MONDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2010
The conversation with myself started as a contemplation on my bicycle on the way to my usual dinner place. I thought about how I second-guess myself constantly these days: Was I supposed to say that? Should I have acted differently? Should I respond differently because I’m almost 40?
I reckoned that I had always thought one outgrows these insecurities.
“Maybe it makes a difference if you have children,” I thought to myself. “You have more important things to worry about, so you have little time or inclination for ridiculous age-related insecurities.”
“Imagine,” came the response from the other voice in my head, “I suddenly say I want to have children.”
“That’s the problem,” I immediately retorted. “If pregnancy is the natural consequence of the being-together of a man and a woman, then so be it. I’ve been saying this for a long time. But if you plan pregnancy … it’s too selfish. I want a child – no matter what suffering the child would have to endure in this world.”
“Are you saying planned pregnancy is a bad idea?”
“No, I’m just saying that personally I have a problem with a planned pregnancy. This means I would have to look my child in the eyes when he or she is going through pain and suffering, and I would have to say I am sorry, for some reason I needed to be a father, so you’re just going to have to suffer the consequences. If my wife should become pregnant, then we can say, okay, it was the natural consequence of a natural act between two people who love each other, a normal phenomenon in a healthy relationship: Sperm fertilised an egg; the fertilised egg grew into an embryo, then a foetus; and nine months later a child was born. Okay, let’s do our best. Let’s make sure this child has everything he or she needs and that he or she gets a good education. We’ll give him or her all the love and support we can. We’ll create opportunities. We’ll teach him or her how to seize opportunities. We’ll protect him or her as much as we can against the onslaughts of this world. In this case, the child is the natural consequence of a man and a woman being together.”
“But the woman can still choose to terminate the pregnancy. Not to end the pregnancy is also a choice. In that case, you still say: We want to have a child.”
“Fair enough, but it will be an unnatural interference.”
“What you are saying is that if the child is the result of a natural process, very well then. If a person says, I want to have a child, or I want to be a mum or a dad, then it is no longer natural. Then you are forcing the process. If a woman becomes pregnant and she gets an abortion, she is once again interfering with the process. Once again, it is unnatural.”
“Right. If it is natural, if the birth is the result of a natural process – relationship, togetherness, sperm and egg, nine months, child – you’re covered, so to speak. Then you would never have to look your child in the eyes and say, I am sorry for the suffering that you, my child, must go through, but I really wanted to have a child. Then you can say – even though you are still deeply distressed to see your child suffer – that the child’s existence is the result of a natural process.”
“What if the man or the woman uses contraceptives? Isn’t that also interfering with the natural process?”
What is the difference between the unnatural interference to create a child and the unnatural interference to arrest the process that would otherwise lead to the birth of a child?
Hormone treatment, sperm count, test tubes, abortion, too many children to care for, incompetent parents, contraception, adult men and women’s emotional needs. Can the ball of wool still be untangled?
It is not a matter of RIGHT or WRONG, it is a question of where on the spectrum.
There is the extreme of unplanned pregnancy: an addict who exchanges sex for drugs and gives birth to a child who is addicted to drugs from the very start of his or her existence and who has almost no hope and no future.
Then there is the extreme of planned pregnancy: the bored adult who figures they are in the mood for a new role, or who thinks a child will give him or her something to do, or fill a void that cannot (currently) be filled with anything else. Dissatisfaction with the Current Self, and the belief: I need a child.