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….