(I just found this in my notebook. I wrote it a week or two before Lydia was born, and then it got lost in the hulaballoo of having a newborn in the house. Enjoy!)
First off, Iâm not trying to convince you to have kids. Either you already have kids, and you already know the answer to this question; or you want to have kids, but are unable, in which case this post is anything but helpful; or youâve already decided you donât want kids, and nothing I say is going to change your mind.
This post is for me.
As you know, Iâm weeks away from having my first child, the outcome of a fiercely sought-after pregnancy.
And yet, every once in a while Iâm struck with the panicked question: am I sure this was the right thing to do?
When I hear a colicky baby scream and am told that this is the third hour straight that this has been happening . . . When a couple turns down a dinner invitation because they canât find a babysitter . . . Â when I hear about a toddler whoâs been diagnosed with stage four cancer . . . Â I canât help wondering: am I out of my mind for having done this?
The question âWhy have children?â is, of course, only for the contemporary over-thinker.
In all previous generations before our parentsâ, the question would have been absurd because one couldnât really control whether or not one had children except by not getting married (and often this wasnât even up to the individual). And to not have children was almost always considered a curse.
Today we have at least a certain degree of control, thanks to contraception (though I still maintain that this control is more of an illusion than we often realize, and perhaps not as great a thing as we often suppose). So for the first time in history, many young couples are faced with the question: should we even have children? When? Why?
Well, here are the two main reasons we decided to have children: to become fully human, and to share our love.
* * *
I ran into a former professor at a book launch being hosted at my university a year or two after Iâd completed my MA in English lit. It was during the time that Ben and I were trying to get pregnant without success. I was also working as a lackey at a small publishing press at the time. When my old prof spotted me at the launch, he greeted me, asking me what I was up to these days. He was one of the profs who had really encouraged me to do a PhD and was one of my favourites.
âOh? So this is what you wanted to do — publishing?â he asked.
âWell, no . . .â I began.
I explained sheepishly that what I really wanted was to have kids and a family. I felt embarrassed, partly because it wasnât working out for me (infertility is always an awkward subject) and partly because I feared he would think I was wasting my education and promise as an academic.
His response surprised me.
âWell, isnât that what the literature we read is all about?â he asked without skipping a beat. âFalling in love, becoming parents, becoming fully human?â He added, âYou want to have lots of children, I hope?â
He turned to my little sister, who was with me. âAnd what do you want to do?â he asked her. When she said she liked to write fantasy stories, he smiled and turned back to me. âAnd auntie here can read your children her fantasy stories.â In his eyes, this was a wonderful arrangement.
From his perspective, we didnât study literature at university to earn degrees in order to secure jobs. We studied literature to learn what it meant to be human. My education, then, was perfectly suited to what I wanted to do. By having kids, I was putting those lessons into practice and entering a new stage wherein I learned firsthand what it meant to be human.
Being human is all about birth, death, love, tragedy, compassion, conflict, and telling stories. When we engage in any of these things, we become more fully human. Having children, then, is one of many ways we complete our humanness.
* * *
Back when we were struggling with fertility issues, I also explored on this blog another reason we wanted to have children: to share our love.
I explained how my marriage with Ben was the best and most delicious part of my life, and how we both yearned to share that love with someone else.Â Something felt incomplete â we needed a receptacle for the excess love that was spilling out between us and filling up our home.
I donât imagine that being a parent will be easy. But we just couldnât keep our love to just ourselves. We needed to share it with someone. And finally, someone is entering our lives to accept it. And that, to me, makes it all worthwhile.
Image courtesy of Phae.