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I Remember the Circumstances that Led to Her Existence

beautiful portrait of mother and child
Photo by Matteo Bagnoli.

I want to share a thoughtful email response to my recent post about anti-natalism. The author gave me permission to publish her thoughts, provided that I conceal any identifying details. Accordingly, I changed a name. Everything else is unedited.


First of all, I completely agree that adoption is the way to go in this day and age, what with the scary uprise in world population. We need to take care of those that already are, and focus less on creating new life when we have very limited resources. If we were talking about just a few hundred children, this wouldn’t be an issue, but when there are a billion more people in the world than there were 15 years ago, it’s an issue. (And it’s difficult to fathom that number since it is so vast!)

Secondly, I wanted to share why I chose to have a child. I was in an abusive relationship and I thought that having a baby would bring him and I closer together. I wasn’t allowed to have friends, or talk to my family. I was literally at home all day long with no internet, and he was the one that had access to the phone. I definitely thought that he was the know-all and be-all of life, and I thought that I was too stupid to be able to leave him. I was convinced that I couldn’t be loved, because he told me that I was unlovable. In this case, choosing to have a baby with him was not a good decision, since he actually became more abusive after she was born, and then I left him when Stacy was five months old.

motherhood in nature -- illustration by Baird Hoffmire
Birds & Bees by Baird Hoffmire.

It’s this weird state to feel regretful but not regretful at the same time. I have a beautiful little girl that I love so much, but then I remember the circumstances that led to her existence, and I am sad that one day she will learn about her father, and she will develop her own feelings about why he chooses not to be a part of her life.

Sorry if this seemed like over-sharing, but I really wanted to put my voice out there, since I can relate to what you posted. It’s difficult to speak out on this topic since it’s one that a lot of people are sensitive to. Whenever someone asks me if I am going to have another kid, I just say no. There is no way. I just couldn’t handle the stress.

My ex’s step-mom told me that when she gave birth to her son, she couldn’t help but think in those moments, “What have I done? Why did I bring this person into the world?” She said it was simultaneously heart-breaking and beautiful.

I think back to what my mom went through as a single parent with me, and I am just flabbergasted at how well she handled such a stressful situation. I was in and out of the hospital for mental illness and self-harm, and yet she didn’t fall under the weight of it all and took care of me.


babies at bath time!
Photo by Big D2112.

Thank you, anonymous contributor, for sharing your experiences! Here’s what I wrote back:

From my perspective, you are a great mom to Stacy, and you’ve taken care of her and yourself in the best way you had the resources to do! Abusive relationships are no joke. I’m glad that you and your daughter are safe now. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about the ethics of reproduction, I don’t think you should feel bad about your choices.

To be clear — and this definitely wasn’t apparent from my original post so I’m going to go back and add a disclaimer — I don’t think parents are bad people. I recognize that my perspective on this is totally different from most people’s. The reason I usually don’t write or talk about it is that there’s zero chance of substantive change — at best I offend people I like (e.g. you, although you don’t seem offended). Sometimes my editorial self-control gets away from me, though.

I’m still interested in additions to this general discussion, so feel free to get in touch.

First Day Back & Anti-Natalism (Podcast Review)

First Day Back podcast by Montreal filmmaker Tally Abecassis
Check it out on iTunes.

Edited to add this disclaimer: I don’t think that people who have kids are bad or evil. It’s way more morally ambiguous than that, and I recognize that I have unorthodox views on this topic.

The inaugural season of the podcast First Day Back just finished. I loved it! The episodes were short and poignant; I made sure to listen right away whenever a new one auto-downloaded on my phone. (No other podcast has provoked the same devotion.) Driving to work in the morning, I listened. Brushing my teeth at night, I listened. I listened while walking my slow, old dog in the afternoon. First Day Back fit right into my life, and right into my heart. It sounds cheesy but it’s true (like many things that sound cheesy).

The creator and protagonist describes her project thus:

“a documentary podcast that follows filmmaker Tally Abecassis as she faces the challenges of picking up her career after an extended maternity leave. The narrative takes a real-life look at motherhood, gender roles, and work-life balance in a voice by turns serious, funny, and sometimes touching.”

Abecassis explains her topic accurately. Throughout the podcast she is candid and vulnerable, unafraid to reveal rejections or embarrassments. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

Portrait of Tally Abecassis by Claudine Sauvé via The Timbre.
Portrait of Tally Abecassis by Claudine Sauvé via The Timbre.

And yet… I don’t feel wholly positive about First Day Back.

I believe that having children is fundamentally violent. When you spawn new people, you risk that they will be born sick, blighted, or mentally ill. Not everything can be fixed — I know this from observing family members and coping with my own depression. I’m okay now — because I’m lucky. Because therapy and medication have worked for me. If I had different brain chemistry, or if my parents didn’t have money, I would be dead. Maybe homeless and/or addicted to a self-destructive substance.

Yes, it is human nature to want to bear offspring. Feeling the desire is okay. However, yielding to that urge is selfish. Wanting to be a parent at all, in any capacity, is selfish — it’s about serving yourself, not the child. It’s also human nature to punch people, but we strive to resolve disputes without fighting because we want to be better than our animal instincts.

“I think it’s really comfortable to lose yourself in motherhood, in a way, because it’s almost impossible to screw it up. I mean, even if you become an alcoholic, whatever, shitty mother. I mean, you’re still your kids’ mother, and they’re still going to love you, as fucked up as you are. […] It’s like, when you’re looking for validation, your kids are going to validate you.” — Tally Abecassis interviewed by Eric McQuade

I’m not an idiot — I don’t expect people to stop having kids just like I don’t expect war to die out. But I still think it’s bad, and I won’t participate. No, I don’t throw rocks at pregnant women or even try to convince people not to have babies. Why stage fruitless arguments? There’s no point in making people hate me without changing their minds. (And yet here I am, writing this…)

Infancy as defined by Shakespeare in As You Like It, via the Boston Public Library.
Infancy as defined by Shakespeare in As You Like It, via the Boston Public Library.

In answer to the obvious question, I plan to be a mother at some point. Because I can adopt! There are far too many children in the foster system, stranded without loving family homes. When I’m financially and emotionally ready, it will be a delight to provide a safe haven and usher a young person into adulthood. My motivation is just as selfish as a biological parent’s, but the odds are better than the child will benefit.

Listening to First Day Back made me like Abecassis so much. She seems very good-hearted. Her desires and inclinations line up well with mine — she’s a creative woman muddling through life, which I obviously relate to. The conflict is that I am fundamentally opposed to the choices Abecassis has made. I also think it’s ludicrous to expect to have it all — you can’t be a hands-on mom and have a full-fledged career. There is just not enough time in the day or energy in a body. Choices always involve trade-offs and it is profoundly arrogant to pretend that they don’t.

So. All of the above is my raw, mostly unfiltered, and probably crazy-sounding opinion. As I said in the beginning, I love First Day Back and I’m excited for the second season. I also feel very uncomfortable and angry about the portrayal of biological motherhood as a deserved and even virtuous condition.

What do you think? (I’m definitely apprehensive about the Facebook response to this. YAY.)

Follow-up from a reader: “I Remember The Circumstances That Led To Her Existence”.

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