When I was a child, I dreamed about someday having a husband and family. I don’t know why I did this. It just seemed the thing that all little girls did growing up in the U.S. We would even play games to determine what type of husband and family we were going to have, from an origami oracle to other games I vaguely recall that also involved scribblings on paper and chance.
I wasn’t one of those girls who didn’t know if she wanted to have kids when she grew up. No, I was a big believer in fate. I thought that my life was a predetermined path that I was destined to follow. So I put a lot of stock in those chance games, and I would cross my fingers and visualize the number I wanted to pop up randomly when the question was asked: “How many children will Amber have?”
Three. The number was three. And luck was usually on my side. The paper oracle would most often reveal 3, and I would imagine my three kids running around the yard and calling Mommy, mommy, look at me!
As I grew up, those imaginary three kids would follow me around from time to time. Sometimes they were two girls and a boy, sometimes two boys and a girl, sometimes they were all of one gender, and sometimes there were twins in the mix. The only constant was that there were always three of them dawdling along behind me.
My vision of someday birthing three kids became tainted when my 6th grade science teacher, Ms. Clemens, introduced the notion of zero population growth to me. She said that every couple should have only one child (if they were going to have children at all) because the earth’s natural resources were being consumed at an unsustainable rate. At our current rate of exponential population growth, she explained, we were doomed to destroy the planet within a handful of generations.
When I heard this, those three kids opened their eyes real wide at me, tacitly saying, “Gosh, we didn’t mean to, mommy!”
Ms. C made the class do an exercise in which we were to discuss and list only selfless reasons for having children. We got into small groups and talked about all the reasons why we each wanted to someday have children. We were proud of ourselves to come up with so many selfless reasons to have kids, but when we shared them with her, she shot them all down.
“Selfish, selfish, selfish!!!” she insisted. “There are no selfless reasons for having kids.”
My classmates and I argued that parenting was a truly selfless act, but she wouldn’t budge. She said child rearing was an attempt to immortalize ourselves, and that there was nothing more selfish than that. My whole idea of parenthood as the ultimate reason for my existence was shattered that day. Is it selfish to want to raise three children? Any children?
Later on, in college, I was introduced to an even more extremist position on human procreation — the human extinction movement. There’s actually an organization called VHEMT made up of people whose motto is: “May we live long and die out.” I guess none of them are breeding. And they don’t want anyone else to breed either.
VHEMT espouses: “Choosing to refrain from producing another person demonstrates a profound love for all life.” The conundrum therein: how is it that they love all life but they hate that humans are contributing so much of it to this spinning ellipse we all call home?
Of course the answer is logical. Just calculate your ecological footprint and you’ll see that if you’re anything like the average U.S. human, you’d need a few extra planets to sustain your super consumptive lifestyle. There just aren’t enough natural resources to go around, much less to be equally distributed among the affluent and downtrodden alike.
Still, despite all this logical data calculation at my fingertips, my instinctive urge is to birth these babes in waiting. I’ve already brought one into this world. By Ms. C’s standards, I’ve done my part to sate my selfish desire to immortalize myself through child rearing. What more can I do? Piss off all the VHEMT advocates and all of my so-called logical/compassionate friends who think that any more than one child is simply selfish, illogical, even cruel? Let the imaginary kids continue to dance a jig in my heart alone?