Saturday, 20 December 2008

Mini-me vs Hypothetical Future Baby

I know a lot of people in adoption-land have faced infertility. I will spare you all the medical details, but I've christened what I've got malfertility (mal = bad, as in malignant, maladjusted, malodorous, malapropism, maleficent, malign). It's not the same experience as infertility, but I think the grief-loss-pain cycle is pretty similar, judging by what I've experienced and observed. And this was all stirred up again yesterday, when I came home from work, switched on the radio, and heard this news story. The genetic issues are a long way from identical, but basically this is what my husband and I decided not to do.

Although 'decided' is totally the wrong word here. Perhaps I should say - this is what we never considered, although we knew it was scientifically possible. J and I both believe that life begins at conception, and we don't have the right either to discard embryos or abort a foetus because its DNA isn't arranged the way we would want it to be. I am utterly convinced of this. But. There are some days, when the adoption road seems long and hard, and I've read too many books on attachment disorder, and the social worker is coming to visit again, when we have to write another cheque, and I have to listen to yet more pregnancy stories that I know I'll never be able to add to....when I wobble a bit. I read what these people say about how they decided to undergo these processes because they can't face the thought of their child inheriting whatever genetic condition it is that they carry, and part of me despises them for taking the 'easy' way around this, part of me burns with sympathy and part of me... is envious. Maybe we could do that - it's not such a big deal! It's just a few cells! And then we could just have kids the normal way and it would all be so much easier. And I could have a little mini-me! And a mini-J!

And then I remind myself no, not an ethical option. I wish I could say I never feel conflicted about this but that wouldn't be true. And these thoughts are a real reminder to me to re-examine my own motives - why do I want to be a mother, anyway? And why do I keep on automatically thinking that things would somehow be better - my life would be better, our family would be better - if I could magically cure myself, forget adopting and just give birth? I hate this sort of adoption-is-second-best thinking in other people - why am I prone to falling into it myself?

Too often, I can confuse the unspeakable awfulness of the process of adopting with the outcome. Yes, it would probably be more fun to be buying maternity clothes than attachment books. And it would certainly be nice to have a due date. But the children? Mini-me vs Hypothetical Future Baby?

We are surrounded by a world with an evolutionary, secular humanist perspective on parenting. This tells me that parenting is the necessary after-effect of reproduction. Reproduction happens so that my genes will be propagated, and I have the urge to nurture because that gives my genes the best chance of surviving to adulthood and doing some reproduction of their own,. A healthy child is worth any ethical price. I must do everything I can to become a parent through pregnancy, since my child has worth because they are made in the image of me.

A Christian perspective is that my child has worth because they made in the image of God.

As a hopeful adoptive parent, I find this immensely freeing, when I remember to remember it. Birth children would not be better, more worthwhile, than adopted children. Not my hair, not my eyes, not important. Ultimately, morally, it just doesn't matter whether we parent by adoption or birth. Whether we are good parents will matter. Whether we make ethical compromises to become parents will matter. Whether our children share our DNA will not.

My final thought is that, if my parents had had this screening, they would have discarded not just the embryos directly affected with a genetic disorder, but also the carriers. They would have discarded:



  1. Hugs, Caroline. We each have our own experiences and journeys that bring us to what we are willing to do or not do. Our beliefs are our own and we must live forever with the decisions we make even when we know another path could get us to our goal. You are doing what is right for you and nobody can ask anymore. Your child will be blessed to have a mommy with such beautiful sentiments.

  2. I totally agree with you C. I can imagine it must be a huge struggle to know that your genes aren't going to be passed on - I'm sure the drive to reproduce (ie genetically) is a very real biological force. I think God made us to want to obey his command to fill the earth - and if the fall hadn't got in the way there would be no problem with that.

    You will pass on so much of yourself to your children though - you will shape their personality as you love and correct and guide them - that's worth so much more than a bit of DNA. I remember seeing a show once that looked at identical twins seperated at birth and they worked out that a person's sense of humour is something that is learned more than inbuilt - I find that quite a frightening prospect for your kids ;)

  3. Caroline, you are so articulate. This post is amazing. I'm sorry that you're dealing with high emotions reading the termed malfertility. I can't relate specifically to that and so I won't even pretend. But, we've all got our own issues... as you mentioned so many people look at adoption as if its a big second best... we certainly didn't. And that's our position in coming to this point. But, do you know how many people have said things to me or looked at me ugly because we would choose first to adopt instead of attempt to procreate? It's so bizarre. It's like this reversal... it has taken some people a long time to get used to this idea and not think of us as total and complete wacks and I just for the life of me wish people were'nt so judgmental about it...I find huge, sad irony in the view of those people.

    I personally don't believe God wants us all to procreate first - fill the earth. That is my personal view.

    But, whatever it is... You have gone through so much and, really, I hope your beautiful articulation of your feelings on this blog is helping you work through this. I send you big big hugs.


  4. I agree with you, cindy! I think that is partly what I was trying to say - I don't think that there is any reason that we *should* procreate rather than adopt - i think the procreate / adopt decision is a morally neutral one, usually!!

    Not sure if that is what you meant, though, Lucy??

  5. Yes, sometimes I'm not sure what I am trying to say, sadly - lol.

    But, I think we both agree that neither manner of having children is second best. In terms of filling the earth - I've got some strong opinions on the overpopulation of the world, which I will not relay here obviously, and I don't say that at all to put salt in anyone's wounds at all...please don't take that the wrong way. But there is a lot of suffering associated with overpopulation, if you know what I mean. And so in terms of what people believe God would want, I just don't believe necessarily in my personal view that it's for all of us, every single one of us to fill the earth with our own kid(s) plural...

    I think that's what I was trying to say.

    I don't know if that makes sense, its hard to be succinct, logical and cryptic on these blogs all at once, if you know what I mean.



  6. Oh and just to clarify, I am not trying to indiacate its Lucy I'm talking about - no, no, no - I just latched on to the phrase she used. I am strictly saying in the abstract that some people feel a certain way. Just don't want to offend anyone.


  7. You 2 crack me up...I love the chatter...

  8. Lol I'm not offended! In my comment I just meant that God's command to procreate was also accompanied by a desire to procreate (ie making it easier for us to obey) which would have all been 100% fun and easy if the fall hadn't intervened to stuff up fertility / procreation in so many ways. Now the desire to procreate, instead of always being an asset can be a real challenge if fertility doesn't go according to plan. Hope that made some sense. It's just my view anyway :)

  9. LOL indeed - this is like having my own private chatroom! (Do they still even exist? Am I showing my age?)


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