I decided to start walking again this morning. I'm not quite up to running yet, but it feels good to get out of the house for a bit with my dogs and talk to people. Actually, taking the dogs with me is not only good exercise for them, but also a good conversation starter while I'm wandering the compound. They're just too damn cute for people to ignore. I've done more standing than walking today while folks give Riley and Bigby affectionate scratches behind the ears.
It's especially nice to know that there are people to do the grunt work of running the compound so I don't have to feel guilty about taking an hour for myself. I don't mean that to sound disparaging or petty. Each person that works with me to manage the different aspects of the compound's daily operations is a godsend. Spreading the work out among seven to ten of us (the number varies from day to day as Becky and a few others take an interest in learning the ins and outs of my job) means that every part of the job can be looked at by fresh eyes and in much greater detail. Also, it allows each of us to have the flexibility to take days away if needed without damaging productivity.
I might be the one who is supposed to coordinate the work of all the others, but the truth is that any of them can sub for me in a pinch. That was the case this morning. Becky is taking a shot at doing my job for a few hours under the careful eye of the rest of my co-workers.
The walk itself was very informative. One thing that surprised me as I was dragged around by my overly energetic canines was how many pregnant women we have. A large number of pregnant women isn't all that surprising in and of itself. After all, history is a pretty good teacher of how population booms happen. Look at Africa and the AIDS epidemic there (I know this is a bad comparison, because babies are pretty much on the other side of the spectrum from AIDS in terms of good versus bad, but bear with me). In Africa and some other places, populations continued to grow even after the number of people infected with HIV reached epidemic proportions. That trend continued even when enough people were educated about how the disease as transferred.
Part of that was lack of protection, of course. Married couples who were both infected and couldn't afford condoms...well, it makes sense, right? Another part of it is simple human nature: adversity and lack of distraction lead to making your own fun.
Of course, the situation here isn't perfectly comparable. We have access to contraceptives (thankfully those aren't all that hard to find. The apocalypse seems to have taken the fear out of sex for a lot of people) and the knowledge that treating STD's and pregnancy-related medical problems have become difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Most of our population has been pretty responsible with this, females tracking their cycles to make sure they don't have sex when they're most fertile. People using condoms when possible. Birth control pills when available.
Today, though, I saw at least twenty pregnant women in various stages. Some had barely noticeable bumps, a few others looked on the verge of giving birth while they stood there petting my grinning dogs. Again, I'm not shocked that women are pregnant. After all, if adversity makes people want to affirm life through sex, then the people here should be going at it like teenage bunnies at prom. Plus, most people have a good chunk of free time if not a proportional amount of privacy. That's a recipe for baby-makin' if I ever saw one.
No, I'm just surprised (and a little disappointed in myself) for not noticing earlier. This isn't the first time I've felt disconnected from the compound, which was why I started jogging all those months ago in the first place. I wanted to get out on a daily basis and meet people, see the people behind all the numbers I had to juggle in my official capacity. When you're working to keep a community of human beings running smoothly while living under the threat of constant zombie attack, it's vital to remember that they are human beings. Not just parts of an equation.
It also seems pretty helpful for me and my co-workers to know about pregnancies so we can plan accordingly. With the undead wandering outside the walls and laying in wait for us when we go hunting or scouting, it's more important than ever to make sure that our community can and will grow over time. As we strengthen and stabilize our food supplies, that may mean taking on additional adult survivors. But children are the future (wow, that sounds lame, doesn't it?) for us and we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure those kids are safe, fed, and have access to every resource they might need to survive in this new world.
Yeah, a lot of pregnant women means more mouths to feed down the road. But that's good! Not only is it a motivator for us to work harder and bring in more food, but we WANT babies around here. We want to start the next generation. A man who goes outside the walls to hunt or fish or even scout might take extra risk if he's a bachelor. Less so if he's married. A man with a small child at home will do everything in his power to provide for that child, and also to make sure he comes home if he's any kind of man at all.
The zombies give us reason to fight. Children, the proof of life and love made of our own substance, give us reason to live.