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I Was an Online Mother, Part 2 

Wednesday, Apr 19 2006
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Editor’s Note: On March 27 Chris Dahlen became pregnant. In this three-part series, we follow his story. Incidentally, Dahlen’s story takes place within the “multiverse” Second Life, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) with more than 165,000 users. Second Life, created by SF-based Linden Labs, recently received $11 million in venture capital funding. Ever since I got knocked up, I've been waddling around the Second Life grid with a clumsy walk and a big belly, which gets bigger literally once a week as I update my body shape. My unborn child is kicking, doing flips, and sometimes just sleeping soundly. I'm also getting regular cravings, where my pregnancy attachment tells me that I'd like a warm cookie, or a Cappuccino Carrot Crème.

My nesting instinct has also kicked in. Sticking to my strict budget, I bought a scruffy, postage stamp-sized plot of land in what looked like a quiet neighborhood, next to a New Orleans-style hotel with pink motorbikes parked in front, and a few suburban-style houses. After shopping around, I found a quaint one-room cottage small enough to fit on my lot, and then bought a crib, play mat, and dresser at a furniture store. The kid will sleep in the crib, play on the mat in front of the fireplace — I even bought some blocks — and I'll, I don't know, sleep on the floor; there's barely room left for even an armchair.

Before I signed off for the night, I checked out one of Second Life's most popular playgrounds. It was after dark, and I could almost feel a chill in the air as I walked around the brightly colored but empty swing sets, the giant toys, and the Easter basket giveaway display.

I was about to go when a little girl in a simple yellow dress walked up to me and greeted me with a shy hello. She noticed I was pregnant — by now it's hard to miss — and congratulated me sweetly.

Now, I know that Second Life verifies the age, or at least the credit cards, of anyone who signs up, so whoever stood in front of me had to be well out of childhood. But she had her reasons for being a little girl, and maybe she was wondering why I felt the need to be pregnant. Neither of us brought it up. I asked if this was a good playground, and she told me it was: The owners strictly enforce G-rated behavior in the park, and it's a "safe place" to play.

Maybe it's motherhood, but for once, finding a safe place in a video game feels like a good thing.

Next week: the birth

About The Author

Chris Dahlen

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