So, I’m finally going to write the post that actually made me get a blog, because I had all these (now outdated) thoughts that I desperately needed to share. I read Ross Douthat’s column in the Times about fertility treatments, and how the children produced through egg and sperm donations apparently feel that they ‘[exist] entirely for “other people’s purposes, and not my own.”’ Douthat draws a contrast between the unregulated buying and selling of fertility treatments and the rigorous process, regulations, screenings and “invasive interrogations” required when adopting a child, something John Seabrook goes into some depth on in his own article. Seabrook’s article is purportedly about how his adoption of a baby girl from Haiti was interrupted by the earthquake, but, in that wonderful New Yorker way, is actually about the changing process of international adoption, and what are we going to do about it. Its a beautiful and interesting piece, you should read it.
My first reaction to Douthat’s piece was, as my dad would say, something every 16-year-old knows – making life is easy. Parents who conceive and give birth to their own biological children are rarely screened or interrogated, and many children throughout history have been conceived for ‘other people’s purposes,’ for all manners of reasons. People having sex, for better or worse, are not screened for parenthood. The question of who should be having kids, and how, is becoming increasingly complicated.
Women’s rights, the changing roles of parents and families, medical advances, access to contraception – all are conspiring to make it seem as if having children is a choice: raise a child when, and only when, you decide to, but you can definitely have one if you want.
I don’t have a clear answer, to any of these issues, except to point out how complicated they all are. As Seabrook points out, adoption is complicated, with a racial, colonialist legacy. No one likes to think of babies as the selling human organs and lives, but isn’t sex so much worse? When pregnancy is the result of unplanned sex, fleeting pleasure? It seems we feel increasingly unsure about bringing children into the world, ironic at a time on earth when more and more children will survive and thrive.
Maybe its important to realize that family, like most things, is an imperfect science, unpredictable and difficult despite all our predictions, but one that, more often than not, works itself out.