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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Barren Advice: Three

This is the third installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

How do you think the experience of infertility would be different if our entire society basically was infertile? Let’s say, for political reasons or medical reasons (environmental pollution perhaps?), it just wasn’t possible to get pregnant naturally. Let’s say you grew up with the expectation that parenthood was not necessarily a given. That you would have to possibly meet a set of criteria to have public approval & funding to reproduce – or at least, that you and almost every other person out there would need treatment. How would the experience be different personally? How would it change our society?

--blogless Andie

Well, if the whole world were infertile, the media would finally learn the difference between transfer and implant.

It's an interesting question that looks at whether we truly want to have children or whether we feel we should want to have children. Because we can never undo societal pressure (not to mention the expectations placed on us by anxious family members), it's impossible to untangle our feelings--to know if we want children simply because it is a deep-rooted desire (something encoded in our DNA like all survival impulses) or if it's an expectation placed on us that we follow without knowing that the impulse comes from somewhere other than ourselves.

It's hard to predict. The first generation would definitely still be fueled by societal pressure. But later generations could start playing an enormous game of "not it." Certainly, once you place the pain and embarrassment of fertility treatments into the mix, reaching parenthood becomes less enticing for some people.

Except the infertility community now can be seen as a tiny microcosm for this scenario. We all need assistance to reach parenthood. Some opt for treatments or adoption because the emotional and physical pain is outweighed by the chance at emotional and physical joy. And some opt to live child-free after infertility. It isn't that the impulse to parent isn't as strong--it definitely is--but the weight balances differently and the chance at emotional and physical joy doesn't balance out the emotional and physical pain.

Just as we all have a certain amount of money in the bank, we all have a certain amount of emotional capital in the heart. We can try to withdraw more than we have at hand--but that usually leads to a crisis later on when our emotional account is depleted and we're overdrawn. Some simply have a different amount of emotional capital--due to outlook, due to circumstance, due to resources. There are things we can do such as therapy that can earn a person more emotional capital, but there are also limits. Just as I couldn't turn a six figure salary as a school teacher, we can't earn unlimited emotional capital. We can wish we were richer and we can wish we had larger emotional reserves, but we have to work with what we have. Sometimes, we have enough emotional capital to pay for treatments or adoption. And sometimes, we simply don't regardless of how much we want to reach parenthood. And it's a healthy person who can recognize their limits and respect them.

Which is a long way of saying that I think the impulse to have children is taught to us AND it is imprinted in our genetic code. Therefore, I think the drive would still be there, even if everyone in the world required assistance in order to reproduce. There would also be those who choose to live child-free without the desire to have children. And there would still be a group--as there is today--who wish with all of their heart that they could become parents, but the roads to reach parenthood simply contain obstacles that are insurmountable if one is to remain true to their heart.

Turning this over to the blogosphere at large--what do you think would happen?

Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice.


Jen said...

Very interesting question!

If the whole world needed help, there would be no teenage mothers or Britney Spears. Everyone would have to go through adoption like screening first.

Kathy V said...

It would be interesting. I think infertility in general would be more widely accepted since all of us would have to go trhough the same process. But then it makes me think that there would be some people that were able to have children, some that would choose not to have to go through the process, and others that would still remain on the outside looking in. The group may be different but it would still be there. If you wanted a child but were rejected based on the criteria or authorization, wouldn't that person be like how many of us are now? Always grasping or reaching for something they can't quite hold on to. Then it makes me wonder what would be the criteria for who got a chance to go through the process and who didn't? WOuld it be illegal then if you tried to get assistance without going through the proper channels? Would the process be universal or would it vary by states/countries? Although I think while it might make people more understanding of the process that many of us go through, I think it would develop problems that are "inconceiveable" to life as we know it. There would still be the haves and have nots. The have nots would still try to do everything that they could to change their situation to become one of the haves. In the great scheme of things it wouldn't change anything except who the people are that still had to struggle with the process and the criteria in order to become a parent.

~Jess said...

Every child would be a wanted child. I think it would be good and bad...because who is worthy of determining whether or not someone should be a parent. There are definitely those that we all agree should not be parents.

There was a sci-fi movie a few years ago...Eon Flux.

Overwhelmed! said...

Excellent post!

I was one that opted for private adoption the first time around and although financially and emotionally it wasn't an easy road, now that I'm on the other side I can say it was well worth it. We are blessed to be parents of a fantastic little boy!

Now I'm diving in again, this time trying to adopt through the state. The financial burden isn't there but the emotional burden is much heavier with this route!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Fertilized said...

If every one had to sek assistance to have a child - some stated that all children would be wanted. I am not sure how much truth that statement would hold. I am going to assume that as much of a business as the US would make it- it would still be more affortable because of the whole supply/demand economic side of the market. I think that some people would do it "just because" that's what "you" are supposed to do. Although, I bet there would be more accurate media/insurance/emotional awareness

Leah said...

Very interesting post. I don't have the brain power to respond, but I did want to say I laughed until I almost peed when you said it would finally force the media to understand the difference between transfer and implant. THAT was seriously funny.

katedaphne said...

Very interesting post. Kind of Children-of-Men-ish. However, I disagree with the whole premise of your answer: that there are only two choices, (A) we either want kids b/c of our DNA or (B) b/c of societal expectation. I think this leaves out personal choice.

We humans do lots of things that are not necessarily because of an evolutionary directive. But that doesn't mean we do are pressured by society to do them. Neither DNA nor society forced me to choose the profession I did, for example, nor to marry the person I did. Why are those the only two choices for why I want a family?

--signed, The Contrarian

VA Blondie said...

This is a fascinating question. It probably would turn society and culture on its head. I think it would be really easy for scientists and MDs to manipulate genetics of people. The potential for abuse is huge. Designer babies, people trying to start their version of utopian society. Not sure that would be a good thing...

~S said...

FYI - I have been getting a lot of "hate" comments in my blog recently. So I have changed my web address for my blog. If you have my blog linked on your blog roll it will no longer function as I have changed my URL/web address (because my old one had my name on it and I don't want these creeps to be able to find me...). My new URL/web address that will need to be edited in your blog roll is:

Thank you
~S (AKA: Thoughts from My Life)

Kim said...

I think it would be good and bad. First the bad would be how many more people would have to endure so much. And most of what I have been through I wouldn't wish on anyone. And this might sound strange, especially since I have crossed over the IF bridge, but I like being part of a special group - a sisterhood as many call it. If everyone went thru it I don't think the support and compassion would be the same. The good is that maybe there would be some progress with ins. coverage and price of treatment. Also there would probably be more reasearch and more answers. Very interesting question!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this question Mel ... I just started a blog so I'm blogless no longer :)

I wasn't thinking so much of where the urge to have children comes from, but of the experience of feeling so isolated by infertility - because after all, it's the kind of thing that happens to "someone else" right? So, if the playing field was leveled such that everyone realized there's a risk they wouldn't have kids, maybe it would be a less lonely place to be.

However, you are right htere there would simply be a new category of people who are "infertile" - those who don't meet the criteria for whatever reason, and are denied the chance to have kids. It would just be a new group on the outside looking in.

It also seems more "fair" in a way, when you think of all the hoops that adoptive parents have to go through - yet unwanted pregnancies occur every day ... we have to pass a test to drive a car but there's no test to determine who can become pg or not.

Mind you, I don't know that anyone really is qualified to make that judgement. For example, if wealth is a criteria - I know of people born into impovrished families that had a lot of love growing up and became wonderful human beings; also I know those who had all the advantages yet struggle with finding their place and being a contributing person in society.

I wonder if it would be easier to be childfree/childless in this kind of set-up - particularly if there are messages about global population & environmental reasons to not have kids (which is a point I have heard several CF'ers make. It still didn't change my longing to have a child but it was a point I'd not previously considered).

Anyway thanks for posting my question & thanks to all who responded!