To Be or Not To Be...

For couples facing challenges with conception there are often many more questions than answers. The path to pregnancy and childbirth can become a gauzy labyrinth full of doubts, anxiety, questions and fears.
The most overlooked question of all may be the most important one: why do you want to have a baby, anyway? It deserves an answer. And that answer might be the most critical of all in helping you conceive.
There's no denying that for women, especially of a certain age, hormonal surges can be indistinguishable from genuine longing. Human bodies are after all, a miraculous soup of chemicals and hormones that largely determine our every action, especially when it comes to pregnancy.  As a woman hits her late 30's and early 40's, the desire to have a child can become overwhelming, even distracting, as the hormones seem to increase their influence saying "have a baby now!" And who are we to argue with ourselves?
Additional influences are no less stubborn. We are driven to have families perhaps because we so enjoy the ones we are part of, or even if the opposite is true—growing up in unhappy homes can create a need for us to fill that void by starting our own family. Being good parents ourselves offers us a chance to right wrongs, to give love we ourselves were so deprived of as children. It can help us overcome pain and live vicariously through our children a life that everyone deserves.
Social pressure often works in unconscious ways. We see our friends, once carefree and unfettered, now bogged down with soccer practice and ballet classes and yet somehow seeming all the more at peace with their life of service to these little wonders. Without even knowing it, watching them can call us to share that experience ourselves. It can also be strange and awkward to be the childless friend whom everyone seems to smile at sympathetically. Wanting to participate in this ritual of species propagation in synchronicity with friends and siblings can increase desires to conceive that you didn't know you had.
And of course there are our own deepest and darkest fears of loneliness. Who will love us when we're old and senile, drooling and decaying? Marriages have a fifty percent failure rate; it's hard not to wonder if yours will have what it takes to stand the test of time, but a child, a child is forever. There's a comfort in knowing someone was born to bury you, look after your grave and tell the stories of your life to people you'll never meet.
If it were simply companionship we sought, then millions of homeless animals who are euthanized each year and would be forever grateful for an ear rub and a bowl of food could be saved. But as much as we do love our pets, especially in the US, we do not see them as replacements for the love of a child.
Babies around the world too are desperate for homes, but the stress of adoption, the fears of raising a child not truly your own can deter would-be parents who would rather spend tens of thousands of dollars in fertility treatments in hopes of conceiving their very own child.
Having a child can also help us love those parts of ourselves we have often struggled with. After all, a child is us in every possible way, and what we adore in them is something that has its origins within us. As conscious beings, it's no wonder we're drawn to watching other beings become self-aware, especially if they are going to emulate us in unimaginable ways. Which parent will they look like? Who will they sound like? Will they get your wit or your partner's empathy? All these wonders make a child a bit like opening a Christmas present every day as they become their own person still so much like us. We are a culture of self-deprecating and sometimes self-loathing individuals, not good enough until we have the right job, the right mate, the right house and then the right child and even still we're plagued by our insecurities. Staring into innocent eyes born of our bodies provides us renewed love of ourselves for here is something we did, something pure and good and perfect.
But are any of these reasons really the right reason to have a child? We can no longer hide from the inescapable truth that our species stands at the edge of grave danger. We're in a population crisis with more than 1.2 billion starving people in the world and 9 billion people estimated to be on the earth at once within the next 30 years. Fresh water access will become more limited than ever before in history in our lifetimes. Natural resources deplete every day. Those beloved family camping trips of your youth may not be options for the next generation as forests are cut down, rivers drying up and land being bulldozed for more houses, schools, factories.
Still, being kind parents, raising thoughtful children capable of caring for this world amidst its peril and ruin is maybe the least we can do. Isn't it after all, honorable to leave someone behind to clean up our messes? It would seem so, at least, we hope that to be the case, but we know we've made a far bigger mess than our grandparents and their grandparents. How long will that continue?
What seems to matter most is perhaps that we—like most life on the planet—procreate. If we do nothing else, we know this is something requiring few skills and little effort, unless of course you are one of the millions of people with fertility challenges. And perhaps this is in itself the reason couples who can't have children want them so desperately—because it is for most people an effortless act, often an accidental by-product of an entirely different agenda. To be deprived of fertility is to be deprived of something intrinsically human and it is enough to lead to extreme acts of pursuing that completeness. But we also must ask ourselves why. Why do we want to have a child? Is it because we can't? Is it because we have so much love to share? Is it because it's just "what people do?"
Diving into our own spirit and seeking answers to this question is critical in becoming pregnant. It may not change your physiological challenges, but it will help prepare your mental and spiritual soil for nurturing a new life.