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“NEVER BEFORE in history had we felt such a driving need to perpetuate our species. . .”

The last so-called natural human birth occurred late in the 21st century, although to our way of thinking, there is nothing natural about a fetus ripping its way through a constricted vaginal canal causing irreparable damage to the host and bursting forth amid the blood and slimy gore associated with what was then the norm. Child bearers became increasingly reluctant to bring forth young in this primeval manner and the birthrate dropped considerably over the next century. The drop was enough to have powers-that-be scratching their heads to find a quick, efficient and painless answer to the horrors of then-modern childbirth, particularly when childbearing became as much a male domain as female with societal acceptance of same sex marriages and the like.

Somehow men weren’t as willing to go through a body change and excruciating pain in order to have a family. There had to be a better way, they (the men now involved) mouthed collectively, then shouted loud and clear after the first round of male childbearing. Scientists were now under pressure to find the way. Immediately. Mandatory epidurals had not addressed the pain and disfigurement and fetal danger of childbirth. Many institutions attested to that fact with their dirty little secrets — the prolonged labour gone wrong, the instrument delivery that crushed a fetal skull but left the strong little heart beating to old age, the cord prolapses and shoulder arrests and other birth injuries that yielded the profoundly physically and mentally retarded beings no one wanted because they required too much care and were an embarrassment to fine upstanding families.

In the late 2100s, it is written that a man named Josiah, a learned Isreali shepherd from an isolated part of the country, found that a lab in the northern part of the U.S. was advertising for an Ovine Expert. Josiah was intrigued, and feeling a need for change in his life, crook in hand, he took up the challenge of moving to the States. He got the job of Ovine Expert, and soon realized the enormity of his task. Thousands of sheep were being turned out daily to accommodate a government program associated with boosting the population of the world, ETL (Ewes to Let). The program had earned the pet name The Molly Project. The animals used were all clones of the original Molly of the 20th century, the first-ever successfully cloned sheep using only a petrie dish of sheep DNA to grow her to maturity in the lab.

Society had demanded a change in the way babies were born by women refusing to produce them in the conventional manner during the 21st century. There was such a sharp decline in the human birth rate that world officials feared the human race might become extinct within the next two generations. They had to think quickly and make birthing a more simple process. Josiah rose to international fame with his unique approach to the problem: use sheep as surrogate mothers for human embryos. Sheep tissue closely resembles that of humans, and in fact, many humans now wandered the earth with sheep parts transplanted into their bodies, thereby saving their lives. It was no accident that human birthing problems would be solved by using the plentiful sheep population.

Short story of what scientists discovered in groundbreaking experimentation of sheep surrogacy: Ovine uterine lining so mimicked that of humans that once planted, the human blastocyte began cell multiplication instantly, and grew a normal human fetus to term within 30 weeks. The ewe then underwent caesarean section and the resulting human baby was delivered to waiting parents within minutes of its birth. The human mother or father about to become a mother would have been given hormones for the past month or more to promote lactation, and the baby was put to his or her breast immediately to suckle. The entire pregnancy process was eliminated, and the population rose with a new baby boom in 2150 similar to that of ancient times circa 1947.

This was how a couple in the 2100s would have a baby. Once the decision had been made to produce a baby, they would arrive at a Molly Project clinic (many satellites of the prototype now existed throughout the U.S. and Canada with more opening in the European countries and other parts of the world). There, sperm and egg would be extracted and placed in a petrie dish to be fertilized. Of course there were accidents since there have been since the dawn of human existence. When these occurred, namely when there was already a baby growing in utero of one of the couple, the fertilized embryo was transferred as quickly as possible to a sheep surrogate.

There might also be a third party involved to donate sperm or egg in the case of same sex unions, or the couple could browse the catalogues of available specimens at the clinic. Once fertilization had taken place, the contents of the dish were inserted deep into the waiting uterus of a designated ewe. All had numbers branded on their ears, and paperwork had to be done diligently to avoid the wrong blastocyte going into the wrong womb.

Only one recorded incident occurred in The Molly Project regarding a pregnant ewe. It seems the ewe balked at having yet another lamb taken from her while she endured the pain of engorged udders and grieving. Number 144 at a Texas satellite clinic knew of a weak spot in the chain link fence and when her time drew near, she crawled through and escaped into the nearby wilds. When she was finally found over one year later, the toddler was seen first frolicking in a meadow partially hidden from the hoverway. A pair of hikers filmed the little boy, and seeing no parents about, decided to investigate the situation. Suddenly an enraged ewe burst upon them and did her best to trample and kick them to death. It was no contest. The hikers contained her and were shocked to see the toddler run to her side and begin to feed, all the while bleating sorrowfully, and caressing the stupefied animal. Authorities were called and the child, after extensive counseling and psychiatric treatment, was finally delivered to the bereaved parents. The child was assimilated into human society, but retained many animalistic behaviours, never bonded with the mother, and wound up institutionalized at puberty after being found in a pasture servicing several young estral ewes one day — no easy feat for the strange  human ‘ram’ that descended upon the frightened ewes.

The Molly Project successfully populated the earth once again. In fact it led to overpopulation and a great famine. By the early 2400s fewer than one million humans remained on earth and most had returned to the most primitive way of life. Only on the vast space stations did one languish in the modern world. There, many families lived and thrived until deaths at the ripe old ages of 300 years, sometimes more. Medical technology now extended the life span of a normal human to multiple centuries. Propagation of the species was carried out in incubating rooms. Machines nourished fetal sacs until a preset moment when the incubator discharged fluids into a waste station and the tiny window opened onto a squalling fully-developed human baby looking for colostrum. Labour no longer existed, nor did bad deliveries. Abnormalities had been long ago weeded out of the childbirth experience.

That mode of childbearing has crossed into the present century and our government sees no reason to change things. Back on earth however, those unfortunate survivors remain to live in caves, hunting daily for food, and bearing young in that pain-filled old fashioned manner they once called natural. I say hip hip hurray to progress, and never a step backward. I am off to check out the catalogue at Molly Space Station Three — my spouse says it is time we looked at having a child. Apparently, my biological clock is ticking — I just celebrated my 200th birthday.

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