Thursday, June 29, 2006

To bear children or not?

Ok...so a listserv that I am on has a conversation going right now about the spiritual/biblical/christian issues for a single woman trying to decide about having a children by artificial insemination or by adoption..... below are some of my thoughts....post me about what you think! It's something about which I really struggle!

My husband and I struggled with infertility—at first we thought it was me and then we found it was a problem that could only be overcome by donor sperm. We briefly considered artificial insemination, but I really didn’t want to have a child “fathered” by someone other than my husband. But, even more than me, I really was thinking about the cultural pressures…..that somehow we seem to have this need to have our genetic material in the child we raise. I couldn’t understand why we should create another child, when there are so many children that need homes.

We had some friends that said some very painful things to us during that time. They went through invitro and were talking about wanting to have a child who was “really” theirs—implying to us that our beautiful child who we adopted when she was two years old was somehow not “truly” our child. What really angered me at the time was that this couple was spending LOTS of money to have a child….why not spend that money to adopt a child rather than create one?

I think that there is GREAT pressure within our society to produce children that our copies of our best selves. That’s not all bad, but somehow this need to replicate ourselves seems not exactly "Christian” in some way. What I mean is that my understanding about the Christian faith is that we are all “adopted” (Romans 8:15-17). Within the Roman Catholic tradition part of the point of celibacy is about not having children—not relying on our progeny to care for us in old age, but relying on the church. Within our culture isn't there an “the idolatry of the family” ? OK, not sure that all made sense, but what I’m trying to say that as a Christian, our family is about the church--not about the children that we procreate—which the world tells us is the MOST important part of our lives.

Anyway, there’s another issue that I think that we as females have to address when it comes to having children—whether we are married or single. Our society expects two things of women—to marry and have children. Even if we marry, there is a sense in which we are not seen as “fully female” if we have not experienced pregnancy and given birth. In my thirties as I dealt with this, it was a true grieving process for me to know that I would not have that particular experience. But, part of my coming to terms with that had to do with my accepting myself as a wholly female person without the birthing experience being part of my life.

Now, having a child who we adopted 12 years ago and is now 14, there are things that I see differently about adoption. Our daughter came with “issues” some of which are considered genetic and nothing that we did or didn’t do could have changed that……. Maybe it’s not that I see differently, but that I see my own situation more clearly, we chose to adopt a child that in many ways was an unknown and for her there are many things that will never be known..there are genetic and health questions that will always be issues. But, I do believe that we are all better persons for choosing to be a family. As our child has reached her teenage years, the “unknown” part has become more difficult and I am sympathetic in understanding that there is more “control” when we have some input in our child’s creation and birth.

Now, for the theological piece of this for me… (Most of my thinking about all of this was formed under the influence of Stanley Hauerwas and his thinking in Christian ethics )…..for me, being a Christian is about living in faithful community and how we do that is perhaps what is most important in our journey with Christ. I think that we are “called” to be parents just like we have vocational calls. Many people don’t see parenting as a call and don’t live like it is one. Children are gifts to us and we are blessed to have them. (not the other way around---I am not necessarily a blessing to my child). I am not the same person that I was before I became a parent and I am hopefully a better person because of it. I’ve learned things about myself from my child that I never would have learned in any other way.

There is part of me that really believes that part of what Christ asks of us is to live most faithfully within the situation in which we find ourselves. The issue may be to figure out whether there are things that we can do proactively to change our situation or if the situation requires us to live within it.

I think that the most important part of the decision making process is about questioning our motives…

Do I want to be a mother OR do I want to be pregnant and give birth?

Do I want to raise a child who is an “unknown” in many ways (ie, adopt someone who has none of my genetic material and/or “create” a child that would be unknown, in the sense of not having as much info on the father?)

How much am I being influenced by what society expects of me? (to bear children,…to raise a child with my own genetic material?)

So, this may sound like I am “against” artificial insemination and invitro, and in some ways perhaps I am… but I think that what I’m against is putting a great deal of money into “creating” a child when there are so many in need of homes. But, perhaps not all persons are called to be parents by adoption…..and I know the difficulties of raising a child that comes with baggage.

OK, I didn’t mean to go on at such length—it’s just something that I have struggled with and still struggle with! What does God ask of us? I think that it’s hard to hear God’s voice above what society would have us think about our roles as women and parents….

6 comments:

Songbird said...

As a person who was adopted as an infant, I appreciate your sentiments. But then, as a woman who managed to bear three biological children, I wonder sometimes if I'm not being smug when I say I have a problem with AI or IVF? I find it particularly troubling when it's a single woman. I know this isn't rational; one of the situations that bugged me most was my husband's former wife deciding to have kids by herself!
Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

aBhantiarna Solas said...

I have had two friends at different times in my life who struggled with infertility. One ultimately chose adoption and the other ultimately chose to pursue IVF and had twins. I also have very dear friends who are adults who were adopoted as infants. So this is an issue which I have openly discussed with friends and wrestled with quite a bit. I think it all comes down to motivation (which I think you have touched on). I'm not so sure that there is a "one answer fits all" for this question. But I think that if your motives are in the right place and your heart is, then either answer could be right for your family. However, as women trying to tease out that soft call from God above the strident voices of culture and society, it is very difficult.

Nicely thought out post. Thank you.

aBhantiarna Solas said...

P.S. I was using "your" in the general sense of anyone. Not in the specific sense of "you." I hope you understood that?

RarGonia said...

thanks so much for your comments...
perfectly understood the generic "you"

revabi said...

Rachel thanks for your posting what has been a very touching hard discussion for the listserve.

I know some of your struggle from your sharing it with me. I know mine also.

Here is my struggle; When I was single and almost 30, I realized I maybe was not going to have children, possibly not marry. I went through a lot of questioning, thinking, wondering what were my options. I started thinking of ways to have a child. Adoption? Artificial insemination? I really started leaning toward the idea of artificial insemination, I wanted to have my own child. I even began looking into it. Well, around Christmas or one of those holidays I was home with family. Some how somebody asked me about marriage possibilites. I was dating someone, but I don't think marriage was in the future for us, and I told them so. Then without thinking I blurted out about wanting a child. And of course the typical questioning and responding took place. When I brought up the idea of artificial insemination, my parents went bullestic. Needless to say, that put a damper on that idea. In fact they put a damper on the whole idea of my raising a child on my own. I knew I would not have their support. Also, I will confess it was in my unhealthy days of still being in a enmeshed relationship with them.

I think if I were healthier, I would have responded differently. I may have chosen not to do it or to do it, but I would not have been so dependent on their approval.

Also, when the invitro treatments failed, Bob and I talked about adoption and artificial insemination. He was so adament against both, that I just backed off. I think that having met the family we know that has a child throught that process, Bob would probably respond differently now. But alas, I do not have the body parts to have a child on my own. I am however, he finally became open to adoption. I am so happy with the three children we have now.

RarGonia said...

Abi,

Thanks for sharing your journey. I have definitely decided that this process of deciding about children is very personal and individual in many ways, but I think that it does need to be made in community.

The one thing that I have learned is that we really can never truly know what it is to walk in someone else's shoes, and the older I get the more gracious I am trying to learn to be in knowing that God speaks to each of us in different ways and with different answers.

I am happy that you are blessed with those three beautiful children of yours!!

Rachel