Sunday, September 9, 2007

Why Do You Want Children, Anyway?

A good friend of mine once asked me this question as we were beginning our first round of IVF. Many people ask questions like this out of pure stupidity - innocent as it may be. Her question, however, was smart and little did she know that it has shaped my emotions around my choices as they have become fewer and fewer.

When she asked me this question I was shocked - and a little embarrassed - that I didn't have a great answer for her. "Because I'm a woman" or "I just do - I feel like I want to be a mother" is all I could come up with off the cuff. As I thought about this question, however, I realized the absolute importance of the reasoning.

The fact that I'm a woman and wired for children or have this innate desire simply isn't a suitable justification for the stress I am putting my body through trying to get pregnant. This amount of effort deserves an honest and realistic probe into the emotions that propel us into the long and painful process of infertility treatments.

I've pondered this question for quite some time but I didn't get really honest with myself until my current condition forced me. Now that I have few, if any, eggs left this question takes on an entire new meaning. Just how much does the genetic link play into my desire for children?

Through all of this soul-searching, what I have found is it really doesn't play a role, at all. I am surprised that I can separate being a mother from being genetically linked to my child. While, there is definitely grief at the loss of being able to have genetic children, my desire to mother - to parent - reaches far deeper than that. The two really are totally separate issues for me.

So - why do I want children? I want children because I want to parent. I want to experience the good the bad and the ugly. I want to raise children to be healthy, wise adults that become productive members of society. And I do mean raise. I understand all of the hard work, exhaustion, frustration and even pain that goes into raising children - and I'm crazy enough to want all of it. For me the answer is the same as it would be for another when asked why they practice in their particular profession. (my disclaimer on this analogy is a person who actually enjoys what they do for work...)

What I can not, yet, explain is why I want everything that is inherent in parenting. Biology is certainly the first reason that comes to mind but I'm not completely satisfied with that. I also think that God places these desires on our heart and thereby He may have "called" me to be a parent.

I've learned that my motive for wanting children is my desire to parent - not my desire to leave a legacy through my genetics, or have the love from a child that I may not have received from another source. I also don't have the illusion that my children will grow up and save the world - I've heard that often - "I want children because I want to make the world a better place". I've seen enough children and met enough people to realize that we're not all making the world a better place - in fact - most of us are just existing - to endow a child with this burden seems to be the ultimate display of ego - but I digress.

I would encourage anyone struggling with infertility to answer these questions for yourself. What I learned has been a relief and has removed a layer of stress. While I have a great career and for a time thought if I didn’t have children I would be ok and simply focus on my work - I know, now, that my work is not to be in the board room but in my own home. And I've learned that I should not fear my ability to love a child that isn't genetically related because in the end - that fact is not my driving force.

No comments: