. Manufactured in the Philippines, small pieces of flat shell with a hole in the middle were threaded on heavy string, then ground on a wheel to a uniform cylindrical shape, sanded, and polished to a lustrous finish. A new style was created when the shells were restrung and interspersed with silver beads or with centerpieces of jade, agate, or other semiprecious stones. More elegant than macramé, this whole new market began to turn over a good profit at the little shop on Duval Street. As the season went by, they expanded their selling at craft shows and street fairs in Miami, Key West, and Fort Lauderdale, combining selling trips with buying trips. By the time Alexis was seven months pregnant, the shop was providing an adequate income.

“‘Every baby brings its own bread,’" said Alexis. "Isn't that how the proverb goes?"

"I guess so, Ntombi. We've cleared a few thousand bucks, and things are definitely looking good. But we're going to have to plan ahead now. Heishi is about played out in this area. We caught the fad just at the right time for the Florida market, but now everybody's getting into it. Once the retail department stores start to carry it, it's time to get out and find something new. Either that, or take the heishi to a more provincial area where it hasn't been seen before. I've been thinking of a new plan."

"You usually are. Okay, let's hear it."

"Well, first I think we should go to Stephen's farm in Tennessee and have the baby there. Then we could go up north and find a farmhouse to rent within a hundred or so miles of a big metropolitan area, like Washington D.C. We do a major wholesale purchase by ordering a bunch of heishi directly from the Philippines. No middleman. We would be the importers, the wholesalers, the artisans, and the retailers, making all the profit. While you're home with the baby making jewelry, I can be wholesaling it to shops in the city. When we have a big quantity of stock, we could do a grand finale: find a retail target market right before Christmas and sell the hell out of the stuff. After that we sell the business and move to Belize, just like we planned."

"Wow, Max. Are you thinking big enough? That's not a scheme, it's a scam. You're amazing. Do you really think we could pull off something like that?"

"I'm serious. We need to make money. We need to create the lifestyle that we want for ourselves and our child. I'm a Leo. My motto is ‘I will.'"

Alexis' belly became mountainous. The pregnancy created the most dramatic physical changes she'd ever experienced. Somehow, seeing other women pregnant just hadn't seemed real. But this baby was real, and there was only one way out of her body: to be born. The child turned inside her, occasionally pushing out an elbow or a knee to create an odd point on the otherwise round contour of her abdomen, or to aim a well-placed kick to the bladder. At times, a suffocating fear would come over Alexis; there was no turning back the hands of time. She studied people on the street and tried to imagine that, for every person she saw, a mother somewhere had gone through pregnancy and birth. Women had been giving birth since the dawn of time. How bad could it be?

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