Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gambling with time -- why wait until the last minute for children?

One of the most read articles on "The Atlantic" right now is entitled, "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?" It's a puzzling question that seems to uncover from the beginning the mentality behind author Jean Twenge's gamble. If the ideal question really is, "How long can I wait to have a baby?" then having a baby is some sort of work project or trophy or item on the to-do list of life that needs to be checked off somewhere along the line.
Indeed, Twenge is adamant that modern women have been sold a bill of goods. Fertility in the late 30s really isn't as bad as people say, she writes. She said the statistics used are flawed, some even stemming from before life without electricity. 

And there are "dangers" with not waiting until the eleventh hour to have a baby, she warns
Literally: an analysis by one economist found that, on average, every year a woman postpones having children leads to a 10 percent increase in career earnings.

Yes, women of the 21st century, your goal is to wrangle your life in such a way that enables you to make as much money as possible, while still managing you to have a child before the biological clock sounds its final alarms. 
As I read Twenge's article about how late one can delay childbearing, I kept thinking of all of the unknowns that live in the future. It's not just about one's age. There are other surprises in life -- illnesses, devastating car accidents, the loss of one's spouse -- that can affect whether or not one is able to have children.  The longer one waits, the more these great unknowns continue to loom.  In other words, there are no guarantees.

And if someone does have a reproductive illness, like endometriosis, it is far better to treat it early than to allow it to continue its work in the body.  Twenge suggests that women in their late 30s see a fertility specialist after six months of "trying," but wouldn't things like charting one's cycle, healing endometriosis or fibroids be far better to begin as soon as possible, rather than ask a doctor for IVF information or fertility drugs?

But the heart of the article is really the unsaid in the article.  Twenge's attitude and question presuppose an idea of children as object to be acquired, not as gift to be received.  To ask, "How long can I wait to have a child?" is almost like the high school or college student who asks, "How late can I wait to study for the test and still get a passing grade?"  Children aren't like that, though.

The fruitfulness of marriage is first a spiritual fruitfulness.  This can become visible through a child, but the couple is asked to be fruitful from the very first moment of their wedding vows.  The nature of authentic love is that it cannot help but give.  And give the couple must.  If their focus is the self and the stockpiling of money, accolades, career, material items, etc., then there's something wrong.  It's not that a couple cannot have these things, but if the focus of the marriage is on acquiring, even if it's together, this is vastly different from a marriage where the focus is on giving.

So, to ask the question of how late to delay childbearing is to misunderstand what marriage is, what generosity and fruitfulness are, and therefore what love truly is.  With a proper understanding of these, the right question to ask would be, "How soon can we have a child?" The attitude and lifestyle behind this question is vastly different from, "How can I have my cake, eat it too, and check off a child or two on my to-do list?"

I read several of the comments to the article, expecting to hear from some women who regretted having waited to try to have children.  Shockingly, most of the comments I saw were arguing that this question shouldn't be asked because not all women want to have children.  To even further the underlying attitude of the article, these commentors were expressing the idea that children are extrinsic to marriage and are only good insofar as you choose to have them.  If a woman wants to be a careerist, then no one should be telling her that she might later regret having children.  So they argue.

And it all points to the unhappy contraceptive mentality of our culture, which has not only changed our idea of love and marriage, but of children themselves.  

No comments:

Post a Comment