Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Having Babies

Having children is not a logical choice. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again as more of the consequences of choosing it strike me again.

I have always thought I would have kids. For a while I thought I would adopt, and then I decided that really, I wanted to have my own. I want the physical experience of being a part of pregnancy, birthing, breast feeding, parenting. I have had visions of my kids. I have met different potential kids as I have been with different partners. And I have had those beautiful kids whom I was already in love with pass away out of the realm of possibility as time and partners moved on, and I have grieved them. 

I just read this article critiquing the media presentation of Celine Dion's struggles to get pregnant again via IVF. Holly Grigg-Spall writes:

The Celine Dion story not only equates fertility with female worth and the social value of women, it also presents the desire to have a child, or the maternal instinct, as a kind of mania. Many a time have I been told that some day, I too, will want a baby - not as though I will make conscious decision to have a child, but that I will be overcome by my womanly instincts and be unable to resist this impulse....[T]he media interpretation of her experience suggests women are incapable of choosing when it comes to children and must, like Dion, pursue pregnancy and motherhood at all costs. 

I think one of the problems here is about the idea of Choosing. Yes, emotions play a central role in choosing to have children. Emotions are also influenced by hormones in women, men, and everyone else. I would not be a very thorough decision-maker if I did not take my emotional state into account along with evaluating all my other goals, ideals, circumstances, resources, etc., and part of taking emotional states into account is to recognize hormonal influences. Hormones that increase an urge to procreate are hardwired in by evolution, I would think, and for all genders and sexes of people. 

That said, regardless of how my emotions and hormones have played a part in my decision, I am still CHOOSING to procreate. I am choosing to pursue a path that will hopefully end in my having a direct biological descendant (or three). Emotions do not negate choice, they inform it, regardless of whether those emotions are around "maternal instincts" or "male sex drive". We can wrap it up in pink or blue or whatever, but we are not victims/pawns of our hormones or emotions, only our decisions and choices regarding those influences. 

Therefore, there is no false dichotomy of choice versus what Grigg-Spall calls want, there is only the complex decision that every person makes in weighing all the options and circumstances and deciding how to go forward. Even listening to and honoring the want constitutes a valid choice. Grigg-Spall does a good job with most of her critique, I think, but I take issue with the implied subtext that people (women?) whose decisions dovetail with their hormonal/emotional wants are not making "conscious" choices. Even as she is trying not to fall into that dichotomy, I think her own perspectives and choices when balancing the emotional and rational influences and ultimately reinforces the subtext.

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