I should probably have deep bioethical thoughts about this…

…but I really can’t say anything that isn’t blindingly obvious. A man, nom de plume Albert Garland, wanted to have another child with his wife.  They went through fertility treatments, did IVF, and she became pregnant with twin boys.  Mr. Garland was horrified, wished that one was disabled so that it could be aborted, and wrote a whole diatribe about how horrible it is that they will be having two kids instead of one.

There are the usual points: this sometimes happens with child-bearing, and in case you missed the whole Octomom thing, happens more frequently with IVF.  Yes, IVF is expensive, but in the gamble between one round of IVF with multiple embryos, you lost – you got more embryos than you would have wanted.  Really, I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say here.  Garland’s complaints are so absurd that even Bioethics 101 refutes it.

But Mr. Garland said this, which deserves some consideration:

Two blessings, two bundles of joy. How could you not be happy, you ask? Of course I’m sympathetic to people who can’t get pregnant, or who spend a couple of years trying IVF after IVF. But having kids is a selfish endeavor, and in these cases it’s all very relative and highly personal. In our case, my wife and I know better than to think that life with three children is going to be perfect.

Er, no.  Having children is a selfless endeavour – and I say this as a childless thirty-something.  If you ever need a “It’s not all about you” wake-up call, have a child who is dependent upon you for food, water, shelter, and the basic human desire to not be wallowing in one’s own feces.  That there may be secondary benefits to parenting hardly trumps the fact that parents spend many years running their lives around their children’s well-being, and never stop worrying.

“It’s all relative and highly personal” is a pat way of getting around the fact that there are some absolutes when it comes to having kids. One of them is that you are signing up for the unknown: you have no control over whether you’ll have a boy or a girl, a sick baby or a healthy one, a smart kid or one who struggles, a nice kid or a holy terror.  But the child’s experience does not change basic parental responsibilities: welcome the child or children into your home and family; care for the child; be a source of unconditional love; and remember, always remember, that someone else wiped your bum, aspirated snot out of your nose, fed you every bite of baby food that you ate, cleaned up your vomit, and rocked you to sleep.

This leaves me thinking, Albert Garland, you did not spring forth full-grown from Zeus’s brow.  Rather than care about what strangers on the ‘net think of your parenting skills, ask what your own parents would think – and accept your children with all the love that you would have wanted as a child.  You were once a child – now grow up and act like an adult.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “I should probably have deep bioethical thoughts about this…

  1. “This leaves me thinking, Albert Garland, you did not spring forth full-grown from Zeus’s brow. Rather than care about what strangers on the ‘net think of your parenting skills, ask what your own parents would think – and accept your children with all the love that you would have wanted as a child. You were once a child – now grow up and act like an adult.”

    That’s nice. ^_^

  2. “Having children is a selfless endeavour”

    No, *raising* children is a selfless endeavour – or at least it should be.

    Having children – or rather *deciding* to do so – is almost always a selfish endeavour in my experience. Speaking as a childless man in his fifties who had a vasectomy aged 23.

    • bridget

      Cabrogal: an important distinction – although one that I, as a woman, don’t really feel the same about. At least for women, even having a child takes a lot of work (or involves a lot of discomfort and pain). For men, of course, it is the raising that involves giving more to others than you take in return.

  3. “even having a child takes a lot of work (or involves a lot of discomfort and pain)”

    Which is why I added the ‘deciding’ qualifier.

    But I wonder if work, discomfort and pain necessarily exclude selfishness.
    Especially as new mothers and pregnant women seem to have little in the way distinction between themselves and their child – at least until it starts to assert an ego.

    • bridget

      Er, except my word in the post was “having”. If you’re trying to point out that human beings often enjoy sex, then go right ahead – but that’s only tangentially related to my post. The point was that “having” children, in the sense that the author of the article meant it, is NOT selfish.

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