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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

My daughter is pregnant. This is a much wanted and hard-fought-for baby, and the prospective parents are very happy. I wish then all the joy in the world, and the best outcomes for their baby. This post is about me, not them.

I’m not sure how I feel. There is an assumption that I will be delighted and excited and happy. When I say that I’m unsure about how I feel, the response is one of surprised confusion, as though I’m not conforming to the script. The expected social script is that I’m delighted, look forward to being a grandmother, and think it is the best thing ever. I did not want to be one of those women who put pressure on their kids to have kids so they could reach grandmother status. I think that is selfish and controlling. As a person concerned about the environment who knows that overpopulation by humans is one of the biggest problems, I don’t want to encourage more babies. I worry about the future of humans living with a warming planet, exacerbated by the political will of many countries, especially Australia and the USA, which focuses on greed and short-term profit for the favoured few, and not long-term health for all. I am a product of the political and environmental climate of the 1970s when global warming was known about, the trends and science were clear, and we had time to make constructive changes. I do my best to minimise my impact on the planet as a consumer.

“But you had your children, isn’t it selfish to not want others to have theirs?” Yes, my husband and I replaced ourselves by having two children; when I wanted to go for number two Jim famously said “You’ve got one perfectly good baby, what do you want another one for?” This is a line that I am reminded of when number two has done something particularly irritating. (He has turned out rather well, as it happens.) But I digress. The world those children were born into seemed more hopeful, and I knew even then I was taking a risk.

The population is growing beyond what we expected, too. In 1955 when I was born the population of the planet was about 2.7 billion, and in 1985 after I’d had my two (in 1982 & 1984) it was 4.8 billion. Now it is 7.5 billion and the clock keeping score is alarming to watch.

A few years ago, in an effort to make it clear I was not one of those have-babies-to-make-me-a-grandmother type people, and to communicate my concern about the potential future for a child born into the 21st century, I said to my kids “the planet is fucked, don’t breed”. I see now this could be interpreted to be as didactic and controlling as a demand that they do. This meant that when they did decide to start to try for a baby they were somewhat diffident about telling me. I hope I made it clear then that I wished them all the best and have complete respect for their autonomy as adults making choices for their lives.

A couple of people have said, perhaps intended as reassurance, that at least the ‘right’ kind of people are having a baby. I suppose by ‘right’ they mean middle-class, employed, non-illicit-drug-using, intelligent people. I am horrified and outraged by this statement and that someone can think it is ok to say that. I have countered it by saying I’m not in favour of eugenics; a response which seems to provoke some discomfort. If people having babies are in poor social circumstances it is not because the individuals are somehow deficit but because of health influences determined by governments and social structures. If opportunities for income, employment, education, health services, transport, sustainable agriculture, self-determination etcetera are limited by government policies—as they are—then that is not the fault of the individual but the result of wider societal structures if their lives are less than optimal. Let’s not judge people by class either.

So how do I feel? I feel a confused mixture of existential dread and cautious hope, with a growing pleasurable anticipation of playing the role of the quirky, cool grandmother, sharing love, happiness and books with a new human who is continuing my lineage. I have confidence that they will be excellent parents, and that the three sibling doggos will be a source of love and delight. For everybody’s wellbeing I’ll focus on the hope, not the dread.

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