Making Sense of Making Babies
Increasingly, our culture seems to treat pregnancy as a disease. Now, physicians in school and training have been told for years not to do this. We were told ‘pregnancy is not a condition, it’s a natural thing.’ And indeed, it is. Still, there seems to be a biphasic view of pregnancy.
It goes like this: it’s a terrible thing for a young woman to have to face and she should try everything possible to avoid it until her education is finished and her career begun. (Ditto for dads.) However, it’s simultaneously so important that later on in life, women will spend vast amounts of money for the opportunity to have a baby.
The curious thing is, human beings seem pretty hard-wired to have children. Whether you see it as God’s mandate to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ or a more Darwinian drive to spread our DNA, reproduction is ‘in our genes’ as it were. (And incidentally, Darwin believed in the power of sexual selection…that is, female humans are selective in choosing mates for their positive characteristics. A month in the ER and you’d wonder if he knew what he was talking about, but it seems generally true.)
Maybe my view is skewed by the fact that my wife and I have four children, or that my wife had wanted children from a young age. But I think we make a big mistake when we make the desire for children, among younger people, into a pathology.
Mind you, it isn’t just women. Men are wired to reproduce as well but tend not to realize until later than women. This is from observation and personal experience.
However, the reasons that young women and men want children are many.
1) They want them because it is a natural, biologically driven outgrowth of human relationships. Is it a surprise that we are designed (or evolved if you like) so that our attractions move from interest to relationship to physical intimacy, and that intimacy is designed (or evolved) to produce more humans? Of course, sometimes it goes ‘date, wine, baby, relationship (or not).’ I know that not all pregnancies begin in the best of circumstances.
2) They want them because we desire (whether consciously or not) to have our traits, our ‘line’ if you will, go on into the future. This is natural. This is biological. (And spiritual I think.)
3) They want them because their own family lives were monstrosities and they hope to do better. They want babies to try a fresh start and to have someone to love and call their own. Sometimes young people, often young single women, are just lonely and a child is a profound connection to someone to be loved by and to love.
4) Couples want them because a common cause in a child is a thing that connects parents in remarkable ways, and gives them something to work for together. That’s a good thing. More work than painting a bathroom, to be sure. But also with more lasting rewards and daily wonders.
5) Couples, and individuals, want them (I think) because living only for oneself, one’s pleasure, for dates and jobs, money and stuff, is ultimately shallow. It does not lift up, it does not inspire. We need to live for others. And what better ‘other’ than the one we make with our own bodies and which looks like us?
We are made for having kids. One doesn’t have to do so. It can be avoided, especially in an age of birth control and (sadly) abortion. But it is not misguided for young people to desire to have children. There may be better times than others, there may be better partners. Nevertheless, it is appropriate, natural and in fact evolutionary. If you don’t like that, take it up with Chuck Darwin.
I’m not suggesting every college-bound girl stop what she’s doing and devote herself to a life of being ‘barefoot and pregnant.’ I’m not suggesting every young man settle down immediately and begin to have children with his girlfriend or wife.
However, young people will often have children and do it when they’re, well, young people. And in the end, it’s really up to them as long as they’re of legal age and not forced to have them.
Maybe the best thing we could do would be to really educate high school students (and maybe middle schoolers as well) about family and parenting. Not just how to avoid it. But how to enjoy it and navigate it successfully and with joy.
Because ultimately there’s nothing more natural than finding another person whom we desire and love, then having a baby (or babies) together.
Jobs are great, degrees are cool, money is wonderful, travel is enriching.
But when young people want to have babies? Well, in the right setting, in the right timing and relationship, that’s one of the greatest goals of all.